Website guide to adapting Middlemarch from page to screen goes live

A new kind of website revealing how classic literature is adapted for the screen has gone live, created by researchers from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) and the University of Nottingham, in partnership with the British Library.

The interactive website shows in detail how George Eliot’s classic novel, Middlemarch, was adapted, by celebrated screenwriter Andrew Davies, as a 6-part BBC serial in 1994. Believed to be the first of its kind, the ‘genetic edition’ takes the reader on a journey from the source novel to the final production through layers of scripts, correspondence, interviews, photographs, audio and video clips.

Middlemarch main


The website was created by a team from DMU’s Centre for Adaptations led by Professor Justin Smith, Director of the Cinema and Television History Institute, working closely with the George Eliot Archive and the George Eliot Fellowship. 

Professor Smith said: “‘Transforming Middlemarch, 150 years after the novel’s first serialised publication, sheds new light on the process of bringing a 19th century literary classic to television audiences of the 1990s though the application of 21st century digital humanities technologies.

“We hope this open access genetic edition will appeal not just to literary scholars and Eliot enthusiasts but will help inform fresh approaches to Adaptations and Television Studies alike.

“And the framework we have developed could be applied to other dramatisations for different purposes, from study guides for A-level students to trainee Screenwriters at Film and Drama schools.”

The rich resource, which traces the production history of this landmark series shot on location in the Lincolnshire town of Stamford, is furnished with over 300 multi-media assets, almost 500 notes and 41 editorial commentaries.

In December 2022, a prototype was shown to screenwriters, educational publishers and digital archivists at a study day at the British Library, where feedback indicated “a lot of wide-ranging potential for the resource, beyond just academic study”, suggesting it would make a useful tool for people studying the art of screenwriting.

The making of the genetic edition features in a panel presentation by members of the research team at the British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies annual conference at the University of Lincoln on Tuesday (4th April).

The 15-month interdisciplinary project, drawing on Andrew Davies’ papers in DMU’s Special Collections and Eliot’s original manuscript pages from the British Library,has also involved the work of Research Fellow Dr Lucy Hobbs, Prof Gabriel Egan (Director of the Centre for Textual Studies), adaptations expert Dr Anna Blackwell (University of Nottingham), Dr Natalie Hayton (Archivist in DMU’s Special Collections department), and special advisor Dr Beverley Rilett (Director of the George Eliot Archive at the University of Auburn, Alabama).

Posted on Tuesday 4 April 2023

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