What happens when a book becomes an opera or a film? What is going on when writers invoke the visual arts or music? How shall we discuss Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or the portrait described in Robert Browning’s ‘My Last Duchess’? This chapter considers how literary research might deal – at theoretical and practical levels – with connections between literary texts and works in other media. It offers a brief introduction to some of the ways such relationships can become relevant to a diversity of research interests. Multimedia works or adaptations of literary texts into other media are obviously important here, and this chapter ends with an account by Derek Neale of a film adaptation of a text by the twentieth-century writer Janet Frame. But the title ‘literary research and other media’ also covers research that investigates references to other media within literary texts. Such research can be undertaken for a variety of reasons and work on literature and other media has become an important facet of the growing interdisciplinarity of literary research. (This is apparent in conference and seminar programmes at interdisciplinary research centres, including the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities in Cambridge, whose acronym, CRASSH, conveys some of the excitements and perils of throwing different disciplines up against each other.)
The discussion of literary research and other media in this chapter is intended to inform your own current or potential research interests. It begins with a discussion of interdisciplinarity with an emphasis on what connections with other media might afford their writers and readers. It goes on to reflect on how different media have, variously, offered particular affinities with literature and concludes with three case studies illustrating some of the work that can be
generated by a research interest in literature and other media (respectively music, painting and film).