Date of Defense
Date of Graduation
As our world’s media ecosystem continues to grow and change over time, especially with the particular “boom” in response to the digital age in which we find ourselves today, adaptation theory has had to evolve outside of its primary interest in film. This paper focuses on websites that act as adaptations of literature and are created as companions to a book or book series; or, as this paper refers to them, web companions to literature (WCLs). This paper begins with a genre analysis which challenges previous associations between WCLs and advertisements and further identifies patterns within WCLs regarding audience, focus of content, and ideological foundation. This section of the paper concludes that engaged readers are the primary audience of WCLs; that WCLs typically focus on author, characters, or worldbuilding in their content and design; and that WCLs can have either a mirrored, divergent, or collaborative ideological foundation. The second section of the paper explores ideas of ownership, authority, and identity in light of the surprising absence of readers within this genre, noting that while WCLs have a unique capability to include readers through participation and representation, they overwhelmingly fail to do either. The third and final section of the paper presents an empirical study of how readers are influenced by the ideological separation that occurs between Jay Asher’s YA novel Thirteen Reasons Why and it’s WCL, ThirteenReasonsWhy.com. The study provides evidence that WCLs do have the ability to impact reader perceptions of a story, and that WCLs can continue to impact readers even through multiple exposures. Each facet of this paper serves to demonstrate that readers have the same capacity to be influenced by WCLs as they do by any other media, and to underscore the need for further research into this genre as a type of adaptation that plays a complex role in the wider field of participatory culture.
Sanford, Heather, "The Reader and the Web: Web Companions to Literature" (2017). Honors Theses. 2977.