English, Department of


Date of this Version

Spring 5-2011


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts, Major: English, Under the Supervision of Professors Marco Abel. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2011

Copyright 2011 Colin E. Beineke


Contemporary adaptation studies/theories have tended to focus singularly on the movement from the novel/short story to film – largely ignoring mediums such as the theater, music, visual art, video games, and the comic book. Such a limited view of adaptation has led to an underdeveloped and misplaced understanding of the adaptation process, which has in turn culminated in a convoluted perception of the products of artistic adaptation. The necessity of combating the consequences of these limited outlooks – particularly in the field of comics studies – is as vital as the difficulties are manifold. In opposition to this current stream of scholarly oversight and (frankly) unimaginative scholarship, the intention of this study is to construct a theoretical framework for analyzing, understanding, and uncovering meaning in comic book adaptations of canonical works of literature – a framework that partially defines itself by its deviation from the extant methodologies. While this framework will focus primarily on the metamorphosis of the novel into the comic book, the flexibility of the methodology will potentially allow for its application to comic book adaptations of plays, poems, video games, films, and television.

Reading and analyzing canonical texts through the lens of the comics medium allows for (but is not limited to): the tracing of contemporary/popular views of canonical works, the linking/uncovering of previously unattainable meanings within the original text, and even a reexamination/disputation of established arguments/positions. While the theoretical approach I propose to develop will be accomplished through a critical engagement with literary, comics, art, and adaptation theories, in order to demonstrate the applicability, relevance, and significance of my newly established theoretical framework, a practical application, augmented by close readings and analysis, will be undertaken of luminary comic book artist Bill Sienkiewicz's triumphant adaptation of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick. A demonstration of the comic book medium's ability to not only hold a conversation with the literary canon, but its capacity to provoke academic discourse to examine new and uncharted arenas, will serve as a powerful testament to the adroit capabilities and innate ingenuity of the medium.