Staging Henry Fielding: The Author-Narrator in <i>Tom Jones</i> On Screen

  • Eli Løfaldli Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

Abstract

As recent adaptation theory has shown, classic-novel adaptation typically sets issues connected to authorship and literal and figurative ownership into play. This key feature of such adaptations is also central to the screen versions of Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones (1749). In much of Fielding’s fiction, the narrator, typically understood as an embodiment of Fielding himself, is a particularly prominent presence. The author-narrator in Tom Jones is no exception: not only is his presence strongly felt throughout the novel, but through a variety of means, ‘The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling’ is also distinctly marked as being under his control and ownership. The two adaptations of Fielding’s novel, a 1963 film and a 1997 television series, both retain the figure of the author-narrator, but differ greatly in their handling of this device and its consequent thematic ramifications. Although the 1963 film de-emphasises Henry Fielding’s status as proprietor of the story, the author-narrator as represented in the film’s voiceover commentary is a figure of authority and authorial control. In contrast, the 1997 adaptation emphasises Fielding’s ownership of the narrative and even includes the author-narrator as a character in the series, but this ownership is undermined by the irreverent treatment to which he is consistently subjected. The representations of Henry Fielding in the form of the author-narrator in both adaptations are not only indicative of shifting conceptions of authorship, but also of the important interplay between authorship, ownership and adaptation more generally.

Author Biography

Eli Løfaldli, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
Eli Løfaldli is Associate Professor of English literature at the Department of Language and Literature, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). Her work has centred on various forms of appropriation in and of eighteenth-century texts, both literary and non-literary, such as British Cervantic narratives, the Scandinavian translation and reception of the works of Laurence Sterne, connections between eighteenth-century literary texts and Anders Behring Breivik’s terrorist manifesto, and the adaptation of recent biographical texts on eighteenth-century women into biopics. She has co-edited Appropriation of and in the Eighteenth Century (Forum for Modern Language Studies, Oxford University Press) and is currently working on projects on the politics of rewriting and the interplay between the past and the present in different types of appropriation of eighteenth-century autobiographical and biographical material.
Published
2017-06-30
How to Cite
Løfaldli, E. (2017). Staging Henry Fielding: The Author-Narrator in <i>Tom Jones</i&gt; On Screen. Authorship, 6(1). https://doi.org/10.21825/aj.v6i1.4835
Section
Articles