Welcome to the Department of English at Rutgers University

Course No:  350:603
Index # - 19752
Distribution Requirement: A4, A5
Tuesday - 9:50 a.m.
MU 207 

Form, Adaptation, Homage

Lauren Goodlad

This course seeks to reconsider the premise that narrative form falls into stable categories of genre and sub-genre that lodge within fixed taxonomic schemes. Rather, as narratives circulate across space and time, they shape readers’ “horizons of expectation” and, as such, accentuate the formal features particular to new works of art. Playful mash-ups such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies delight in confounding high and low, marriage and monsters. Yet, to some degree, all narrative forms are mash-ups: a “new genre,” writes Tzvetan Todorov, “is always the transformation of an earlier one, or of several.”

It follows that one of the best ways to explore narrative form is to study adaptations of and homages to groundbreaking texts. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, Charles Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend, and E. M. Forster’s Howards End are each recognized classics that, in their contemporary moment, stood out for formal hybridity and, in the present day, inspire multiple adaptations and homages. In tandem with critical readings on form and adaptation (including writings by Aristotle, Derrida, Ian Baucom, John Frow, Amitav Ghosh, Fredric Jameson, Ruth Livesey, Ken Warren, and Jennifer Wenzel), as well as secondary readings pertinent to particular works, our literary list is divided into four clusters:
(1) Shelley’s Frankenstein, Victor LaValle’s Destroyer (a BLM-inspired graphic novel), Jeannette Winterson’s FranKISSStein (transgender/transhuman/artificial intelligence), and Ahmed Saadawi’s Frankenstein in Baghdad;
(2) Our Mutual Friend and Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games (multiplot fiction and crime fiction transplanted to modern-day Mumbai);
(3) Wuthering Heights, Maryse Conde’s Windward Heights (translation of La Migration des coeurs), Caryl Phillips’s The Lost Child, Andrea Arnold’s film adaptation of Wuthering Heights);
(4) Howards End, Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, Matthew Lopez’s 2-part drama The Inheritance.

Students will deliver two short presentations in which they formulate and share key questions with respect to the intersection of one literary work and 1 or 2 critical works; their midterm assignment will be a precis or “think piece” in anticipation of the final paper; the final paper should be conceived as the germ of a publishable essay of approximately 30 pages.

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