Adaptation as Critical Practice
This course provides a follow up to English 202, the Introduction to the English major. It is a practicum of critical methods. This particular 302 will provide in-depth practice in adaptation studies, and it will take as its foundational premise that all adaptations are forms of interpretation. When a novel is made into a movie or when a play-text becomes a staged performance, the new version is never exactly the same as the original source. Our focus on adaptation studies will include attention to the following methodological questions: What kinds of critical practices – close reading and historical research, for instance – are important to adaptation studies methodologies? How does the kind of interpretation that goes into making an adaptation differ from the kind of interpretation we perform as literary critics? What is the difference between adaptation and cultural appropriation? Why do some literary works inspire multiple adaptations? What cultural function do these adaptations fulfill?
We’ll explore these questions by taking as case studies two early nineteenth-century novels that continue to generate not only adaptations, but also prequels, sequels, and pastiches: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. By comparing critical interpretations and popular adaptations and spin-offs of these novels, we’ll ask why they remain perennially interesting to readers and how the work of literary critics differs from the work of the novelists, screenwriters, directors, and artists that adapt them for new audiences.
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1831 version)