Adaptation and/As Agency in Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed (2016)

This paper probes the conflict between the past and present and the manifestations of agency in novelistic adaptations. The argument draws on Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed (2016), which is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1610-1611). Marked by a shift in time, space and genre, Hag-Seed is postmodernist in its self-consciousness and intertextuality as it re-envisions, structurally and thematically, a prior work.Hag-Seed recounts the revenge orchestrated by the protagonist Felix, a playwright and director, who is ousted from his position by his rival Tony before his production of The Tempest. Twelve years after his forced retirement, Felix produces the play with a cast of prison inmates, laying a trap for Tony to extract revenge. While the theme of revenge driving Hag-Seed’s plot resembles Shakespeare’s Tempest, the depiction of Miranda in Atwood’s Hag-Seed departs from Shakespeare’s. Felix’s daughter is dead and appears as a spirit-child through the novel, an imprint of the past that is laid to rest only through a successful performance of The Tempest in the present. In the process, agency appears at points of tension, in the plot and novelistic structure, when the present/Self/novel reinvents itself using the past/Other/play as a point of reference. By extending the implications of Hag-Seed’s Miranda as a metaphor for the conflicting, fragile yet tenuous relationship between the past, present and future to the study of the novelistic adaptation of a 17th century English play in the 21st century, this paper considers the ways in which fictional representation mobilises agency.



Author Information
Nishevita Jayendran, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, India

Paper Information
Conference: ACCS2018
Stream: Literary Studies / All genres/ Theory

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