#3 Seeing Double: Fiction into Film

Maria DiBattista, Ph.D.

Maria DiBattista, Ph.D. is a professor of English and Comparative Literature at Princeton University. In 1994 she received the President’s Distinguished Teaching Award and in 1999 the Howard T. Behrman Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Humanities. Her research interests include modern literature and film. Her recent works include Fast Talking Dames, a study of woman and classic film comedy, Imagining Virginia Woolf: An Experiment in Critical Biography and Novel Characters: A Genealogy.

January 5 and 12, 2017 - 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Maria DiBattista, Ph.D., Department of English and Comparative Literature

The translation of literary fictions into film is always an inexact and imperfect one. Hence the disappointment or consternation many readers feel on seeing their favorite novel or short story translated to the screen. However subjective such reactions might be, the artistic issues they raise go to the heart of film as an independent art form with its own conventions and expressive possibilities.  Is a literal translation to be preferred to a loose adaptation? Can the “movie version” of a literary work, no matter how accomplished, ever rival its source in originality and artistic power? These are some of the issues we will address in our short course on films that adapt, with varying degrees of strictness, literary fictions. To focus our discussion, we will read works that take as their central theme the split or fractured personality, a fraught psychological phenomenon that filmmakers quickly seize upon to explore the difference between a literary and a cinematic treatment of the same basic story. Our source “texts” for the first session will be Robert Louis Stevenson’s  “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” and  Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness; the second session will focus on Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep.
 
Participants will be asked to read the assigned literary works work and screen the film version before each session.  For “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde,” screen whatever version you can find; for Conrad, Coppola’s Apocalypse Now; for The Big Sleep, the Hawks’ version with Bogart and Bacall.