Although nearly every secondary school English teacher includes film as part of the English/language arts curriculum, there is, to this point, nothing published about effectively studying the relationship between film adaptations and their print source texts in secondary school. There are several important works that inform film study in secondary English classrooms. These include Alan Teasley and Ann Wilder's Reel Conversations; William Costanzo's Reading the Movies and his updated version, Great Films and How to Teach Them; and John Golden's Reading in the Dark. However, each of these mention adaptation briefly if at all. Rather, they approach film as a text that students need to learn how to “read." While I certainly agree with this position, I argue that students also must learn how to productively investigate the relationship between films and their literary source texts. To make this case, I survey the field of adaptation theory generally, beginning with George Bluestone's seminal Novels into Film and moving towards contemporary theory, like Robert Stam's work, which suggests theoretical paradigms beyond fidelity analysis. I rely, particularly, on Mikhael Bakhtin's dialogism as a theoretical frame for studying adaptations in school. I also suggest four specific areas that act as foundations for successfully approaching adaptations with secondary English students: (1) economic analysis, (2) intertextualities (the matrix of cultural influences on a text), (3) Gérard Genette's notion of transtextuality (the relationship of one text to others), and (4) an expansion of adaptation to include the relationships of print texts to new media adaptations. In order to further develop ways that secondary school English teachers can specifically approach adaptation in their classrooms, I include two case studies. The first focuses on pairing Laurie Halse Anderson's award-winning young adult novel Speak with Jessica Sharzer's film adaptation. The second suggests methods for teaching Mary Shelley's Frankenstein along with James Whale's film adaptation. Because so little has been written about effectively incorporating film adaptations into the secondary school English curriculum, this project seeks not only to analyze the theoretical foundation for adaptation study, but also to suggest specific methodology that can be utilized by teachers.
College and Department
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Phillips, Nathan C., "Beyond Fidelity: Teaching Film Adaptations in Secondary Schools" (2007). Theses and Dissertations. 1008.
adaptation, secondary school, teaching, film, literature, Speak, Frankenstein, Laurie Halse Anderson, James Whale, Jessica Sharzer, Mary Shelley, intertextuality, Mikhael Bakhtin, Gerard Genette, transtextuality, fidelity