Le mirabili trasformazioni della prostituta più amata d'America. “Rain” di W. Somerset Maugham

Alessandro Clericuzio

Abstract


This essay traces the transmedia development of William Somerset Maugham's short story “Rain.” First published in 1921, it follows a young American prostitute seeking a new life in the South Seas. While the story was mildly appreciated for its cynicism and tight style, Sadie Thompson, the eponymous character, immediately attracted the attention of writers, actors, film directors, playwrights, and other figures of the showbiz. Her fight for sexual freedom against a preacher's obsession with sin on a tropical island where nature expressed its strength with unrelenting rain was perfect fodder for popular culture. While gross and unsympathetically portrayed by Maugham in the story, Sadie was soon transformed—via body language—into a powerfully fascinating sex bomb. Sadie's presence in popular American culture has since been constant and deep, having been portrayed in several motion pictures, plays, musicals, comic skits, operas, ballets, and in the visual arts. This long-lasting path through different media reveals the story's ability to touch such sensitive nerves as religious fundamentalism, sexual and gender identities, race, power relations, commercial and cultural imperialism, as well as Darwinian and Freudian versions of human life. The strength and appeal of Sadie's each and every passage through different media also shows that transmedia storytelling is not a late-twentieth century phenomenon but has significant earlier instances disrupting the purported scale of values opposing the original and the copy, the author's version and the adaptation.


Keywords


Gender studies, queer culture, women's films, American popular culture, Somerset Maugham

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.13136/2281-4582/2020.i16.911

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