- CC 325 BX - Literature at the Movies
- 3 or 4 Credits
TR 1:20 am-2:35 pm - Professor Graber
Cross-listed with ENGL 365 AX and ENGL 565 AX
“Is it as good as the book?” Over the past few years the question might have come up in casual conversations about any of the Harry Potter movies, Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, or even The Avengers. This course will look behind that pop culture question to investigate the extraordinarily rich relationship between cinema and literature. Throughout the twentieth and now twenty-first centuries, many thousands of great and not so great films have borrowed their plots and characters from books, but cinema’s habitual reliance on literature has been neither direct nor uncomplicated. Even the most faithful adaptations create new works of art, as filmmakers interpret, edit, translate, and distill literary sources into concentrated narratives of sight and sound.
Sometimes such changes are intentionally jarring, as they were when Francis Ford Coppola reinvented Joseph Conrad’s 1902 novella, Heart of Darkness, as a Vietnam War film, or when Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers met their fates in a contemporary urban environment ringing with the music of Radiohead and bristling with semi-automatic weapons. Traveling in the opposite direction, “cinematic” books and graphic novels that mimic the stories or storytelling techniques of filmmakers can also make their way back to the screen, sometimes gaining critical recognition as serious literature even as they become fodder for such Hollywood blockbusters as The Dark Knight Rises and Watchmen. And then there are the recent crop of literary films, such as Adaptation, Capote, Stranger than Fiction, and Midnight in Paris, that deal with literature by making the act of writing their central subject. In this course we’ll be examining audacious adaptations, cinematic fictions, literature on film, and films about literature as we explore larger questions about the relationship between art and life and the moral considerations of storytelling. Students will write a film review and a short screenplay adaptation as well as a series or shorter analytical assignments and a longer paper.