Waddell, Nathan Vernon: "Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. An Unacknowledged Adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent?" In: Adaptation 6.1 (2013), S. 43–59.
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|Resource type: Journal Article
BibTeX citation key: Waddell2013
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Keywords: "Batman", Adaptation, Anarchism, Conrad. Joseph, Film adaptation, Intertextuality, Literature, Superhero, Terrorism, USA
The novels of Joseph Conrad (1857–1924) have evolved in adapted form in several ways. In this article, I suggest that Christopher Nolan’s second Batman film, The Dark Knight (2008), bears traces, and more specifically might be an unacknowledged adaptation, of Conrad’s The Secret Agent, a novel with which the film has several affinities. Although Nolan has nowhere announced The Dark Knight as an adaptation of The Secret Agent, a range of structural and thematic links exist between these narratives. The Secret Agent reimagines the activities and urban contexts of the late Victorian anarchist Martial Bourdin, whereas The Dark Knight is more obviously concerned with post-9/11 forms of terrorism. However, the absence of a stated adaptive process need not stop us from making links between Nolan and Conrad nor from viewing those links as part of a shared capacity for imagining, at different times with different emphases, a very precise kind of threat: the anarchistic figure who is ready to “go beyond the intention of vengeance or terrorism” and kill to be “purely destructive”, in Conrad’s words. Attending to the connections between The Secret Agent and The Dark Knight enables reflection on a wider set of issues, including changing attitudes toward anarchism and terrorism during the past hundred years or so, the changeable representation of terrorist activity in narrative forms, and the ways in which terrorism prompts ethical investigations in historically contingent imaginative modes.
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