Leitch’s aversion to dichotomies is immediately evident by his lamentation over the division of the world into “theorypods and everyone else,” a division invalidated by the common tendency to “think like a theorist” without identifying as one (698). Leitch portrays a corrosive tension generated by the binary of theory and interpretation that has resulted in a “commitment to an orthodoxy driven by allegiance to a single presiding theory” and has unnecessarily limited the scope of adaptation studies, and he seeks to achieve a transcendence of opposition through Socratic process (699).
For Leitch, the premises and principles of Grand Theory stifle the essential discourse that animates scholarship, so he submits petit theory, intended to operate as a “series of working hypotheses,” as an alternative, one aligned more with the Greek θεωρία meaning “a looking at, viewing, contemplation, speculation” than the more modern scientific understanding of theory as “a scheme or system of ideas or statements held as an explanation or account of a group of facts of phenomena” (703, 704). This distinction is critical as it shifts the focus from the fruits of engagement to the engagement itself, which is forged from questions—the most “directly productive critical interventions” (704).
Leitch seeks to relocate this critical engagement from scholarly journals to the classroom where “our primary concern isn’t to be right as individuals, but to foster the care and feeding of ourselves as a scholarly community and of our discipline,” utilizing a “genuine ongoing dialogue in which every participant is assumed to have some contributions to make, even if not all those contributions turn out to be of equal value” (706). In this ongoing dialogue, we are to pursue better questions by placing “arguments for what we perceive as opposed positions or viewpoints in broader, more chastening contexts by transcending them” by adopting “‘another point of view from which they cease to be opposites’” (Leitch 705).
This pursuit of better questions through the rejection of binary construction can be seen in the philosophy of Literature/Film Quarterly, which focuses on the “interdependence of literature and film” as it examines intertextuality and challenges the privilege of literature (Walker and Johnson 2). As this publication evolved, its focus shifted from addressing matters of “fidelity, faithfulness, and authenticity” to advocating for “more expansive understandings of different media as they intersect, inter-illuminate each other, and, sometimes, collide” (Walker and Johnson 3). The articles present in this 2005 issue of Literature/Film Quarterly appear to address some of the questions Leitch would like adaptation scholars to take up in the future.
Some of the more compelling questions of Leitch’s explore the nature of adaptation as intertextuality, and the articles in this issue seem to represent an appreciable effort to do just that. One piece “deconstructs the taxonomical distinctions between literature and film” while another examines cinematic practices in Modernist poetry, both pieces speaking to the designation and potential fertility of hypotexts and challenging media-specific expectations (Walker and Johnson back cover).
If I were to create for myself a kind of mission statement for my future as an adaptation scholar, it would stipulate commitments to “focus on asking questions rather than making assertions” and to reframing apparent conflicts so that they might be used to facilitate a more explicit consideration of what is most often taken for granted (704). As well, it would also include professional obligations I have as a teacher to accept or present any critical approach as “critical orthodoxy” and to model for my students textual, contextual, and intertextual studies as a discoursal effort toward “ever better questions about reading and writing and [ourselves] and the world” (705, 707).
Leitch, Thomas M. “Against Conclusions: Petit Theories and Adaptation Studies.” The Oxford Handbook of Adaptation Studies, Oxford University Press, 2017, pp. 698–709.
Walker, Elsie M., and David T. Johnson. “Letter from the Editors.” Literature/Film Quarterly, vol. 33, no. 1, 2005, pp. 2–3. JSTOR, JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/43797204. Accessed 27 Aug. 2018.