English | African American Literature
L396 | 27678 | Dewitt Kilgore

Dewitt Kilgore

4:00p-5:15p TR (30 students) 3 cr., A&H.

TOPIC:  “Bronze Icons:  African American Writing and American Cinema”

During the past century the success of an author or book may be
gauged by successful adaptation into film.  While this process is no
indication of a particular work’s artistic value it does open up new
audiences.  Cinematic translation also (for better or worse) cues an
audience on how a particular novel or story might be read or
understood.  This raises a striking – and by no means easy –
question.  Does cinematic interpretation enhance or degrade the
impact of a literary artifact?  Does literary authorization for a
film distract attention from what is possible in cinematic
narrative?  What happens when a film has successfully supplanted its
source as a powerful articulator of a set of ideas or emotional
structures?  What judgments can we make about the potential and
effect of a work that exists in two different media?
This course takes on these issues within the context of recent
African American writing and its translation onto America’s motion
picture screens.  We will pay particular attention to the traffic
between word and image, silence and sound that occurs when black
literature is translated into popular media.  The course will likely
include the work of writers like Walter Mosley, Lorraine Hansberry,
Alice Walker, Chester Himes and associated films.  Filmmakers such
as Ossie Davis, Gordon Parks, Carl Franklin and Steven Spielberg
will provide the cinematic context in which African American writing

This course requires two papers (3-5 typewritten pages, double-
spaced), two exams, one research team project, active and informed
classroom participation and attendance.

Regular group screenings will be held outside of the regular class
time.  These screenings are a required part of the course;
attendance is mandatory.  Please check the published course schedule
before you register.