Current Issues in English Assignment
A Researched Paper on Intertextuality and Adaptation

The major writing assignment in the course with be a paper reflecting upon and researching intertextuality and/or adaptation from a perspective selected by the student author of the paper.  

My intention has been for us to explore options in the first portion of the course and then act upon them in the second portion.  So we have looked at the ways the film Mrs. Dalloway, directed by Marleen Gorris, and the novel The Hours, written by Michael Cunningham, adapt, interpret, and extend the novel Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, emphasizing in particular the connection between the two novels as commentary on one another, a kind of fictional dialogue about interior anguish and its consequences.  We have also looked at Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard’s screenplay and John Madden’s film of Shakespeare in Love, to reflect upon its relationship to William Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet (and to a lesser extent his comedy, Twelfth Night, or, What You Will) as well as to the circumstances of his life and career. These works and others to be discussed in the course take inspiration and some times plot, character, and theme from other literary works and we’re interested in the effect of intertextuality (crossover currents) on the shape, texture, and content of new literary works. Part of the point of doing this part is to extend your own skills of literary analysis and interpretation to similar groups of works.

For example, it might serve to examine the relationship between one literary work and another inspired or instigated by it (Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and its “prequel,” Jean Rhys’ The Wide Sargasso Sea; Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Valerie Martin’s retelling, Mary Reilly; Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus, and Theodore Roszak’s retelling, The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein [or Brian Aldiss’s Frankenstein Unbound]; Homer’s The Odyssey and James Joyce’s Ulysses); it might also serve to examine several versions or retellings of the same story over a long period of time (Euripides’ Hippolytus retold as Racine’s Phedre and Eugene O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms; Aeschylus’ Orestia retold as O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra; Plautus’s The Menechmi retold as Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors and Rodgers and Hart’s The Boys From Syracuse; the Oedipus legend in three or four of its various incarnations). Other approaches may suggest themselves in your own past reading.

Common requirements:

§         The paper should be at least ten-to-fifteen double-spaced (Times New Roman 12) pages long, although students writing multi-genre papers may expect to have their papers run longer because of the segmented nature of the work and the likelihood of more white spaces.

§         The paper should be related to the focus of the course, which is intertextuality and/or adaptation, but the approach or perspective taken to that subject will vary from student to student and there is broad latitude here.

§         The paper should draw upon current research in whatever area of intertextuality you decide to study and it should synthesize that research in the service of a clear, unified, thoroughly developed, and well-organized explanation of contemporary thinking about the issue—this is simply the nature of papers that report research—but it needn’t simply be another academic research paper, especially since you are likely to be focusing on a limited number of specific works; the research component can complement or supplement a close reading of primary works. 

§         Drafts of this paper must be presented as work-in-progress to members of the class during workshop sessions for critiquing and revision advice and must form the nucleus of the public presentation you give on this topic.

I hope that the the papers written and presented in the class will not only heighten everybody’s individual skills but also have the cumulative effect of expanding everybody’s knowledge of intertextuality and enhancing everybody’s thinking about it.

Advice to Authors:

Discuss the subject you choose and the approach you take with me before you get too deeply into it, so that I can advise against irrelevant topics or inappropriate approaches.

Expect to bring work in progress to class in order to both share findings with others in the class and gain from advice and recommendations from teacher and fellow students.

Try to make the paper and the related presentation on something that furthers your goals as someone graduating in English on either or both personal and professional levels.

Feel free to see me during office hours or by appointment (I teach the two hours before class) or contact me by phone or e-mail when you get perplexed.

Workshops: October 31 through November 7

Presentations: November 14 and 28

Final Deadline for the Paper: December 5

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