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After Mrs. Rochester: Rewriting as re-vision

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Departing from a play by the London based playwright and director Polly Teale entitled After Mrs. Rochester (2003), this essay focuses on the intricate network of intertexts that construct it and the manifold discourses that traverse it. Issues of rewriting, revision and adaptation are the main focus of this essay, given that the play consists of the revisitation of Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea (1966), Rhys's own biography by Carole Angier, Jean Rhys (1985), Charlotte Bront's Jane Eyre: an Autobiography (1847), while it also openly revisits Paula Rego's series of lithographs and pastels Jane Eyre (200102), as well as her composition Wide Sargasso Sea (2000).

The analysis of this text, which is so densely permeated by the memory of other texts and literally haunted by past heroines and the echo of their voices, draws on the understanding that intertextuality, as Susan Stanford Friedman (1991) argues, is essentially a dialectical, conflictual and anti-hegemonic process rooted, via the work of Julia Kristeva, in the Bakhtinian notions of heteroglossia and dialogism. Moreover, it suggests, as Ziva Ben-Porat (2003) claims, that the strategy of rewriting is a trigger of a particular reading pact with wide potential functionalities. My own understanding of re-writing as both a reforming and a writing back to (a wrighting process which undertakes a critical-interpretive gesture, to borrow a term coined by Chantal Zabus), as tested on this polyphonic case-study, shares these concerns.
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Keywords: Paula Rego; agency; intersemiotic; intertextuality; revision; rewriting

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Universidade do Minho, Portugal.

Publication date: 2011-01-01

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  • Adaptation, or the conversion of oral, historical or fictional narratives into stage drama has been common practice for centuries. In our own time the processes of cross-generic transformation continue to be extremely important in theatre as well as in the film and other media industries. Adaptation and the related areas of translation and intertextuality continue to have a central place in our culture with a profound resonance across our civilisation.
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