Intervention, improvisation, and spectral sanction: adaptation and strategies of literary authorization in Oroonoko
Wanninger, Jane Miller
First published as a novella by Aphra Behn in 1688, Oroonoko is known for its invocation of the Noble Savage, for its potentially proto-feminist politics, and for its ambiguous entanglement with arguments about slavery. It is also known for its has a long history of adaptation, providing the source material for a series of theatrical productions from Thomas Southerne’s in 1695 to `Biyi Bandele’s in 1999. The legacy of this story is one deeply imbricated in the politics of racial transmutation and representation and the historiographical genealogy of racial performance and cultural appropriation. My investigation of the myriad creative interventions in a tale rendered as myth reveals that while all have a stake in foregrounding an impression of authorial validity for themselves, there is no single “authentic” version of a text possessed of a long history of mutable form and content.