An evolutionary (or “adaptationist”) perspective on adaptation studies offers ways past the “fidelity discourse” that has long vexed adaptation scholars. Biological adaptation forgoes exact fidelity to solve the new problems posed by inevitably changing environments, in a process that is fertile as well as faithful. Artistic adaptation also looks two ways, toward retention or fidelity and toward innovation or fertility.
The complex and multiple adaptations and hybridizations of art and nature, of page, stage, screen, and painting in Nabokov’s 1969 novel Ada suggest that the more exactly you know your world, or the world of art, the more you can transform them as you wish. Charlie Kaufman’s 2002 screenplay Adaptation. resembles Ada not only in spotlighting orchids but also in being meta-adaptational, addressing, like Ada, both fidelity within adaptation and the creative fertility to be found in building on prior design but moving beyond fidelity.