Aston Webb building
Aston Webb building

The Association of Adaptation Studies (AAS) has members drawn from Literature and film backgrounds, whose aim is to bring together the diverse strands and developments in the field. The University hosted the event for the first time, with a number of academic staff and postgraduate research students from different academic disciplines presenting. It was a successful event, and some of our colleagues reflect on the benefits and opportunities the conference brought with it.

Hosting the annual Adaptation Studies Conference was a fantastic experience. The event drew a great breadth of papers that offered an exciting diversity of thought and experience, and we were delighted to have such a range of renowned scholars, including our keynote, Professor Kristen Warner. This is the 17th year of the conference, and the biggest one so far. With planning and hosting it this year, I was also able to help run the mentoring workshop, which offered me the chance to talk with emerging scholars in the field. I'm looking forward to future events that continue to build on the conference's success.

Dr Christina Wilkins - Lecturer in Film and Creative Writing.

The keynote speaker of the conference was Kristen Warner, Associate Professor in the Department of Performing and Media Arts at Cornell University. Delivering a talk on 'Plastic, Plastic Everywhere: Locating Cultural Specificity in the Time of Plastic Representation.' 

Several of our University of Birmingham academics were involved in the conference as participants and speakers. Dr Andrew Watts, Reader in French Studies, spoke on the Literary adaptations panel on 'Keeping it (too?) real: authenticity and (mis)remembering the canon in adaptations of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.' Feeding into his current research focuses of classic novels from the 19th century, in a variety of media including silent film, graphic novels, and stage musicals.

I was delighted to be involved in the Association of Adaptation Studies conference, both as a co-organiser and speaker. The conference gave me an opportunity to step outside of my established research sphere in French Studies, and to gain valuable feedback on my work from others with a strong adaptation focus. The event also served as an important indicator of the very significant expertise we have in Adaptation Studies at Birmingham, and I am looking forward to nourishing and expanding our work in this area beyond the conference itself.

Dr Andrew Watts - Reader in French Studies.

Dr Erin Sullivan, Reader in Shakespeare, spoke on the Classics, Authenticity and the digital panel on ‘Remixing the Classics: Reflections on Digital Adaptation and Ideas of Canon.' Relating back to her most recent research project on the Arden Shakespeare fourth edition of All's Well That Ends WellAll's Well, a play full of difficult characters and uncomfortable feelings. Plus how artists have found partial resolutions to some of the problems it poses through adaptation. 

This exceptionally interdisciplinary gathering allowed me to share my work on digital adaptations of classic literature with scholars in media studies, film, literature, and drama. I made connections and received feedback that have opened my eyes to new research questions and methodologies, and it was heartening to hear speakers refer to the University of Birmingham’s long-standing contributions to cultural studies through the extraordinary work of Stuart Hall and his colleagues.

Dr Erin Sullivan - Reader in Shakespeare.

Another one of our speakers was Dr Catherine Lester, Lecturer in Film and Television, who spoke on the YA and children's adaptation panel on ‘Not-so-bloody bunnies: Adapting Watership Down for children’s television.' This again links back to her current research exploring the intersections between children’s media and the horror genre outside of the scope of her monograph (U.S. horror films intended specifically for children). 

It was a fantastic opportunity to attend the AAS conference at Birmingham. This was my first foray into adaptation studies, and the conference was a supportive and friendly atmosphere for presenting my ideas. It has also opened my eyes to the incredible variety that adaptation studies can take, and potential avenues for future research projects and collaborations.

Dr Catherine Lester - Lecturer in Film and Television.

In the last few years the conference has been centred around discussions on authenticity in our cultural narratives: who can play what role? Who can write a particular story? These have come from both audiences and the larger film and literature industry, underpinned by the idea of authenticity. This year, the conference themes focused more on what makes an adaptation authentic? In addition to, reclaiming a story through adaptation and the importance of the actor in adaptation.