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Studies in Victorian Literature: Victorian Adaptations

Course Description

This course is not so much about the nineteenth century as it is inspired by it. While it is true that there are three classical, cannonical, recognizably and unmistakably Victorian novels at the core of the syllabus, the real focus of the course will be the post-Victorian, mutli-generic progeny of thos central texts. We might think of this course as a re-visioning of the nineteenth century through the lenses of select revisions of nineteenth-century texts.

We'll begin the semester with Jane Eyre, tracing the orphan novel's later genealogy. Having established the general lay of the land, we'll set up camp in Dickens country, where we'll spend the bulk of the semester exploring Great Expectations and its dramatic, narrative, and cinematic offspring.

Course Readings

Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

A selection of nineteenth-century dramatizations
Jasper Fforde, The Eyre Affair

Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea (novel and film)
Select twentieth-century film adaptations

Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

Philip Sydney, Astrophel and Stella
A selection of nineteenth-century dramatizations
Peter Carey, Jack Maggs
South Park's "Pip" episode
Alfonso Cuaron, Great Expectations (film)
David Lean, Great Expectations (film)
Lloyd Jones, Mister Pip

We'll supplement these texts and films with a wide array of secondary readings drawn from adaptation theory, literary criticism, and film/theatre studies. Some of this secondary material will illuminate Victorian adaptations, revisions, and appropriations of Renaissance and eighteenth-century texts. Other essays will shed light on the twentieth-century afterlife of the Victorian novel. In addition, there will be a good sampling of theoretical work on the processes and products of literary, theatrical, and cinematic adaptations. All of the bases, in other words, will be well-covered.

Assignments and Responsibilities of Seminar Members


Seminar members will make substantial and sustained contributions to the weekly meetings, leading discussion of a primary text, presenting secondary research to the group, and reporting on their individual projects.

Each member of the seminar will also develop an individual project, using our core course readings to illuminate the issues associated with some other original text and its adaptation(s). At the end of the semester, students will share the results of their individual research projects with the rest of the seminar, greatly expanding the textual scope of the course.

The goal of the final semester project is for each member of the seminar to produce scholarship capable of being adapted for a variety of purposes: a scholarly article, a conference presentation, a course unit, and a thesis or dissertation chapter.

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