1) Book Analysis: Written by Susan Orleans, a journalist for The New Yorker,  The Orchid Thief is considered to be a work of creative non-fiction. The novel focuses on the life of John LaRoche, a horticulturalist and self-proclaimed orchid thief. LaRoche, along with the state of Florida, are the main characters of the book. One of the novel’s central themes is adaptation, which Orleans expresses through a discussion of fluidity.

2) Film Analysis: The film Adaptation is about screenwriter Charlie Kaufman’s attempt to produce an adaptation of the book The Orchid Thief. The film is considered to be a self-reflective postmodern piece that reflects both the writing styles of Kaufman, and the journalistic styles of Orleans. The film features Charlie Kaufman and Dadaptation-movieonald Kaufman, Charlie’s “invented” brother, who are both played by Nicholas Cage. Meryl Streep plays a comical version of Susan Orleans, and Chris Cooper plays John LaRoche. The film was highly regarded, and received 93 nominations, having won 43 of them in 2002.

3) Adaptation Analysis: The film has been praised for its adaptational approach to Orlean’s novel. Although Kaufman was not pleased with his script, Orleans herself stated that the film remains faithful to the book by preserving the novel’s complexities and mysteries. The film is considered to be a half-adaptation, with one half being the essence of Orlean’s novel, and the other half an attempt to display the challenge of screenwriting. Kaufman, similar to director Michael Winterbottom in his adaptation of Tristram Shandy, is able to effectively translate the novel to the screen because the effort is focused on conveying the essence if the novel, and not replicating it. This approach reduces the amount of translation one must do from novel to screen, leaving less room for dilution, and more room for creativity and personal touch.

4) Online Sources

Charlie Kaufman Film Scripts

  • There are two versions of Kaufman’s scripts of Adaptation. These are great resources for understanding how Kaufman chose to approach the film. When comparing the two scripts and the changes Kaufman makes between the initial and the final, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the process behind adaptation.

Charlie and Donald Kaufman and the gendered screenwriter

  • Using the film Adaptation, this article from Sociological Review offers a gendered examination of what it means to be a screenwriter.

Conor, Bridget. “‘Egotist’, ‘Masochist’, ‘Supplicant’: Charlie And Donald Kaufman And The Gendered Screenwriter As Creative Worker.” Sociological Review 63.2 (2015): 113-127. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 June 2015.

The Art of Adaptation

  • This article examines Kaufman’s choices and how he goes about creating the narrative thread of the film. It also provides a detailed comparison between the movie and the novel.

5) Critical Argument:

Through example, a movie such as Adaptation serves as a challenge to the idea of the “unfilmable novel.” The vision Charlie has of Orlean’s novel he is unable to translate onto the screen, so the focus shifts from cloning Orlean’s work to instead including elements of himself. After adding the layer of himself into the film, he slowly gains the ability to complete the film. This transition towards himself only leaves room for elements of Orlean’s novel, reducing the opportunity for the dilution of her complex story. Adaptation then becomes an example of how through a method of focusing on conveying the essence of an “unflimable novel,” and not through a method of cloning it, an unfilmable story can translate into a successful cinematic adaptation that is its own original work.



Treatment Paper: Americanah


  1. Concept:

The discussion of race and identity has never been more prominent in the United States. Our diverse nation wants to view, explore and understand what it means to be an American, what it means to be an immigrant, and what it means to live in a post-colonial world. This profound interest catalyzed by an ever increasing immigrant population, and several racially motivated events, is the reason that I propose adapting Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel Americanah. A 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award winner, one of the New York Times’ Ten Best Books of the year, and winner of the 2013 Heartline Prize for Fiction, Americanah has captured the attention of readers and critics across the nation. Adichie has gained quite the reputation; millions have viewed the author’s TED Talk on feminism, and she was recently sampled on a very popular Beyoncé song.

Adichie’s novel follows the story of two middle class university students who depart military-ruled Nigeria. The central female character Ifemelu heads to America where her academic status does not save her from grappling with what it means to be black in the United States. The central male character Obinze enters an undocumented life in London. After fifteen years with no contact, the two former lovers reignite their romance in a newly democratic Nigeria. The novel shifts in and out of the characters’ present and past, exploring their experiences with race and identity. Adichie successfully tells a dazzling and encapsulating love story while simultaneously exposing and discussing unpleasant truths about race in the 21st century.

  1. Characters:

Ifemelu is caught between her Nigerian identity and her American identity. Ifemelu was born into a middle class family and once the conflict in military ruled Nigeria escalated, her father lost his job, causing significant financial tension within her household. This economic catalyst caused Ifemelu to grow up rather quickly. Seeing no reason as to why she should filter herself, young Ifemelu is outspoken, often times getting herself into trouble. Driven to learn and experience, Ifemelu is a bright girl and is always top of her class. Popular among both boys and girls at her university, she is regarded as being very beautiful. Through her college years she stays very comfortable with her appearance, and despite economic and societal challenges, she remains optimistic. Ifemelu is extremely affectionate, protective and loving of the people in her life, especially Obinze.

American Ifemelu is different. American Ifemelu is pessimistic and often submits herself to defeat. She second guesses herself and isolates herself from the people around her. Unsure of her place in America, she has her guard up and is selective about whom she chooses to express her love with. American Ifemelu still retains some of her drive and focus. She is a strong student and wants desperately to succeed, working hard at the jobs given to her. She is prideful and determined, refusing to depend on anyone’s handouts. Aggressive yet sweet, vulnerable yet impervious, fiercely independent yet always yearning for companionship, Ifemelu’s personality is contradictory and consistently shifting.

Obinze is reserved but highly intelligent.  Obinze is committed and responsible. He always attempts to do what is right and has immense respect for the women around him. With Ifemelu he never pressures her to have sex, and is consistently faithful and unselfish. Even at the cost of losing her to America, he encourages her to go because he feels that is the best place for her to receive an education. The UK Obinze is introspective, neurotic and prideful. When he is unable to do much more than clean toilets he finds he cannot call his mother because he feels that he has shamed her. The adult Obinze is very thoughtful. Despite not agreeing with his wife’s actions or her need for attention, he does everything he can to keep her happy. Adult Obinze is very successful and rich, but he continues to be modest and helpful to the people around him. He hates the flashy and superficial lifestyle of wealthy Nigerians and refuses to see himself as part of the upper-class.

  1. Themes:

Race and identity are the two central themes of the novel. Through Ifemelu and Obinze we see race and identity come alive. Throughout the novel each character makes observations that prompt the reader to question and examine their everyday experiences. For example, Ifemelu a Nigerian comes to the US for the first time and is told she is Black, and thus she is treated like a Black-American. Yet Black-Americans call her African and exclude her from their experiences. This may come as a surprise to someone from outside these two minority groups, complicating people’s understanding of the experience of race. Observations of the racial hierarchy and interactions between various immigrant groups from an immigrant perspective provide a different understanding of race and identity, revealing to readers how various people attempt to form or hold onto their identity in the United States.

  1. Locations:

The film is set in several locations. The most important locations are: Ifemelu’s home in Nigeria, Obinze’s home in Nigeria, the Braid Salon, and Kimberly’s home in Philadelphia. Each location is numbered with the proposed visuals provided at the bottom:

1) Ifemelu’s Home in Nigeria: Her family lives in a medium sized flat that comfortably fits all of them. With beautiful paintings, a nice modern kitchen, comfortable furniture, and neutral colors on the wall, the flat is not fancy but comfortable, and contains everything the family needs.

2) Obinze’s Home in Nigeria: Obinze’s home is nicer than Ifemelu’s and is filled with books. The home is beautifully decorated with high quality items but is not flashy. There is an office for his mother, a high-end kitchen, high quality imported furniture, numerous posters of African political figures, and hundreds of books. Inside Obinze’s room there are posters of American artists,  and bookshelves filled with American authors. The room is spacious and blue with a desk and large bed.

3) The Braid Salon: The Braid Salon is set in Trenton, New Jersey. The salon is small, run down and humid. There are a couple worn down chairs with large mirrors behind them. The salon is painted in an orange hue and has a large black television screwed into the wall. There are mannequins with wigs at the back of the salon where they sell artificial hair.

4) Kimberly’s Home: Kimberly, the white woman who employs Ifemelu, lives on a large beautiful estate. Kimberly lives in a large red-bricked home with white pillars and black gates. The front lawn is nicely manicured and there are large gardens in the back with fountains. The inside of the house is all white but each room is decorated with various cultural pieces from around the world. There are Persian rugs, Ethiopian figurines, Asian pieces of art, and various sculptures.

  1. Action:

There it sat. Tightly coiled and curled upon the toilet. A giant piece of shit. The biggest piece of shit Obinze has ever seen. Obinze stares at it. Just stares at it for what seems like ages. He cannot move, he cannot breathe, he can just look. The shit stares right back. It is Ifemelu. Ifemelu looking at him. Ifemelu shaking her head in disgust, pitying him.  It is his mother. His mother looking at him. His mother with the same broken face she had as he left for the United Kingdom. Left to clean toilets. It is his university. His university looking at him, wondering what went wrong? It is America. America looking at him.  He drops the mop and violently slams the stall door, crying while swearing to never come back. His new life is shit.

  1. Dialogue:

White woman walks into braid salon and sits down

Kelsey: “Hi! I’m Kelsey! You can braid my hair right? White people hair?”

Mariama: “Yes. We do every kind of hair. Do you want braids or cornrows?”

Kelsey: “I want to look kind of like Bo Derek in that movie? You know that movie 10?”

Mariama: “Yes, I know.”

Kelsey: “So where are you from? Africa right?

Mariama: “Yes I am from Nigeria”

Kelsey: “That’s amazing! I bet it’s beautiful. I am going to Africa in the fall! Congo and Kenya, and I’m going to try to see Tanzania. It is going to be so beautiful I bet.”

Mariama: “Yes it is very beautiful there.”

Kelsey: “Sooooo… I bet business is good!”

Mariama: “It is up and down.”

Kelsey: “But you couldn’t even have this business back in your country, right? Isn’t it wonderful that you get to come to the U.S. and now your kids can have a better life?”

Mariama: “Yes of course.”

Kelsey: “Are women allowed to vote in your country?”

Mariama: “…Yes.”

Kelsey: “That’s great!”

She sees Ifemelu and turns to her

Kelsey: “What are you reading?”

Ifemelu: “It may not be the kind of book you would like if you have particular tastes. He mixes prose and verse.”

Kelsey: “You have a great accent where are you from?”

Ifemelu: “Nigeria.”

Kelsey: “I wish I could stop in Nigeria For my trip to Africa! I bet its beautiful. Unfortunately I can’t but i’m still super excited. I’ve been reading books to get ready. Everybody recommended Things Fall Apart, which I read in high school. It’s very good but sort of quaint, right? I mean like it didn’t help me understand modern Africa. I’ve just read this great book, A Bend in the River. It made me truly understand how modern Africa works.”

Ifemelu: “That novel is not about Africa at all.”

Kelsey: “Yes it is.”

Ifemelu: “No it is not. It is about Europe, or the longing for Europe, about the battered self-image of an Indian man born in Africa who feels wounded and diminished by not having been born European, a race he elevates because of their ability to create. He turns his imagined personal insufficiencies into an impatient contempt for Africa hoping he could, even for a moment, become European. Its not about the real Africa at all.”

Kelsey: “Oh. Um well, I see why you would read the novel like that.”

Ifemelu: “And I see why you would read it like you did.”

  1. Pitch: 

Trayvon Martin. Black Lives Matter. The Baltimore Riots. The Charleston Shooting. Slavery and the Confederate Flag. Immigration and deportation. America’s issue with race has never been more publically prominent. What was once brushed under the rug is being brought out and openly discussed for the first time. In this new era of interracial marriage, homosexual equality, feminism and income inequality, Americans are willing to engage issues that matter, especially race and identity. There could not be a more appropriate time to make a film that deals with the social issue that divides this nation. Not only would this film be entertaining but it would engage the public in conversation, and create important controversy over the questions it raises. The novel is so impeccably done that we would not need to change much of the source material. The film will stay as close as possible to the source including the dialogue. We would need to flush out the love story, enticing those who may be on the fence while appealing to an older female audience.  It will  be popular in major cities since those cities serve as diverse cultural hubs. The audience for this film will consist of the Oscar watching indie crowd; those who look for quality over cliché Hollywood elements. In addition, several prominent African Hollywood stars have shown interest in the text, including Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o. With this kind of star power, high quality story and public interest, we can ride this film all the way through award season.

8. Visuals

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The Hours


1) Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Hours tells the story of three women from three different eras who are connected through Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. Similar to Virginia Woolf’s novel, Cunningham utilizes a stream of consciousness method,  seting his story in 1923, 1950 and 1980. The novel explores themes of life & death, mental illness, societal expectation, homosexuality and womanhood.


2) Crisscrossing between each era, Stephen Daldry’s adaptation closely follows all three characters from Cunningham’s novel. The film is female driven and begins and ends with the suicide of Virginia Woolf. Daldry’s film explores many of the same themes found in the novel including mental illness, homosexuality, suicide and womanhood.


3) Daldry’s adaptation successfully translates the novel onto the big screen. Daldry visually captures the emotions of the novel, at times doing things the book cannot do. For example when Julianne Moore’s character Laura Brown is getting ready to commit suicide, the hotel room floods with water. This is a powerfully effective way of metaphorically communicating how the character internally feels, adding another layer to our understanding of the characters emotional state. In addition, Daldry captures the intensely emotional and somber aspects of Cunningham’s novel through his consistent utilization of close-ups. These close-ups eliminate any visual distractions, visually amplifying the plight of each character through their facial expressions and/or actions.

4) Online Sources

Queer Melodrama

This article in the journal Camera Obscura discusses the feminist and queer themes in the film.

Pidduck, Julianne. “The Times Of The Hours: Queer Melodrama And The Dilemma Of Marriage.” Camera Obscura 28.82 (2013): 36-67. Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 June 2015.

Cinematic Adaptations Of Mcewan’s Atonement And Cunningham’s The Hours

This article explores how the film was able to successfully adapt the novel’s exploration of reading and writing, stream of consciousness method and literary intersexuality.

Schiff, James. “Reading And Writing On Screen: Cinematic Adaptations Of Mcewan’s Atonement And Cunningham’s The Hours.” Critique 53.2 (2012): 164-173. Academic Search Premier. Web. 21 June 2015.

Nonverbal Languages in The Hours

This article explores the way the film utilizes nonverbal messages to convey meaning. This article is important because it provides a thorough examination of the photography, scene setup and camera shots. The article also discusses the symbolism in the film and Daldry’s editing decisions.

Critical Argument

Removing the homosexuality found in Stephen Daldry’s film The Hours would negatively impact the expression of the themes found in the novel. The homosexual relationships serve as the embodiment of each character’s struggle, and as a catalyst for change. Laura Brown unexpectedly kissing her neighbor represents her challenging the traditional role forced upon her in the 50s. The kiss then goes on to serve as the beginning of the end for her and her son Richard. Richard’s suicide causes Clarissa to return to her partner and show affection, signifying her internal choice to walk away from despair and suicide. Virginia, similar to Laura, suddenly and inappropriately kisses a woman, representing a physical challenge to the life forced upon her by her mental illness and gender. Collectively, the homosexual relationships strengthen our understanding of each woman’s experience.

Sherlock Holmes


1)Since first appearing in A Study in Scarlet in Beeton’s Christmas Annual of 1887, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes has captivated the minds of readers everywhere. Doyle’s novel is about a detective who utilizes his above average IQ to solve criminal cases. Now a household name, Doyle’s Sherlock has survived several generations and has been rebooted and rewritten countless times. The novel’s themes of intelligence, male friendship, outsider status and justice can be found in varying degrees throughout most adaptations.

2) Guy Richie’s adaptation of Sherlock Holmes is set in a gritty-punk Victorian England. Richie’s big budget film is star studded with Sherlock Holmes being played by Robert Downey Jr, Dr. Watson by Jude Law, and Irene Adler by Rachel McAdams. Unlike most of Sherlock’s stories, there is not a regionally specific central case in the film but instead one of global importance. With exaggerated action, comedy and romance, Richie’s adaptation contains the elements of most big budget Hollywood films.

3) Roger Ebert entirely conveys my view of the film: “The less I thought about Sherlock Holmes,” he said, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, “the more I liked Sherlock Holmes.” Guy Richie’s unfavorably reviewed film is more of a complete reboot than a close literary adaptation. Richie utilizes some of the foundational material found in Doyle’s Sherlock such as the detective’s dependence on his wit, but fundamentally the film is different from the original. Sherlock is physically portrayed differently in the film with no classic features like the magnifying glass; in addition, Sherlock utilizes his physical strength as much as he utilizes his intellectual strength. Richie does away with the idea of Sherlock as a brainiac social outcast and crafts the character into more of an intelligent secret agent. While viewers who are unfamiliar with Doyle’s Sherlock may be captivated by the Hollywood touch, Richie’s film goes too far in its major alterations of Sherlock and his story, and isn’t even good enough to compensate for the major changes.

4) Critical Sources

The Post-Millennial Sherlock Holmes

Polasek, Ashley D. “Surveying The Post-Millennial Sherlock Holmes: A Case For The Great Detective As A Man Of Our Times.” Adaptation 6.3 (2013): 384-393. Film & Television Literature Index with Full Text. Web. 18 June 2015.

This peer-reviewed article analyzes the three most recent Sherlock Holmes adaptations: the Warner Brothers film, the BBC series Sherlock, and the CBS series Elementary. This article is important because the comparisons between the adaptations provides insight into how Sherlock has been modernized, and in what ways the character has evolved from the original source. The article significantly discusses a common theme found among these modern adaptations, the postmodern antihero.


Guy Ritchie Exclusive Interview

This interview with director Guy Ritchie has the director providing insight in how he setup the Sherlock universe.


Brains vs. Brawn: The Battle for Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes

This article discusses the modern focus on Sherlock’s fighting style instead of the sole traditional focus on his intellect.

5)Critical Argument

Critical Argument Paragraph

In an effort to craft an original film, Guy Ritchie’s adaptation does a poor job of utilizing the critical elements of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, elements that inspired and rendered Sherlock into a household name. For example, the movie is so aggressive in its utilization of action that it ignores what separates Sherlock from other characters like James Bond, his intellect. Yes Richie has his Sherlock use his smarts throughout the film, but exaggerated numerous action sequences often overshadowed and overpowered any scenes in which uses his mind. I will give Richie credit for his creative attempt and re-imagination of Sherlock, however, if you are going to ultimately  change the critical elements of a character then there’s no need to utilize that character. It just left me asking, why not just come up with your own?


Bride & Prejudice

9780141439518H1) Now a permanent part of the English literary canon, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice functions as a 19th century commentary on marriage, gender, family and class. Austen’s novel was published in 1813 and tells the story of an upper class family’s search for suitable husbands for their daughters. The pressures of marriage and society serve as the foundation of the novel and display the system women had to navigate.

2) Gurinder Chadha’s Bride and Prejudice is a Bollywood re-imagining of the original story. Similar to the novel, the film utilizes one family to explore the issues of marriage, gender, family and class. The majority of the film is set in India with scenes in the United States and England. The film unlike the novel explores race and cultural differences.

3) Despite the change in setting and Chadha’s personal touch, the film’s plot closely parallels Austen’s original. However at the cost of the original story, Chadha attempts to aggrandize Austen’s original narrative with colorful costumes and musical numbers that often time distaishwaryaraibrideandpreract from, and veil the themes and social commentary found within Pride and Prejudice. While the musical numbers were highly enjoyable and made the film unique they serve as a form of entertainment and not a tool through which to flush out the narrative. This movie would have been a great film on its own but when treated as a reboot of Austen’s novel it just falls flat.

4)Online Sources

Bride And Prejudice: A Bollywood Comedy Of Manner

  • This article from Literature Film Quarterly discusses the problems with adaptations and examines the film in relation to other adaptations of Jane Austen’s work.

Wilson, Cheryl A. “Bride And Prejudice: A Bollywood Comedy Of Manners.” Literature Film Quarterly 34.4 (2006): 323-331. Academic Search Premier. Web. 12 June 2015.

Jane Austen Meets Gurinder Chadha

  • This article from South Asian Popular Culture examines the film in relation to the novel. This article is a great source because it examines the intersexuality and hybridity of the film. It also dissects the element of the film providing a thorough foundation upon which to examine the similarities and differences from the novel.

Geraghty, Christine. “Jane Austen Meets Gurinder Chadha.” South Asian Popular Culture 4.2 (2006): 163-168. Academic Search Premier. Web. 12 June 2015.

From British “Pride” to Indian “Bride”

  • This article from the A Journal of Media and Culture discusses the bridge between Hollywood and Bollywood in relation to the film. A discussion of globalization and colonialism is also discussed.

Mathur, Suchitara. “From British “Pride” to Indian “Bride”.” A Journal of Media and Culture 10.2 (2007): n. pag. : “From British “Pride” to Indian “Bride”” M/C Journal, May 2007. Web. 12 June 2015.

Critical Argument

5) The difference between genders is an important theme in Bride and Prejudice. Would you say the film is feminist, or not? What about Pride and Prejudice?

Bride and Prejudice and Pride and Prejudice are feminist because they both contain female characters successfully fighting for choice. While the women are limited by their family’s expectations, both Lalita and Elizabeth Bennet choose love over responsibility, challenging tradition. Feminism is about granting women the opportunity to choose how to run their lives. Despite upsetting the men around them with their forwardness and individuality both these women maintain who they are. Just like 19th century England, modern Indian culture places significant importance on marriage, and these women may not be completely free from the pressures of their environments but they still make significant progress within the framework provided to them.

Tristram Shandy

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1) Laurence Sterne’s dense and layered satirical novel, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, has a complicated character that attempts to communicate his story while writing about writing it. Written in 1760, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is considered to be the first postmodern novel in English literature. Sterne’s novel about writing a novel revolves around two important points, communication and time. These two themes are apparent not only through Sterne’s fictional author-character Tristram, but also in the way the story was published and structured.

2)Tristram Shandy is a novel about writing a novel and is not presented in a linear timeframe, making it especially difficult to translate to the screen. Since the novel is “famously unfilmable”, director Michael Winterbottom makes a film about filming the famously unfilmable book, ultimately creating a movie that is a movie-within a movie. The film travels between feature film and documentary and has many unscripted moments interjected with scenes from the original novel.

3) Instead of attempting to replicate Laurence Sterne’s novel, Michael Winterbottom cleverly imitates the narrator’s structuring of his story. Winterbottom does the same with the script, his actors go off-script and improvise, crating the unpredictability the original novel contains. In its time the novel came out in parts, making it easier to digest, but the novel in its entirety is dense and complex and any attempt to clone the novel would have just fell flat. Winterbottom’s approach allows him the opportunity to capture the essence of the story without taking on the impossible.


4) Online Sources

  • In her critical review of the film, Stephanie Zacharek of Salon Magazine argues that the movie fails as an adaptation of the novel.

Zacharek, Stephanie. ““Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story”.” Salon. Salon Magazine, 27 Jan. 2006. Web. 09 June 2015.

  • This article from the Journal of Adaptation in Film & Performance argues that Winterbottom’s film adaptation “ lays bare the specific mediality not only of literature and film.”

Voigts-Virchow, Eckart. “Metadaptation: Adaptation And Intermediality – Cock And   Bull.” Journal Of Adaptation In Film & Performance 2.2 (2009): 137-152. Film & Television Literature Index with Full Text. Web. 9 June 2015.

  • This article in American Cinematographer focuses on the making of the film and discusses how screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce came up with the approach for the film. This article is especially important because it shows the process that goes into adaptation. Furthermore, it provides the side of the writer instead of the dominately discussed perspective of the director.

Thomson, Patricia. “Production Slate: A Film Within A Film, And Merchant Ivory’s       Swan Song.” American Cinematographer 87.2 (2006): 20-24. Film & Television Literature Index with Full Text. Web. 9 June 2015.

5) Critical Argument Paragraph:

Both Tristram Shandy the book and Tristram Shandy the film have disjointed narratives (they are non-sequential, and prone to diversions). How is the narrative disjuncture similar, and how different, in the film compared to the book?

Michael Winterbottom’s film is successful because it doesn’t attempt to clone the disjointed narrative of the novel but instead imitate it. Sterne’s novel is over six hundred pages and “appeared in installments over an eight year period (1759-1767), though it is usually read in one volume today.” There is no plausible way that a two-hour film could have captured Sterne’s entire novel without failing. In the film, Tristram’s story is paused so that the actor Steve Coogan can insert commentary, similar to the way Sterne’s character pauses and addresses the reader. Furthermore, the film jumps between modern reality and the filming of the movie leaving the viewer feeling as if they’re shifting back and forth in time. Collectively these cinematic decisions by Winterbottom make the disjuncture of the novel similar to the disjuncture found in the film. The difference between Sterne’s novel and Winterbottom’s film is that that the film contains a greater chronology and structure than the novel because of the medium. If Winterbottom were as extreme as Sterne in playing with time and construction, it would just result in a scattered and unwatchable film.

The Tempest

  1. Classified as a romance, The Tempest is thought to not only be Shakespeare’s last play, but an embodiment of the playwright himself. Shakespere’s play centers around Prospero’s retribution. There are numerous themes throughout the play but the two ideas most central to the story are revenge and power. We see these two themes transpire through the goals set by Prospero, the past circumstances that lead to Prospero’s retribution, and the way in which the Prospero interacts with his daughter, his enemies, and his servants.
  1. Julie Taymor’s cinematic rendition of the The Tempest does not make any significant changes to the material but instead primarily attempts to visually bring it alive through creative imagery. The play’s themes of power and revenge are still central to the film, but are significantly affected by some of Taymor’s cinematic decisions.
  1. The main difference between Shakespeare’s play and Taymor’s film is the director’s choice to change the gender of Prospero. This change however does not alter the play or the themes of the play because the material is kept the same, and the gender is not made a central focus. The visual imagery however affects the adaptation. Taymor’s film focuses on visuals and this works in her favor by helping viewers digest the play’s archaic language. Viewers with little background with the story (or any of Shakespeare’s work) must spend a great deal of time deciphering what is being said; Taymor’s decision to focus on visual imagery provides a safety net through which some viewers can keep up with the story even if they do not fully understand the language. Conversely at times, the considerable emphasis on visuals can be distracting.


  1. Online Sources:
  • A film criticism of Julie Taymor’s adaptation of The Tempest that primarily focuses on Taymor’s Prospera:

Lefait, Sébastien. “Prospera’s Looks: Adapting Shakespearean Reflexivity In The Tempest (Julie Taymor, 2010).” Literature Film Quarterly 43.2 (2015): 131-145.Academic Search Premier. Web. 7 June 2015.

  • An E-book that surveys Shakespeare’s work and the way modern adaptations portray the plays. This is an important source in understanding the film because it provides several comparisons of Shakespeare’s other adapted works. These various examples, some successful and some not, provide a foundation upon which viewers can understand what is vital of to successfully  portraying Shakespeare’s work.

Burt, Richard, and Julian Yates. “Drown Before Reading.” What’s The Worst Thing   You Can Do To Shakespeare? 1st ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. 107-110. Print.

  • An article that discusses the imagery found in the film by exploring Taymor’s costume decisions:

Binkley, Christina. “Shakespeare in Studs.” WSJ. The Wall Street Journal, 9 Nov. 2010. Web. 08 June 2015.

  1. Critical Argument Paragraph

How does the film show the “dark side” of European colonization and imperialism? Does the film differ from the play in this regard?

In order to illustrate the colonialist theme found in the play, Julie Taymor casts Prospera’s indigenous and beloved servant Ariel white, and Prospera’s indigenous and despised servant black. Both Ariel and Caliban are indigenous to the island and both serve Prospera, but Taymor’s decision to keep Caliban black emphasizes the colonialist assumption of non-white peoples as savage or less than. While Prospera is firm with both her servants, Ariel is granted the right to touch and be told that his master loves him. In one scene we see Prospera firmly correcting Ariel but soon after he is leaning on her shoulder, asking for forgiveness, all the while placing his face right up to hers.Although Ariel is a servant, he is a fair skinned Caucasian and thus is granted the privilege of being treated in a civilized manner. In another scene we see Prospera show no mercy to Caliban, disparaging him, while keeping him at bay with her stick. Taymor, herself a white woman, transforms gender in her film, reflecting modern societies progress towards strong positive feminist representation. Taymor could have changed the color of Caliban’s skin but instead she chooses to maintain and portray Caliban as a dark-skinned savage, because according to Violet Lucca, “Caliban stands for the “racial ‘Other’,” who confronts a “sinister undercurrent of colonialism”(The Tempest review). Her decision demonstrates how non-white bodies were perceived in Shakespeare’s time, and arguably how the colonialist outlook on race, more than gender, still lingers and divides the whites from the non-whites(regardless of sex).

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