Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Understanding Cinematic Adaptations: 21st Century Literacy

ENGL 292.920
instructor(s):

 

 Avid fans of a particular novel often eagerly await a film version.  These same enthusiasts equally often come away disappointed by the translation of their favorite book into an altogether different work of art. Even though 85% of blockbuster movies are adaptation of novels and short stories, the viewing audience seldom can judge a film version of a novel by any other criterion than faithfulness to the original. More and more, true literacy involves the capability to evaluate a work across several media. Moving away from this sort of “fidelity studies,” this interdisciplinary course will examine adaptations as works of art in their own right. Using recent scholarship from theorists of adaptation including Deborah Cartmell, Tim Corrigan, Millicent Marcus, James Naremore, and Imelda Whelan, students will be introduced to the relatively new field of film adaptation studies. Further, through close examination of film and text, students will gain new analytic tools to evaluate both the literature they read and the movies they watch. We will look at the Coen Brothers’ transformation of Homer’s Odyssey into O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Danny Boyle’s incorporation of Hindu and Greek myth into Slumdog Millionaire, Francis Ford Coppola’s rendering of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness into Apocalypse Now Redux, and Baz Luhrman’s Bollywood version of the Orpheus myth into Moulin Rouge. We will also consider adaptations across new media, such the film renditions of graphic novels like Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, Dan Clowe’s Ghost World, or Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis; and music videos, like The Smashing Pumpkins’ version of Federico Fellini’s adaptation of Apuleius’s The Satyricon, or OutKast’s parody of A Hard Day’s Night. The course will require two 5 page papers and a final examination. Outside film viewing required.