Intro to Lit: Culture & Lit (Literature and Film Adaptation)

What makes for a good film adaptation of a work of literature? Why do people so often say that “the book is better than the film”? How should we read film adaptations? When is literature cinematic and cinema literary? How far can a film adaptation stray from literary sources before it is no longer recognizable as an adaptation? How do audiences shape what we might call “the adaptation industry”?

In this course, we will ask and attempt to answer these questions as we explore literature and film through the lens of adaptation. We will read a range of literary texts, including novels, short stories, comics, and plays, and watch their film adaptation counterparts. We will also watch a film about adaptation, aptly titled Adaptation, and a film, After, based on fan fiction that germinated online and that has an ambivalent relationship to literary source texts but a clear relationship to young adult internet culture. Throughout the semester, one of the major skills we will develop will be writing effectively and persuasively about film. Along the way, we will turn a critical eye to a variety of critical concepts, theories, and topics in adaptation studies such as fidelity, translation, auteurism, spectatorship, and the role of the screenwriter; we will also think critically about film industry, aesthetics, genre, class, gender, and fandoms. Students will write a series of short reviews of film adaptations under consideration and pitch a screen adaptation for a work of literature of their choosing.


Adaptation (2002, dir. Spike Jonze)

After (2019, dir. Jenny Gage)

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Vol. 1 (written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, illustrations by Brian Stelfreeze) / Black Panther (2018, dir. Ryan Coogler)

Brokeback Mountain (Annie Proulx) / Brokeback Mountain (2005, dir. Ang Lee)

The Buenos Aires Affair (Manuel Puig, translated by Suzanne Jill Levine) / Happy Together (1997, dir. Wong Kar-wai)

Crazy Rich Asians (Kevin Kwan) / Crazy Rich Asians (2018, dir. John Chu)

The Descendants (Kaui Hart Hemmings) / The Descendants (2011, dir. Alexander Payne)

“Why Don’t You Dance?” (Raymond Carver) / Everything Must Go (2010, dir. Dan Rush)

M. Butterfly (David Henry Hwang)/ M. Butterfly (1993, dir. David Cronenberg)

The Whale Rider (Witi Ihimaera) / The Whale Rider (2002, dir. Niki Caro)