Balzac on the BBC: Serial breaks and adaptive returns in Père Goriot (1968)

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Abstract

This article examines the relationship between adaptation and the television serial through an analysis of the BBC version of Honoré de Balzac’s Le Père Goriot. First broadcast in May 1968, Père Goriot remains the only adaptation of Balzac’s novel produced for British television. The episodic format of serial drama provides a natural context for Balzac’s work by revealing the author’s sensitivity to narrative breaks and pauses as devices for generating suspense. More importantly, seriality represents a valuable conceptual framework through which to reflect on the adaptive process. As a serial returns to the screen in successive episodes, so adaptation is predicated on the return of its source material in a form that is both distinct from, and intrinsically connected to, what has come before. At the hands of director Paddy Russell and scriptwriter David Turner, Père Goriot contemplates its own returns to an array of earlier sources - visual illustration, theatrical melodrama, and even the vampire horror film - and in so doing invites us to consider adaptation in a more positive light, as an organic, open-ended process in which the source is perpetually nourished and reinvigorated by new artistic undertakings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-192
Number of pages12
JournalDix-Neuf
Volume18
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014

Keywords

  • Pilkington Report
  • Paddy Russell
  • Honoré de Balzac
  • BBC
  • Le Père Goriot
  • television
  • serial drama
  • illustration
  • melodrama
  • vampirism

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