Journal Article

Evelyn Piper's <i>Bunny Lake Is Missing</i> (1957): Adaptation, Feminism, and the Politics of the ‘Progressive Text’1

Esther Sonnet

in Adaptation

Volume 2, issue 1, pages 65-86
Published in print March 2009 | ISSN: 1755-0637
Published online March 2009 | e-ISSN: 1755-0645 | DOI:
Evelyn Piper's Bunny Lake Is Missing (1957): Adaptation, Feminism, and the Politics of the ‘Progressive Text’1

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In 2004, the Feminist Press (CU, New York) selected Evelyn Piper's 1957 novel Bunny Lake is Missing to be part of a series of reissues entitled ‘Femme Fatales: Women Write Pulp’. Piper's best-selling novel was chosen for its place in a lost or forgotten tradition of ‘queens of pulp’. This essay explores what it means for historical pulp fiction written by women to offer the contemporary reader ‘subversive perspectives on the heart of the American century’. Exploring first the feminist reclamation of pulp fiction, a detailed analysis is made of the cultural valency of Piper's narrative of a single mother's desperate search for her missing child. Exploring the ‘conspiracy of disbelief’ that Piper's female protagonist confronts when her child's existence is constructed as delusional, the matter of how a ‘transgressive’ popular fiction—that positions a woman as its active agent—is adapted for the screen is raised through comparison with Otto Preminger's 1965 cinematic adaptation of Bunny Lake is Missing. In its original written form, the subject is a potent one for exposing the ideologically disruptive figure of the unstable single mother within the patriarchal confines of 50s urban America while Preminger's film might be read as a repudiation of the political value to feminism of the ‘progressive popular text’.

Keywords: Bunny Lake is Missing; Evelyn Piper; Otto Preminger; pulp fiction; feminism; textual politics; single mother

Journal Article.  12201 words. 

Subjects: Film ; Television ; Literature

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