Novel into Film
130 | CCN: 25244
Jane Austen Adaptations
Instructor: Eileen Jones
F 10am-1:00pm, Dwinelle 142
Because of the vividness of her characters and storylines, which can be readily abstracted from her novels and molded to fit the romantic comedy genre, Jane Austen’s six completed novels have been repeatedly adapted for British, American, and Indian film and television. They have been updated to contemporary times (Bridget Jones’ Diary, Clueless), adapted cross-culturally (From Prada to Nada, Aisha, Bride and Prejudice) and made to reflect particular religious views (Pride and Prejudice: A Latter-Day Comedy). Even a film biography of Jane Austen has been made to conform to formulaic aspects of popular romance cinema (Becoming Jane). Less likely to be included in film and television adaptations of Austen’s work is her often scathing social criticism, her mordant view of gender, familial, and community relations entangled in economic necessities, and in general her authorial “voice,” which is distinctive in its irony and tone of cool judgment. Though a narrating authorial male voice has accompanied the adapted works of Charles Dickens and Henry Fielding, for example, there is no comparable narrating authorial female voice, at the beginning of the umpteenth film version of Pride and Prejudice, to inform us, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
In this course we will consider the strategies of various filmmakers to translate Jane Austen’s narratives to a new medium, as well as their attempts to convey or obscure Austen’s distinctive “voice” in film adaptations of Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Emma. We will also examine how our interpretations of Austen’s novels have been influenced by these film adaptations.
Because the four Austen novels constitute a great deal of reading, we’ll be focusing on the analysis of primary texts and film adaptations. Throughout the course, I’ll be referring to many secondary texts dealing with Jane Austen adaptations, including Jane Austen in Hollywood, edited by Linda Troost and Sayre Greenfield, The Cinematic Jane Austen, edited by David Monaghan, Ariane Hudelet, and John Wiltshire, Jane Austen On Screen, edited by Gina Macdonald and Andrew F. Macdonald, Moving Between Literature and Cinema: Adaptations and Appropriations of Major Jane Austen Novels by Fatemeh Gholipour Fereydouni, and Screen Adaptations: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by Deborah Cartmell.
There will be several short in-class assignments, a mid-term exam, and a two-part final exam that includes an analytical argument designed by the student. Your further exploration of the Austen novels and their film adaptations will be demonstrated in class discussions. There will be a lot of reading, writing, film analysis, and discussion in this class. Attendance is a must!