English 546 - Literary Fiction & the Feature Film

Winter Quarter

English 546 Winter 2014
“When the Page Floats Transformed”: Literary Fiction/Feature Film
E. L. George
SLN 13911
T/Th, 3:30-5:30pm

The limitations on the comparative analysis of literary fiction and the feature film are dominated by the socio-political situation of the two forms and disciplines which examine them. Literary fiction is an elite, privileged form--one which is legitimated by its commitment to an objective of excellence; however that is defined; while the feature film is produced by a commercial industry which is unable to survive without creating a popular audience. . . . The discomfort of the literary critic with popular cultural forms has a long and distinguished history . . . Similarly, film studies’ recognition of its situation as an area which has had to establish its respectability has produced a jealous wariness of the imperialism of other disciplines. . . . So the limited degree of intercourse that occurs between the two disciplines has to deal with suspicions of elitism and imperialism on the one hand, and accusations of ‘trendiness’ on the other.”

–Graeme Turner,
“National Fictions: Film, Fiction, and Culture”

I've never been one of those people who compared the book and the movie of the book. That's never interested me because I've always separated them as two very distinct art forms, so I never got mad if the movie wasn't the book, or vice versa. I knew from a very young age that it was impossible to do that. I mean, you're talking about a 300-page novel versus an hour-and-a-half or two-hour movie. It's impossible to convey in a movie the entire experience of a novel, and I always knew that.

–Sherman Alexie, fiction and screen writer

In conventional thought, print fictions and their film adaptations still clash—one considered elite and literary, the other trendy and crass. This course challenges that conventional notion and celebrates both hybrid forms of literature as well as serious literary and cultural critical analyses. We will read print narratives and their film adaptations to test the benefits of analyzing narratives in multiple rather than singular formats, when the printed page “floats transformed.”

Course texts will include a variety of shorter and longer contemporary American print narratives of various genres that have been adapted into film, perhaps Annie Proulx’s “Brokeback Mountain” and Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men. We will research many scholarly as well as popular book and film reviews and articles from our UW library and other reliable databases.

Course requirements include reading print and film narratives critically, utilizing reader-response and reception theory perspectives; engaging vocally and thoughtfully in weekly active discussions of the print and film texts, including giving reports on reader/viewer responses that may challenge personal and social expectations; engaging in critical and persuasive analyses in spoken and written formats; researching online databases; writing a final, critically-based research 10 – 12 pp. research paper, and presenting a draft form of that research in a simulated (mock) academic conference session (of our class members).