Short Story Cycles

Adapting fragmentation: changing borders in Olive Kitteridge (HBO 2014); Case Histories, (BBC 2011-2013); Love and Friendship (2016) and Sanditon (ITV 2019)

First paragraphs:

Text and film are typically framed by liminal spaces or borders where the reader or viewer enters and/or leaves the narrative world, i.e. openings and endings. Generally speaking, openings introduce the reader to the narrative world, while endings negotiate the separation with the reader or viewer (Hock 67). Narrative endings are particularly significant because they constitute the ultimate moment when the reader or viewer retrospectively takes stock of the whole work to assign meaning, where the text achieves its definitive shape. As Mariana Torgovnick puts it, “novels do have form and meanings, and endings are crucial in achieving them” (4). Moreover, not only is the genre of the work determined by its ending (Aristotle 1453a) but this final border also indicates the zeitgeist as well as the author’s position regarding the literary conventions and ideology of the times, both in terms of form or aesthetics and content. This explains why subsequent novelists or screenwriters may feel the need to go beyond the initial closure of well-known novels or classics through sequels in order to offer a new ending. It also accounts for the significance of the adaptation of these endings to the screen as final chapters or scenes are rewritten, radically changing the end – as in Hitchcock and Selznick’s 1940 adaptation of Rebecca that foregrounds the couple’s reunion to satisfy the Hays code, in contrast to du Maurier’s ending, described by the novelist herself as “a bit brief and a bit grim” (Forster 135) – or making obvious what was initially merely alluded to or left undecided (as in The House of Mirth where Terence Davies does away with the ambiguity regarding Lily Bart’s death at the end of Edith Wharton’s novel).

Some novels, however, do not possess these marked endings, lacking some form of closure devised and penned by the author. Those unfinished novels deprived of an ending by their author’s death can therefore be considered as “fortuitous fragments” (Moseley 5) of uncompleted wholes – and subsequent novelists or screenwriters may then seek to complete the fragment. Such is the case, for instance, of Emma Brown (2003), a fragment by Charlotte Brontë continued by Clare Boylan. Conversely, endings may be considered to be multiple when the text is deliberately made up of several narratives that visibly appear as fragments of a whole. Even if they are not “militantly fragmentary novels” (Moseley 8), this is the case for polyphonous epistolary novels, devoid of a unifying voice, or for short-story cycles which multiply stories – often in the same setting or with recurring characters – and thus (intermediary) endings, ultimately offering a fragmentary portrait. Whether accidental (due to the author’s death) or deliberate, such texts are formally and thematically fragmented and fragmentary, that is to say marked by “incompleteness, discontinuity and heterogeneity” (Guignery and Drąg xxi).

What happens to the sense of fragmentation, to these missing endings or multiple borders when the texts are adapted to the screen? What is the impact of having the borders of the text created or renegotiated when a fragment or a partially fragmentary text is adapted to the screen, be it as film or as TV mini-series, which both usually deliver narrative wholes and completed stories?

from: Armelle Parey, “Adapting fragmentation: changing borders in Olive Kitteridge (HBO 2014); Case Histories, (BBC 2011-2013); Love and Friendship (2016) and Sanditon (ITV 2019)” , Interfaces [En ligne], 47 | 2022, mis en ligne le 30 juin 2022, consulté le 29 juillet 2022.

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See also:

Olive Kitteridge entry on


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