L369 2099 MARSH
Studies in British and American Authors

5:45p-6:55p MW (30) 3 cr.



This course will explore: the remarkable range of adaptations of 19th- century fiction since the birth of the film medium c. 1895; cinematic works “inspired” by individual novels (or authors); key genres (especially horror) that owe their origin to a handful of extraordinary texts that have been adapted hundreds of times; film techniques that sprang out of or that revealingly parallel the techniques of 19th-century narrative; direct connections (personal, textual, historical) between 19th-century novelists and early filmmakers; and the relative importance of the novel’s influence among the many cultural forces that demanded that film be born—Victorian photography, railroad travel, urban over-stimulation, illustrated fiction and the cartoon strip, the Victorian quest for “realism,” sentimentality and bloodthirstiness (and scenic innovation) on the melodramatic stage, and the optical wonders of the panorama, diorama, and magic lantern (or “phantasmagoria”). That last concern inevitably grants a large role in this course to Charles Dickens, as the 19th-century author whose fiction already and most imaginatively fed on those cultural forces, and who is the most adapted author in film history. We will approach all adaptations as interpretations, even criticisms, of their “originals,” and all texts in their historical and cultural contexts.

19th-century novels will include: Dickens, Oliver Twist (edited) and A Christmas Carol; Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre; Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights; W.M. Thackeray, Vanity Fair (short selections, with Thackeray’s own illustrations); Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland; Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; Dr. Polidori, “The Vampyre” (1819) & Lord Byron fragmentary companion tale; selections from the shilling shocker Varney the Vampire, Or, The Feast of Blood (1847); Sheridan Le Fanu’s tale “Carmilla” (1872); and Bram Stoker’s 1897 Dracula. (We may also look at pre-filmic and film-mediating stage adaptations of these texts, and possibly some short selections from Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca.) Filmic texts will include: excerpts and stills from adaptations of 1898-1920; Chaplin’s The Kid (1920) and the 1922 silent Oliver Twist; David Lean’s controversial 1948 Oliver Twistand its musical offspring Oliver! (1966); Scrooge, Scrooged, and Frank Capra’s classic It’s a Wonderful Life; Luis Buñuel’s Abismos de Passión; Jane Campion’s The Piano, and the copycat film The Governess; Hitchcock’s Rebecca; Fox’s star-studded 1944 Jane Eyre; the Disney and Playboy versions of Carroll’s Alice; the 1922, 1932, and 1942 versions of Dr. Jekyll; and such products (some in clip forms only) of the vampire film industry spawned by Stoker’s bestseller as Murnau’s illegal expressionist masterpiece Nosferatu (1922), Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr (1931), the 1931 Univeral Pictures Dracula (starring Bela Lugosi), Ed Wood (1994), The Lost Boys (1987), Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu: The Vampyre (1979), The Hunger (1983; David Bowie, Catherine Deneuve), Coppolla’s 1992 Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and the Anne Rice adaptation Interview with the Vampire (1994) There will be a short theoretical and critical course reader.

There will be two midterms (clip/passage analyses; short questions); one short paper; one longer paper; cumulative final worth between 30 and 40% of grade, and comprising clip/passage analysis, short questions, and a comparative essay.