Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Rewriting American Classics

ENGL 1145.301
MW 12-1:29pm

This course will examine the way a number of classic American literary works, by authors ranging from Melville and Dickinson to Faulkner, have been vividly rewritten by contemporary writers and filmmakers. What happens when a novelist or film director seizes the characters, plots, and themes of an earlier, foundational text and transposes that material into his or her own literary property? How do such revisions ask us to see and understand North American history and invite us to imagine its contemporary dilemmas and its future possibilities? We will use these pairings to examine the relationship between history and fiction and the nature of literary transmission. Our readings may include Hawthorne’s New England tales together with Robert Eggers film “The Witch”; The Narrative of Frederick Douglass together with Colson Whitehead’s The Underground; Emily Dickinson’s poems and episodes of the TV series Dickinson; Melville’s “Benito Cereno” and Charles Johnson Middle Passage; Whitman’s Leaves of Grass together with Michael Cunningham’s Specimen Days; and Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying with Suzan-Lori Parks’s Getting Mother’s Body. Assignments will consist of a a short paper and a longer research paper along with brief assignments. Students will have the option of producing a creative project as one of the writing assignments.

English Major Requirements
  • Sector 5 19th Century (AE19)
  • Sector 6 20th & 21st Centuries (AE20)
English Concentration Attributes
  • 20th-21st Century Concentration (AE21)
  • The Novel Concentration (AENV)
  • Theory & Cultural Studies Concentration (AETC)
College Attributes
Additional Attributes