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Dr Rebecca White

Teaching Assistant

Teaching Assistant in the Department of English Studies


Funded by an AHRC Studentship, I am researching the developments in the style and image of costume drama in recent years. Whilst Andrew Davies’s Pride and Prejudice (1995) is often seen as the ‘definitive’ adaptation, the popularity of his Bleak House (2005) – “soap opera [transformed] into art” – indicates that perceptions of period drama are changing. Adaptations such as Sandy Welch’s North and South and Jane Eyre, and a comparison of Davies’s Pride and Prejudice with present-day renderings of ‘Austenmania’ (manifested in Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice, ITV1's ‘Jane Austen Season’ and Julian Jarrold’s biopic Becoming Jane, for example) raise many thought-provoking issues, including the influence of past productions, intertextuality and cross-adaptation on contemporary screenwriting. Through a thematic and non-comparative approach, I am exploring the diverse issues evident in contemporary adaptation in relation to productions of Austen, the Brontës, Dickens and Gaskell. Unlike much adaptation criticism focussed on single productions or texts, I analyse both individual adaptations and authors (re-examining the notion of ‘Dickensian’, for example) and make interconnections between screenplays. I am therefore considering the formation of a generic style of costume drama, as adaptations respond to contemporaneous adaptations of other texts and authors, and its ensuing interplay with perceptions of nineteenth-century literature. I explore subsequently the cultural status of period adaptations today, re-examining the notions of ‘nostalgia’ and ‘heritage’, and questioning the existence of ‘Costume Drama’ as a distinctive and ‘privileged’ genre within mainstream television and cinema. Unlike many non-comparative scholars, however, I also examine the tensions evident in contemporary adaptation. My analysis of Welch’s Jane Eyre (shortly to be published in the journal Brontë Studies) highlighted several problematic issues; for example, dialogue and characterisation – the cornerstones of ‘traditional’ adaptation – are arguably overwhelmed by modern filmic and televisual devices. I am therefore questioning recent trends in non-comparative theory, revisiting the complex nature of adaptation, and positing that a dual examination of non-comparative and fidelity theories will offer new readings of both novel and screen adaptation. I am also a tutor on the Introduction to the Novel course. My supervisors are Dr Sarah Wootton and Dr Simon James.

Contributions to Volumes of Collected Essays:

'"No attire had ever so well become me": The Significance of Costume in Franco Zeffirelli's Adaptation of Jane Eyre,' Jane Eyre, ed. Frédéric Regard and Augustin Trappenard (Paris: Armand Colin, 2008).

 '"A Bright Façade Put On For Show": Representations of Venice in Daphne Du Maurier's Don't Look Now and Nicolas Roeg's Screen Adaptation,'  'This Strange Dream upon the Water': Venice and the Cultural Imagination since 1800, eds. Michael O'Neill, Mark Sandy, and Sarah Wootton (Proposed).

 Journal Articles:

'"Fresh Eyre"?  How Original is Sandy Welch's Televised Jane Eyre?,' Brontë Studies 33:2 (July, 2008): 136-147.

'"A joke spoken in rather a sad tone": Cranford, Humour and Heidi Thomas's Television Adaptation,' The Gaskell Society Journal 22 (2008): 45-60. 

Book Review

"Review of Nancy J. Peterson, Beloved, Rachel Lister, Reading Toni Morrison and Jami Carlacio, The Fiction of Toni Morrison," MELUS: Toni Morrison: New Directions, ed. Jenny Terry and Kathryn Nicol (March 2011).