Short Course Description
From the first invention of the cinematograph camera and the emergence of the new medium of silent film in the 19th century, filmmakers were drawn to Shakespearean drama as lofty material for cinematic adaptation. With well over 400 feature-length cinematic adaptations of Shakespeare?s plays since the invention of cinema, Shakespeare is the most ?adapted? author in the world, in any language. The relationship of cinema to Shakespeare is indeed a complicated love affair that spans the 20th century and continues to inspire new films and film adaptations to this very day, now in television, digital and online media as well, including comics, cartoons, and animation (see for example the BBC?s Shakespeare: The Animated Tales, 1992-1994, or the Anglo-Japanese Manga Shakespeare). In this seminar, we will explore this complex and fascinating relationship between Shakespeare and some of his most interesting cinematic adapters, discussing several key Shakespearean plays and in each case two exemplary films the play in question inspired ? from major English-speaking classics to world-cinema, fringe, and the avant-garde. Our approach will always be a double one, moving from a discussion about the original play in theatrical performance to its cinematic adaptations, combining close textual analysis with cinematic analysis. Throughout, we will try and address a number of aesthetic, theoretical, and cultural questions: what are the challenges when adapting Shakespeare to the screen? How do different film directors respond to what they recognize as the central themes and motifs of a given play? What gets lost in the adaptation of a play from theatre to screen? What is gained? Can cinematic adaptations shed new or different light on a play that a theatrical performance could not? What are the wider aesthetic, ethical, and cultural implications of translating poetry into imagery, and of making Shakespeare come alive so that the world is no longer a ?stage?, but a screen of moving images subject to frames, editing, and cinematic points of view? How, finally, do filmmakers position their own art in relation to the mercurial poetic and dramatic genius of Shakespeare?
The seminar will focus on the following Shakespearean plays and their cinematic adaptations across different periods and cultural moments (*NOTE that this list is subject to change at this time): Romeo and Juliet and the film adaptations of Franco Zeffirelli (1968) and Buz Luhrmann (1996); Hamlet and the film adaptations of Laurence Olivier (1948) and Kenneth Branagh (1996); Othello and the film adaptations of George Cukor (A Double Life, 1947) and Orson Welles (1951); The Tempest and the film adaptations of Derek Jarman (1979) and Peter Greenaway (Prospero?s Books, 1991).
Apart from a final seminar paper, there will be a midterm assignment (20%). Attendance and active participation are required.