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Reading the Visual

A visit with Nancy M. West, Associate Professor, English Department

By LuAnne Roth
Published: - Topics: Kodak photography photographs camera memory

West’s next collaborative project on Masterpiece Theatre

Topics: Masterpiece Theatre novels

With her continual interest in adaptation study, West has already visualized her next research project, which will reflect on what it means to adapt a novel to the screen, specifically in the case of Masterpiece Theatre_. “_Masterpiece Theatre fascinates me because it’s an example of what’s called ‘good television.’” Released in the 1970s, it was “designed to appeal to more intellectual, educated viewers. It was designed for our parents,” reports West, and for years it thrived on that identity. “But if you watch Masterpiece Theatre now, it’s totally different…. It’s clearly geared to a much younger audience. Instead of writing faithful adaptation, they radically re-write the plots, interject back-stories, introduce new characters, and use some of Hollywood’s hottest actors to play the roles. They are tailoring these films toward a twenty-first century audience—a younger one, a sexier one, one that is impatient with the idea of fidelity, one that wants a more experimental adaptation.” West plans to look at Masterpiece Theatre’s last ten years so see what those experiments might reveal. “If nothing else,” she jokes, “it will allow me to watch a lot of old Masterpiece Theatre episodes with my mother, who is a huge fan!”