E 314J – Literature & Film

From Harry Potter to the Twilight series to the Hunger Games, Hollywood continues to mine popular works of fiction for cinematic fodder.  And this tradition dates back to the very beginnings of cinema – with D.W. Griffith’s adaptation of The Clansmen into the first feature-length film: Birth of a Nation. But what happens in this shift from written word to big screen?  What do the additions and deletions of plot points, characters, and other “integral” aspects of a text, mean for the stories that get told?  How is the tone of a novel conveyed on the page and then effectively (and faithfully) translated into moving images?

This course is designed to introduce students to literary studies, exploring texts through literary analysis and some film theory.  The course is designed to acquaint students with the basic methods of literary analysis as well as the major questions of literature to film adaptations.  We will discuss the relationships between form and content, and students will learn to close read texts/films for both historic context and cultural significance. In addition, students will analyze the effects of cultural transpositions of texts, asking, for example, what it means to move Hamlet from Renaissance Denmark to corporate America (as in Ethan Hawke’s film adaptation).  For most of the texts in the course (primarily short stories or excerpts from larger works), we will first analyze the literary text and then extend our inquiry through film viewings (outside of class).