Desire and the ‘Deconstructionist’: Adaptation as writerly praxis | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 7, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1753-6421
  • E-ISSN: 1753-643X



Directed by Spike Jonze and written by Charlie Kaufmann, Adaptation is a semi-fictitious narrative of Kaufman’s effort to adapt Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief (1998) for the screen. Interrelating Barthes critiques of authorship/authority and the readerly/writerly with adaptation theory, this article demonstrates how the film performs an immanent critique of the process of adaptation by laying bare its practical, theoretical, and political implications. I argue that whereas the screenwriter is a traditionally absent figure in adaptation criticism, his self-reflexive presence in the film hijacks both interpretation and critique by deconstructing the filmic adaptation process through writerly praxis. The critical exploration of the binaries of text and adaptation, reader and writer, fact and fiction, work and theory is made possible by the figuration of Kaufmann who, as a Barthesian reader in the throes of the reading and writing processes, writes himself into the story and projects his desires onto the screen, thereby undermining all authoritative claims on the original text and its interpretation.


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