The French Lieutenant’s Woman

As the research assistant for this class, I am going to be looking for as many adaptations as I can find of our test cases, and posting about them on this blog.  I will also be putting the things I find on reserve in the library whenever possible.  First up is The French Lieutenant’s Woman.  A similar post for Wuthering Heights will follow.


• Fowles’s text draws on the 1823 novel Ourika by the French writer Claire de Duras.  Fowles also produced a translation of Ourika in 1977.  I don’t think The French Lieutenant’s Woman would generally be considered an adaptation, but for the sake of completeness I have requested that both the original Ourika and Fowles’s translation be put on on reserve.  Here is an article about the relation of the two novels:

Rewriting Women’s Stories: “Ourika” and “The French Lieutenant’s Woman”

Doris Y. Kadish

South Atlantic Review , Vol. 62, No. 2 (Spring, 1997), pp. 74-87

Published by: South Atlantic Modern Language Association

Article Stable URL:


• The most well-known adaptation of The French Lieutenant’s Woman is the 1981 film directed by Karel Reisz with a screenplay by Harold Pinter, and starring Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons.


• YouTube has a bunch of videos of people reciting Streep’s “You cannot understand because you are not a woman” monologue from the 1981 film:–Qf2c


• The novel was also adapted for the stage by Mark Healy.  The first production of this adaptation (as far as I can tell) was in Lancaster, PA in 2003, directed by Kate Saxon.  A subsequent production toured England in 2006, also directed by Kate Saxon but with a different cast and different set/costume designers.  There were also at least two productions in New Zealand, in 2007 and 2010.  Healy’s script does not appear to have been published, but a number of reviews of the performances can be found online:

This is all I was able to find about the NZ productions:


• BBC Radio 7 produced a two-part radio play of The French Lieutenant’s Woman in 2009.  Here is BBC’s (not very informative) Web site for the program:

Here is an extract:

There are some bootleg copies of the entire play floating around on the Internet.  It doesn’t appear to be available legally anywhere.


• Around the same time that the radio play came out, BBC and MGM were talking about producing a TV miniseries of the novel:

Nothing seems to have come of it.


• Someone made this “summary” of the novel using dolls:


• A musical group called Thumpermonkey recorded a track called “How I Wrote the French Lieutenant’s Woman”.  It is constructed around what seems to be a recording of Fowles talking about his experiences while writing the novel, although it is not clear whether it is really him.  It is available here:

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