Boundaries Unbound: Jude, Adaptation and Assemblages

Nigel Morris


Most commercial films are hybrid, at the boundaries of two or more genres. Literary adaptations, furthermore, seemingly straddle two media and their study crosses disciplines. Analysis here of Jude (Winterbottom, 1996) examines paratextual and peritextual features to account for its emergence and subsequent fortunes. These involve not only directorial vision, conscious conflation of filmmaking styles, and ‘fidelity’ or otherwise to its ‘source’, but conjunction of particular taste formations, conflicting commercial strategies, contrasting audiences and modes of address, and yoking together of institutional models, each with its distinctive ethos, of financing, production, and distribution. Like any text, Jude is a contingent product of time and place. Its disappointing takings, despite critical praise and enduring admiration, are, this paper contends, explained by its positioning at the boundary of two markets; months earlier this would have been refreshing and radical, but in the brief period between conception and release its commercial context altered irrevocably.

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