Great Expectations: Cinematic Adaptations and the Reader’s Disappointment

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    Why are readers of novels so frequently disappointed about film adaptations? This essay explores the grounds for this enduring question, focusing on filmed versions of illusion-creating novels. It does so by presenting a psychological hypothesis of the most common reasons and supports it with a comparative media phenomenology and reception aesthetics. Readers who have grown fond of a specific illusion-creating novel have a tendency to want the film to look and sound as they imagined the world of the text. This wish for congruence is coupled with a desire for recognition. When the adaptation confirms the readers’ own concretization of the book, the act of watching the film can imply an intersubjective acknowledgment of what the readers have conjured up mentally while reading. However, both the wish for congruence and the desire for recognition are rarely satisfied, resulting in a frustration of great expectations.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)425-446
    Number of pages22
    JournalNew Literary History
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Nov-2018


    • Film Studies
    • Adaptation
    • reception aesthetics
    • phenomenology

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