Lucia Esposito

4A Literary Transcodifications/4
Session 4 – July 2, 15:30 – 17:30

Hag-seed. ‘The Tempest’ Retold: A Creative Rewriting Lesson by Margaret Atwood

The aim of this paper is to frame and analyse Atwood’s 2016 novelistic adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempestas an ingenious exercise in self-reflexive creative re-writing. InThe Novel and the cinema(1975), Geoffrey Wagner proposed three categories for adaptations, on a scale of increasing deviation from the adapted text: transposition, commentary, and analogy. Within this theoretical framework, Atwood’s innovative take on the source text would push us to see the novel as an analogy (and to focus on its own originality as a separate work of art). However, the writer’s respect for Hogarth Press’ conditions to “introduc[e] [Shakespeare’s] plays to a new generation of fans worldwide” with books that “stay true to the spirit of the original plays” (“Cover”), brings us not to neglect the strong ties that make it close to a commentary as well. Actually being something that lies in the middle between the two, this “neo-Shakespearean novel” (Muñoz-Valdivieso, 2017) will be analysed here rather as a meta commentary: a narrative aimed at directing the reader’s attention to the adaptation’s purpose, procedures, and challenging positioning. In fact, remarking on Atwood’sactivity as a teacher in the field of creative writing, Hag-Seed will be regarded almost as an extension of her masterclasses performed in the book by a narrative double: a theatre director struggling withThe Tempest’s teaching and staging inside a prison. The paper will therefore focus on Atwood’sskilful use of a Chinese box structure (with a framing story that modernises the play and a mise en abyme that reflects the former) aimed at commenting both on Shakespeare’s work and on her own work on Shakespeare


Lucia Esposito is Associate professor in English Literature at the University of Teramo, Italy. Her main interests include Shakespeare’s late plays; Samuel Beckett’s works for radio (Scene sonore. Iradiodrammi di Samuel Beckett, 2005); autobiographical and cultural memory (Byatt; Lessing); British youth and postcolonial cultures (Malkani; Kureishi); adaptation, biopics and popular culture(Lennon); the postmodern experimental novel, especially through the lens of performance theory (Sukenick; Amerika; Danielewski, among others); the relationships between literary storytelling and digital technologies (Fforde; Coupland). She has co-edited the 2013 issue of RAEI on “Identity, Culture, and Performance Studies” (no. 26), and the 2014 issue of Between on “Technology, Imagination, Narrative Forms” (vol. 4, no. 8)