Recent Reinterpretations of Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Author: Miller, Renata Kobetts
This examination of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) and its reinterpretations presents original interviews with novelists Emma Tennant and Valerie Martin, and playwright David Edgar, framed by analysis of their works. In so doing, it moves away from common division between those who write literature and those who write about literature. Its examination of Stevenson’s original novel and its comprehensive survey of the history of Jekyll and Hyde reveals that these three late twentieth-century writers react against the tradition of reinterpretations and recover Stevenson’s structure. Arguing that their returns to a Victorian text are motivated by contemporary concerns about class and gender politics that find an apt vehicle for exploration in Stevenson’s story, this book identifies a trend of neo-Victorianism – an attraction to cultural products of the Victorian period that results, not from a desire for a time of greater elegance and leisure, but from perceived similarities between our time and that of over one hundred years ago. The interviews in this book foreground the authors’ own political concerns, their views on why Stevenson’s story lends itself to reinterpretation over one hundred years after it first appeared, the research that they performed to prepare for writing their adaptations, and the choices that they made while writing.


“Since 1886, when Robert Louis Stevenson first published The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, his great mythic account of the divided and troubled consciousness that Dr. Freud was also beginning to analyze in Vienna, many generations have thrilled to its dark vision. But paradoxically, many who think they know the story of Jekyll and Hyde are responding to its various cultural adaptations, rather than Stevenson’s original text ... Nevertheless, Dr. Miller shows in this carefully-researched, deeply illuminating and very readable study, our Victorian legacy has been redefined by a new generation of writers who have returned to Stevenson’s myth, as others have returned to the mythic fin-de-siècle stories of Dracula, the heart of darkness, and male quest romance, to explore the powerful parallels between past and present. In writing her study, Dr. Miller did extensive archival research in theater collections in London, emphasizing the way adaptations, in swerving from the original, have also inscribed their known cultural preoccupations. This is the most thorough and complete account of the adaptations to date. The author’s most original and important contribution to the Jekyll/Hyde history is to focus on three recent interpretations of the story that break new ground, and not only to subject them to critical analysis, but to interview their authors ... This book thus not only adds to our understanding of Stevenson and the Neo-Victorian rewriting of nineteenth-century narratives, but also makes the contexts of Tennant’s novel and Edgar’s play available for North American readers ... A meticulous and learned scholar of the Victorian period, the author also brings excitement, energy, and skill as an interviewer. In its inventive methodology, this book should inspire and influence, as well as educate, a new generation of students and critics.” – (from the Preface) Elaine Showalter, Avalon Professor of the Humanities and Professor Emerita of English, Princeton University

“This ambitious study helps sharpen our understanding of the central place that Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde continues to hold in Anglo-American culture. After offering a reading of the 1886 novella as an anti-patriarchal text, the author provides an annotated overview of earlier sequels and adaptations before turning to three major texts of the late 1980s and early 1990s ... The author’s protracted interviews with each of these three authors not only enrich our understanding of their relation to Stevenson’s [story] but are fascinating in their own right ... In this, the major portion of an eminently readable book, the author has, in effect, produced an interactive discourse that is original, lively and persistently illuminating.” – U.C. Knoepflmacher, Paton Foundation Professor of Ancient and Modern Literature, Princeton University

“In this work, the author analyzes the original story, provides a useful survey of many of the adaptations, then focuses on three of the most interesting adaptations ... Besides contributing her own fresh insights about both the original story and its many adaptations, the author also provides transcripts of the interviews that she conducted with Tennant, Martin and Edgar, who reflect on the choices they made in reinterpreting Stevenson’s classic tale of human duality. This is a worthy addition not just to the growing list of critical studies of Stevenson and his most famous story, but also to studies of modern adaptations and retellings of classic novels.” – Patrick Brantlinger, James Rudy and College Alumni Distinguished Professor, Department of English, Indiana University

Table of Contents

Preface by Elaine Showalter
Chapters 1 – 5