Spring 2017 ENG 2091: Literature to Film Texts

The following information comes directly from my Spring 2017 syllabus for ENG 2091: Literature to Film.

ENG 2091 Literature to Film Required Texts
You have five required texts for this course, which we will read prior to viewing their film adaptations.

  1. Albee, Edward. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? NAL, 2006. ISBN: 978-0451218599.
  2. Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. Anchor, 1998. ISBN: 978-0385490818.
  3. Morrison, Toni. Beloved. Vintage, 2004. ISBN: 978-1400033416.
  4. Spark, Muriel. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2009. ISBN: 978-0061711299.
  5. Woolf, Virginia. Orlando (Annotated). Mariner Books, 2006. ISBN: 978-0156031516.

We will also read select essays and excerpts about the history, craft, and theory of film, available to you on Moodle.

A Note About Ordering Books
If you choose not to order from the university bookstore, I encourage you to consider ordering books directly from the publisher. Cutting out the middleman helps ensure that publishers and authors are treated fairly in the transaction. You can also make a difference with your book purchase by placing a special order with a local or regional bookstore, like Labyrinth Books in Princeton or Black Dog Books in Newton; an independent bookstore with online ordering, like Powell’s or Strand Bookstore; or a philanthropic independent seller like Better World Books.

Reserve Texts at Taylor Memorial Library
All of our literary and cinematic texts are available, sometimes in other editions, through Course Reserves at Taylor Memorial Library, except for The Handmaid’s Tale (1990) film and The Handmaid’s Tale (2017) television series. In order to access these materials, go to the main desk in the library and request to use them in the library.

Cinematic Texts
We will screen the five feature-length films in class, and several other Lit to Film adaptations:

  1. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). Director: Mike Nichols.
  2. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969). Director: Ronald Neame.
  3. The Handmaid’s Tale (1990). Director: Volker Schlondoff.
  4. Moving Poems by John Lucas and Claudia Rankine
  5. Motionpoems
  6. Orlando (1992). Director: Sally Potter.
  7. Beloved (1998). Director: Jonathan Demme.
  8. The Handmaid’s Tale, Hulu TV series (2017).
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“Spin” Reading and Writing Exercise for ENG 2031

For “Spin,” students will be negotiating subtext, rumor, dramatic irony, subjectivity, objectivity, and context in our readings and their own work. Students will discuss the elements of reportage and rumor in their icebreaker text, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and then discern the difference between Rowling’s subtext and the subtext, however erroneous, read into the actions of the protagonists by other characters. Students will likewise watch a clip from the 1966 film Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and identify elements of dialogue, actions, body language, and gestures that reveal subtext, and then they will do a writing exercise in which they describe the innocent actions of a character in public and then re-describe them in the point of view of a law enforcement official, private investigator, reporter, or suspicious bystander who misconstrues, willfully or automatically, the actions of that innocent person.

In Medias Res Exercise

Belauscht (1874) by Carl Wilhelm Hübner


Class: Intro to Creative Writing
Genre: Drama
Readings: Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Time: 45+ minutes

1. Have students pair off. One person per group should be in charge of transcription.
2. Leave the classroom. Take the students to a common area on campus like the student union, cafeteria, or the quad. Once you are there, have the groups split up and walk through the crowd. Encourage them not to linger in any one place. They should write down the most compelling and/or bizarre sentence they hear someone say. Examples: “I ate a whole pound of Swedish Fish and it cost me like 35 dollars!” “How old are you?” (10 minutes.)
3. Return to the classroom. Have each group pass their transcribed line to the group on their right.
4. On the board, write down a pair of character roles in a specific setting for each group. I gave my classes the following character/setting sets:

a. Two waste disposal workers on the back of a garbage truck.
b. A veterinarian and the owner of a pet in the exam room.
c. The host and a contestant on the game show.
d. A teenager with driver’s ed instructor in the car.
e. A police officer and an arrested person in cruiser.
f. A priest and a congregant in confession booth.
g. Two single people on a speed date at a bar.

5. Each group should read aloud the line passed to them. Assign character/setting sets to the groups based on these lines. Play it safe and assign the characters/setting to lines that seem natural, or see what happens if you make unexpected pairings. (Hint: Students often have more fun with unexpected pairings.)
6. The line provided will serve as the first line of the scene involving their assigned character/setting sets. Each student should assume the role of one of the characters. Each will respond to their partner’s line by passing the paper back and forth. (30 min.)
7. Share.

This exercise allows students to work collaboratively to create a narrative through dialogue, a skill that many of my students cite as the hardest thing to accomplish in their first plays. Additionally, their time in the crowd locates them in conversational rhythm and dynamics so that the information about the plot doesn’t seem unnatural to the conversation. The assigned lines provide them with an inciting action as well as a clue toward their new character’s personality. The hope is that once they are writing on their own, they will be able to recreate these investigative processes on characters of their own.