From Biographical Text to Biopic: Adapting the Cultural Memory of the Eighteenth Century

  • Eli Løfaldli Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
Keywords: Biopic, biographical film, biographical novel, biography, adaptation, cultural memory, eighteenth-century womanhood, The Duchess, A Royal Affair, The Scandalous Lady W


The article investigates how recent biopics of eighteenth-century women can be seen to form and/or revise the cultural memory of the period, with a particular emphasis on how the individuals represented in biographical texts are portrayed as figures with which a modern audience can sympathize as the material is adapted for the screen. An analysis of changes that have been made in the adaptation processes of The Duchess (2009), A Royal Affair (2012), and The Scandalous Lady W (2015) shows some of the ways in which the concerns of the present are central to representations of the past. The cultural memory of eighteenth-century womanhood as constructed by and represented in biographical films of the past decade is inherently paradoxical: the almost exclusive focus on ‘scandalous’ women co-exists with consistent attempts to purge their life stories of elements that are regarded as scandalous today.