Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Charles Maland

Committee Members

Urmila Seshagiri, Christine Holmlund


Since decolonization began after World War II, citizens of colonized nations have attempted to subvert the literature of empire in order to write back to their oppressors and construct national identities. With visual media, such as film, surpassing print as the dominant form of artistic communication, many artists from former colonies have begun using the film medium as another channel to forge identities for their nations. However, in the wake of a decolonized world marked by the increasing power of multinational corporations, artists desiring to write back must address not only their colonizers but also a new form of imperialism that places its citizens under corporate rather than nationbased control.

In this thesis I argue that filmmakers from former colonized nations write back to empire by adapting the literature of their colonial oppressors for the film medium, accenting the original source material with historical and cultural references to their native countries . By interjecting their own cultural perspectives into the literature of empire in the adaptation process, filmmakers assert their historical perspectives into the cultural history of their oppressors in a manner that escapes the confines of the literary canon, creating a presence in narratives that otherwise mute or exclude their cultures’ influence. While using the financial backing of film studios run by global conglomerates, the filmmakers’ adaptations also critique the impact of the neo-colonial presence of the corporation. Focusing on Irish filmmaker Neil Jordan’s discussion of the repression of Irish Catholicism in his 1999 adaptation of Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair (1951), Australian filmmaker P.J. Hogan’s use of allegory to depict Australia’s multiethnic population in his 2003 adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s play Peter Pan (1904) and novel Peter and Wendy (1911), and Indian filmmaker Mira Nair’s integration of Bollywood conventions into her 2004 adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair (1847), I demonstrate how the three filmmakers assert their national heritages through the adaptation process by using the financial assets of the film industry to criticize the evolution of empire.

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