Adapting Tristram Shandy
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Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, has been noted as an unconventional eighteenth-century novel and it has long been considered unadaptable and unfilmable. In the last decade, however, two popular adaptations of Tristram Shandy have appeared in new media forms: Martin Rowson’s 1996 graphic novel and Michael Winterbottom’s 2005 film. Since Sterne’s text denies the kind of transfer typical of literary adaptations, Rowson and Winterbottom adapt the conceptual elements. Through adaptation and media theory, this thesis defines the Shandean elements of Sterne’s novel and locates the qualities of the text retained in adaptation. Rowson and Winterbottom adapt the conceptual properties of Tristram Shandy, ‘the spirit of the text,’ into two distinct mediums. In an exploration of the conventions of each medium, this thesis argues that the adaptations of Tristram Shandy are true to its spirit, and both successfully adapt the unadaptable novel.