Adapting Short Fiction


Fri 10am - 1pm


D. Newman

Course Description

This course explores the intersection of short fiction, intermedial adaptation and narratology. Adapting a story from fiction to film offers filmmakers numerous opportunities to interpret, critique, politicize (or de-politicize) and generally reinvent the source text and, in doing so, to explore the possibilities and limitations of various genres and media. For literary and film critics, moreover, the process and results of adaptation serves as a laboratory in which to test, expand or challenge how we read and analyze texts. What happens to our interpretive frameworks when a story crosses medial boundaries?

To address this and related questions, the course reads a broad range of fiction together with its film adaptations. The focus on short fiction (stories and novellas) will highlight some of the most interesting and contentious aspects of film adaptation, since the feature-film format almost necessitates the filmmaker to expand, extend and articulate what short fiction leaves unsaid or suggested. In addition to analysing a wide range of film adaptations and their source texts, we will read seminal and contemporary theoretical and critical studies of adaptation. Methodologically, the focus of the course will be narratological, though other interpretive frameworks from cinema studies and media studies will be welcome.

Course Texts

Between 8 and 11 fiction / film pairings, such as Seven versions of “Little Red Riding Hood” / Matthew Bright, Freeway Ryunosuke Akutagawa, “Rashomon” and “In a Grove” / Akira Kurosawa, Rashomon Sherman Alexie, “This is what it Means to Say Pheonix, Arizona” / Chris Eyre, Smoke Signals Raymond Carver, “So Much Water So Close to Home” / Ray Lawrence, Jindabyne Ted Chiang, “Story of Your Life” / Denis Villeneuve, Arrival Henry James, The Turn of the Screw / Alejandro Amenábar, The Others Franz Kafka, “A Report to the Academy” / Michel Gondry, Human Nature Nella Larsen, Passing / Rebecca Hall, Passing Alice Munro, “The Bear Came Over the Mountain” / Sarah Polley, Away from Her Jonathan Nolan, “Memento Mori” / Christopher Nolan, Memento Susan Orleans, “Orchid Fever” / Spike Jonze, Adaptation Annie Proulx, “Brokeback Mountain” / Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain Jean Rhys, Quartet / James Ivory, Quartet Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie / Ronald Reame, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

Theory and Criticism: Various authors including Seymour Chatman, Linda Hutcheon, Brian McFarlane, Robert Stam and Lawrence Venuti

Course Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements

  • Participation: 15%
  • Five Blog-style posts: 15%
  • Position Paper: 20%
  • Essay Proposal: 10%
  • Final Essay: 40%

Term: S-TERM (January 2023 to April 2023)Date/Time: Friday / 10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Location: Room Rm. OISE 4420 (252 Bloor St W, Toronto)(CHANGED CLASSROOM)
Delivery: In-Person