This course is about adaptation: the process of turning an existing work of art into a new creation in a different genre or medium. The course is designed for students from any discipline who seek an opportunity either to create an adaptation of their own (in literature, any of the visual arts, and/or music), or to learn about the nature of adaptation by examining actual cases and investigating such theoretical issues as originality, appropriation, and the representational limits of the various media. An example of the material we will examine is the Pygmalion myth as it morphs into an Ovidian tale, Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, Pre-Raphaelite paintings, Shaw’s play Pygmalion, and Lerner & Loewe’s musical, My Fair Lady.
The course will take advantage of the happy coincidence that the Penn Humanities Forum’s topic for the year is “Adaptations.” Thus, students can augment their understanding of adaptation with lectures by high-profile experts in a wide variety of disciplines. Second, the instructor herself is creatively engaged in two multi-media adaptations and will be able to illustrate the issues in the course with an immediate account of her process with collaborators in music, still art, and animation. She will also describe the path that led from Chaucer’s “Wife of Bath’s Tale” to her 2009 opera, The Loathly Lady, via early music, medieval art, animation, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Jane Austen’s Emma, Freud’s letters, and Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own.”
The assignment for the course is either a 20-page term paper or a creative adaptation. In either case, this work is not only to be handed in but presented in some form to the class, which will be run as a combination of humanities classroom and creative workshop. Collaborative projects among students are welcome; full attendance and participation are required.