Variety Keeps Me Awake

         While discussing the film and lit class as a whole, I realized that some of the students did not appreciate or get to appreciate some of the films and books because they fell asleep while watching or thought the books were boring. If I taught this class I would try to address this problem by giving a variety of texts and films rather than running theme films/texts.

         In the class we mainly focused on scared women and why or why not they should leave their husbands or boyfriends or in Henry James's 1898 The Turn of the Screw, whether she should leave the house. In today's world of TV and Internet, people need a constant choice of variety. If the class used various themed texts and films, people may be able to respond better and pay attention.

         A sample agenda could start with The Wizard of Oz. People are familiar with 1939 film directed by Victor Fleming, but not many have read the book by Frank Baum. This would help open up discussion as well as expose them to watching the movie differently through critical eyes. When we started with Wuthering Heights, directed by William Wyler in 1939, many people had already read the book, written by Emily Brontë in 1847, or they were simply put-off by the length and plot. Starting with an easy text that has a totally different film adaptation could catch people's interest early.

         I would also use a novel/film combination that most people have not seen or read (as we did with Henry James's 1880 Washington Square, filmed by William Wyler in 1947 as The Heiress, and Henry James's 1898 Turn of the Screw, filmed as The Innocent by Jack Clayton in 1961). This helps people realize there are other novels and films yet to be discovered. I would suggest All Quiet on the Western Front. The novel is amazing, but I am having a hard time finding the movie, directed in 1930 by Lewis Milestone.

         I would also try to encompass different aspects/genres of literature, like maybe using a Shakespeare play and film adaptation--they always seem to cause debate. In addition, I would also use some of my favorite stories and films because they would be a joy to teach. I would include Paper Moon because the novel and the film, directed by Peter Bogdanovitch in 1973 are great complements of each other, and the film has many important cinematic elements as well as EXCELLENT acting. Another fav to teach would be Breakfast at Tiffany's because the short story, by Truman Capote, is very different from the sugar-coated, albeit Great!, movie, directed by Blake Edwards in 1961. By watching the film and reading the book first, the class would be surprised to view Audrey Hepburn as a high-class hooker. There would be many interesting papers, I believe.

         Finally, I would definitely consider using modern/current film/lit adaptation, such as going to the cinema or to renting a movie recently released. Seeing a piece of literature manipulated into a blockbuster movie, makes one appreciate the literature as well as viewing the movie differently. This would generate more interest as well as keep people awake because sometimes all someone needs to escape boredom is to escape into a cinema.

Susan Shircuff

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