Symbiosis International University Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts

Adaptation: Cinema and Literature

 Brief Overview 

Throughout history, literary modes of expression (poetry, drama, prose etc) have been central in articulating desires, needs, and anxieties of human societies. In the last 100 years, cinema seems to have replaced the dominant place literature held as one of the primary aesthetic experiences. However, one hardly needs to state how literary traditions have been at the core of cinematic imagination. Cinema draws and re shapes the literary material into an audio-visual experiences. This leads us to the need to understand the give and take between literature and cinema as questions about aesthetics, narrative, form and content becomes central to our existence as modern viewers/readers of artistic discourses.

This course is designed for students as an introduction to explore and answer following questions. What is the nature of relationship between literature and cinema? What gets transformed in adapting a literary material into an audio-visual mode of expression? How do literary texts traverse the boundaries of time and space as they are moulded into different cultural/national experiences? The course probes these questions by looking at specific texts by Shakespeare, Jane Austen and popular fiction such as fairytales, Harry Potter and Godfather and their cinematic avatars.

In the course of this semester, the students will learn to break the traditional boundary of literary studies and explore the new domain of intertextuality. In that, they will learn to grapple with new ways of understanding literary texts and learn to inculcate more informed ways of understanding cinema. The classes will focus more on closed textual reading of drama, poems, novels, short stories and films in order to better understand the formal systems and cultural connotations underpinning artistic productions.

 Course Objectives 

  • To introduce students to Theories of Adaptation.
  • To help students acquire a grasp over formal and cultural understanding of cinema and literature and provide them with a methodological toolkit.
  • To encourage students question the traditional approaches to cinema/literature and culture.
  • To help students inculcate new and better-informed approaches and theoretical frameworks.
  • To ensure that students learn to engage with, interpret and respond to select complex cinematic, literary and theoretical texts.

 Teaching Methodology 

  • The students will be expected to read the material distributed in the class and critically contribute to the ideas discussed in the class.
  • A lot of audio-visual material will be used in addition to assigned readings.
  • The students will be expected to write responses to the articles discussed in the class.
  • Classroom discussion will require students to bring in their own experiences and worldviews

 Course Outline 


Sr. No Topics Hours
1 Unit 1: Theory and Practice of Adaptation 1.     Introductionto Adaptation 2.     History of Adaptation 3.     Early theory of Adaptation 4.     Fidelity criticism 5.     Rethinking Adaptation 14
2 Unit 2: Reading Stories/Reading Films 1.     Artistic Form 2.     Understanding the Literary Form, 3.     Understanding the Cinematic Form 6
3. Unit 3: Shakespeare: then and Now 1.     BBC adaptations in England 2.      The Russian Hamlet 3.      Kurosawa and the Japanese Macbeth 4.      Postcolonial Shakespeare- Maqbool, Omkara and Haider 5.      Popular Cinema and Shakespeare   12
4. Unit 4: Classics in Film 8
5. Unit 5: Disney’s Princesses and folktales on screen 10
6. Unit 6: Growing Up with Harry Potter and the ‘childish’ film industry 10