literature and film research paper

This research paper assignment will enable you to explore the relationship of literature and film. It is safe to say that the majority of the films that you have viewed have been adapted from some form of literature; a short story, novel, or poem may have been the inspiration for the production. The beauty of literature is that the imagination is forced to produce an interpretation of what is being read. Films, however, interpret the images for the viewer. Often the ?heart and soul? of the literature piece is lost because the transition from literature into film is not about the art but about revenue. On the other hand, a film may give the literary work a ?new face? in order to attract a modern generation.
This list only includes novels and short stories adapted into film in 2009! With this site and others that I have also listed, you are sure to find a research topic. You may choose to work individually or with a group of no more than two of your peers. Please submit the name of the short story and film or the episode of a television show that you (or your group) have chosen for this assignment by Friday, February 6th.
You will write a 1000 word essay due Friday, February 27th and prepare an oral presentation that will include the following:

Introduction of the essay and the concept of literature adapted into film.
History and background of the author(s) of the literature.
Summary of the literature.
History and background of the director(s) or producer (s).
Director?s explanation of his or her purpose for the adaptation.
Summary of the film adaptation.
At least one similarity that is true to the literature.
No more than 3 differences
Which was superior and why.

It will be necessary for you to show a clip of a scene or episode in order to defend your analysis. Our classroom is equipped with multimedia capabilities; therefore, you can be creative. However, oral presentations should not be longer than 5 minutes for individuals and 10 minutes for groups. Included with your handouts is a ?List 117.Presentation Rubric?. Please bring your rubric on the day you present. Oral presentations will be Monday, March 2nd-Monday, March 30th.
You will receive four grades for this project, two for the 1000 word essay and two for the oral presentation (worth 500 words).

Excellent literature and film sources:

Marvel Comics site:
DC Comics site:


“Film is visual brevity…. If the novel is a poem, the film is a telegram.”
– Michael Hastings, screenwriter

In Reading the Movies, William Costanzo notes that it has been estimated that a third of all films ever made were adapted from novels. If you count other literary forms, such as drama or short stories, that estimate might well be 65 percent or more. Nearly all of the classic works students study in high school have been adapted for film, some several times in several different eras. But turning a novel into a screenplay is not just a matter of pulling dialogue from the pages of a book. In novels, we often come to know characters best not through what they say, but through what they are thinking or what is said about them in the narration. A narrator mediates the meaning of what we read through his or her point of view: a coming-of-age story reads much differently if we hear about what happens from the point of view of the person growing up than if we learn about it from that person’s mother, sister, or teacher. But in film, the narrator largely disappears. Sometimes a narrator’s perspective is kept through the use of a voice-over, but generally the director, cast, and crew must rely on the other tools of film to reproduce what was felt, thought, and described on the page. In the opening of A Death in the Family, for instance, James Agee devotes nearly six pages of description to how the little boy, Rufus, feels walking home with his father, enjoying the summer evening: grown up, trusted, loved, and safe. In the Masterpiece Theatre film, this becomes just a brief scene as the camera shows the two walking contentedly together, talking about the locusts they hear, and sharing a mint. Yet the same feelings are evoked, and the same information is given.

The major difference between books and film is that visual images stimulate our perceptions directly, while written words can do this indirectly. Reading the word chair requires a kind of mental “translation” that viewing a picture of a chair does not. Film is a more sensory experience than reading — besides verbal language, there is also color, movement, and sound. Yet film is also limited: for one thing, there are no time constraints on a novel, while a film must generally compress events into two hours or so. For another, the meaning of a novel is controlled by only one person — the author — while the meaning we get from a film is the result of a collaborative effort by a large number of people. Film also does not allow us the same freedom a novel does — to interact with the plot or characters by imagining them in our minds. For some viewers, this is often the most frustrating aspect of turning a novel into a film.

How faithful to the original written work should a film version strive to be? In Reading the Movies, Costanzo quotes George Bluestone, one of the first to study film adaptations of literature. Bluestone believes the filmmaker is an independent artist, “not a translator for an established author, but a new author in his own right.” Thinkers like Bluestone agree that a literal translation of a book is often foolish — even, some have said, a “betrayal” of the original work. Instead, the filmmaker has to refashion the spirit of the story with his or her own vision andtools.

There are three main reasons a filmmaker or screenwriter might make major changes in adapting a literary work to film. One is simply the change demanded by a new medium. For instance, film and literature each have their own tools for manipulating narrative structure. In a novel, a new chapter might take us back to a different time and place in the narrative; in a film, we might go back to that same time and place through the use of a flashback, a crosscut, or a dissolve. Thus, a close-up in Oliver Twist of the face of Oliver’s dead mother dissolves into a close-up of her youthful face as we are pulled back into the time when she was a girl. For other works, the problems of translation might be even more difficult. Screenwriters working with the novels of Henry James, for instance, must take works that are often more about ideas than events and make them dramatic for the screen. Michael Hastings, screenwriter for Henry James’s The American, had to make many difficult choices when adapting that work. As he notes in an interview, “Film is visual brevity…. If the novel is a poem, the film is a telegram.”

Sometimes filmmakers make changes to highlight new themes, emphasize different traits in a character, or even try to solve problems they perceive in the original work. Allan Cubitt, who wrote the screenplay for Anna Karenina, says in an interview that he always felt Vronsky’s suicide attempt was “undermotivated” and therefore tried to strengthen the character’s sense of rejection and humiliation in the film version. Similarly, in Alan Bleasdale’s version of Oliver Twist, five pages at the end of the original novel become the first two hours of the film. Because he wrote in monthly installments, Bleasdale says Dickens often found himself “painted into a corner” with dangling plot lines. Bleasdale was concerned that certain “incredible coincidences” at the end of the novel would be hard for contemporary audiences to believe. But then he realized that this problematic part of the novel was actually his solution: “By beginning with this material, the audience would understand the motivation of the characters throughout,” Bleasdale says. The first two hours of the film now explain how Oliver came to be born, and why Fagin, Monks, and Mrs. Leeford act as they do: in this version, they’re after his inheritance.

Some changes are inspired by a desire to make the original story interesting and applicable to a contemporary audience. The Masterpiece Theatre version of Othello bears almost no resemblance to the original in setting and language, yet it is a faithful translation of the characters and themes. In this version, Othello is a black police officer in contemporary London hounded by “Jago,” his seeming friend; Desdemona’s handkerchief, a key symbol in the play, is replaced with something today’s viewers are much more likely to recognize as the token of a sexual liaison: a silk dressing gown. Similarly, the sedate opening scene of the novel The Hound of the Baskervilles in the office of Sherlock Holmes gives way in the film to the civilized setting of a courtroom and, next, the chaotic and frightening scenes of an escaped convict on the wild moors. In both the film and the book, the juxtaposition of the rational/scientific with the irrational/superstitious is a theme, but in the filmed version, it is much more immediate for resemblance to the original in setting and language, yet it is a faithful translation of the characters and themes. In this version, Othello is a black police officer in contemporary London contemporary viewers (

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