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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Spring 2005

T C 603B • Composition and Reading in World Literature

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
41065 MWF
11:00 AM-12:00 PM
MEZ 1.122

Course Description

This course looks at how world literature and film have created ongoing and multicultural dialogues, as both texts and films have been adapted, remade, rewritten, or improvised upon by writers and artists across time and national borders. Thus, the focus of the course will be on how the works get manipulated and for what cultural purposes, as original messages in text, plot, and visual design are adapted for new audiences, yet with specific references to their sources and to the cultural authority of these sources. The changes that occur when a print genre becomes a visual narrative show how the assumptions and stereotypes of an original are modified in the new cultural context of the adaptation. When a work is remade, the maker must reconsider, and sometimes rethink, such features as the narrative or filmmaker’s point of view, the episodic structure, and the choice of language, if the new version is to speak to and for its new audience. Reflecting its origins in early nineteenth-century England, for example, the language of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice frequently mentions “civility,” and the protagonists use extremely formal speech. Both the 1950s Hollywood version and the BBC Series version of the 1990s delete many turns of phrase that echo the book—but they substitute exchanges that also differ strikingly from one another; they rewrite characters' exchanges into terms that their new audiences will recognize, and as they highlight new themes purportedly drawn from the originals. In this way a “high culture” work is popularized in ways that reflect the two different eras in which those popularizations occurred. In this class, students will engage in analysis of these differences to identify the implied expectations of audiences viewing the film versions at given points of time. As a major tool to aid such cross-cultural analyses, a précis format (short one-page analysis grids) will be introduced to help students learn to identify meaning systems and key contrasts in narrative and visual characteristics. They will lead to discussions and longer analyses of how the films and texts change cultural markers in response to events outside them, as reflected in their changes of content and point of view. Examples will range from Shakespeare’s King Lear and its film adaptation, Kurosawa’s Rashomon, through three versions of the science fiction classic Metropolis (Harbou’s novel, Lang’s silent film and the recent Japanese anime), and classic Westerns that come from abroad (how Seven Samurai became The Magnificent Seven, a western nothing like the classic Virginian). In the initial weeks of class, the instructor and the group will work out the premises for cross-cultural and cross-genre analyses together, taking examples in class time. By the fifth week the class will commence assessing other adaptations independently—a play, novel, or film and its adaptation—in short oral and written presentations. In the final third of the semester, leading up to their semester projects, students will select their own novel/film combination in consultation with the instructor and present an oral version of a longer written paper, analyzing the cross-cultural implications of this adaptation.

About the Professor Professor Swaffar teaches courses in Comparative Literature and twentieth century literature with an emphasis on the period after WWII. She also works with students in foreign language education. She is the author of a handbook on literary magazines after WWII (in German), a book on how reading in a foreign language can lead to language proficiency (Reading for Meaning), and is currently working on a book about strategies for reading and writing about high- and popular-culture texts in ways that empower readers of English. Recently she has written about Russian films and the historical reasons for an enduring consciousness divide between East and West Germany. She can be seen (and avoided) riding her bike on campus and in central Austin, loves to be at the University of Texas, Barton Springs or at home gardening, cooking, and eating.

Grading Policy

Précis: 20% Short analyses: 20% Quizzes: 10% Consultation on oral presentation: 5% Oral presentation: 10% Consultation on paper topic: 5% Consultation on paper draft: 10% Longer Paper: 20%


Texts: King Lear, Pride and Prejudice, Metropolis, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Virginian Films (available from the instructor on video tapes or in DVD formats): Rashomon, The Seven Samurai, The Magnificent Seven, Pride and Prejudice (2 versions), Metropolis (2 versions), The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.


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