Vera Cantoni

5A Literary Transcodifications/5
Session 5 – July 3, 11:00 – 13:00

Dramatising Orwell’s Footnote: Reflections on the Transcodification of Literary Ambiguity

Dramatising Orwell’s footnote: reflections on the transcodification of literary ambiguityThe growing concern in recent years with truthfulness and reliability has highlighted a phenomenon that is shared by factual and fictional narratives alike: we tend to believe our eyes and ears, we do not expect images and sounds to lie as much as words. As a consequence, while readers are ready to suspect narrators of being unreliable, audiences expect what they hear and see to be the truth, at least within the fictional framework, unless it is rather explicitly marked as false or distorted. Therefore, ambiguity may become a difficult goal to reach in radiodrama, in films and even more on stage, where the actual, physical presence of performer grants further authenticity to their characters’ actions. Even more so when adapting a literary work that employs such specific book features as the footnote or the appendix in order to sow doubts.This is the case with George Orwell’s1984, which provides exceptionally rich food for thought not only because of its many theatrical, cinematographic and radiophonic renditions, but also and especially because of its fundamental insight into the power that comes from controlling information and language. The relevance of this theme makes it necessary for any meaningful adaptation to keep the suggestion that the account of Winston Smith’s story has an inevitably ambiguous status, because it belongs to a fictional world in which documents are systematically manipulated and even personal memories can be tampered with. By analysing the dramatisations of1984it is therefore possible to throw light on how the unreliability of the text itself can be transcoded into performative art forms, a key question of transmedia narratology


Vera Cantoni is a postdoc researcher at Università di Pavia. Her main research interests are contemporary British playwriting, the relationship between orality and drama, the stage history of Shakespeare’s plays. Among her publications: New Playwriting at Shakespeare’s Globe (Bloomsbury – Methuen Drama, 2017), “History in the Making: Contemporary Politics in 21st-Century History Plays” (2018), “Unpresence. Headlong’s 1984 and the screen on stage”(2018),“Othello in Hip Hop: La traduzione di un classico della letteratura teatrale in una lingua oral del ventunesumo secolo”(2018), “Oralità e teatro in dialogo. Riflessioni teoriche aperte” (2018),“‘I’m juss sayin…’.Street speech on stage and page in Ché Walker’sThe Frontline” (2016),“Testualmente. L’elaborazione drammaturgica delle fonti nel teatroverbatim” (2015), “Come all ye theatregoers– L’ uso della ballad in alcune histories del XXI secolo” (2015).