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ENGL1026 - Adaptation: From Text to Screen
2020-2021 Second Semester
Contact Hours per week
Form of Assessment
100% coursework
Thursday , 1:30 pm - 4:20 pm , Online Teaching
A minimum Level 5 in English Language HKDSE exam, or an equivalent score in another recognized English proficiency test.

In this course, students will be introduced to literary and cinematic techniques by studying recent film adaptations of literary works alongside the original text. We will examine 3 films in depth: Emma, Clueless, and Crazy Rich Asians, and numerous other films based on literary sources. Note that Clueless is a modern comedic adaptation of Austen's Emma. (See below for details of texts and films.)

Students will confront the problems and possibilities of adaptation and how these relate to fundamental questions of interpretation. How do we construct meaning from literary texts and films respectively? How do we deal with ambiguity? What sorts of decisions must we make? What are the differences between cinematic and narrative interpretation? What are the differences in adaptation between a full-length novel and a short novella (e.g. Kincaid's The Bridges of Madison County, King's Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, and Dahl's Matilda), which can be read in the same time it takes to watch a film? By exploring these questions, you will develop the skills needed for the analysis of films and how texts, new and old, are adapted to the screen.

Students should read Crazy Rich Asians and Emma before the course begins.



Introduce students to literary and cinematic technique by contrasting literary texts with their cinematic adaptions. Develop awareness of the problems in moving from text to image, and the cultural and political implications in adapting literary texts. Above all, to think about how we interpret literature and the decisions we make about its meaning and affect.



There will be one 3-hour classroom session each week. The first 2 hours will be a lecture, followed by a workshop on passages/scenes from different texts/films. The first lecture will be 3 hours. There will be no workshops during the add/drop period.


Study Load


Number of hours





Workshop preparation (reading / self-study)


Reading: lecture set-texts (Emma 12, Crazy 10)


Reading: midterm test (Shawshank, 3)


Additional reading / viewing / Self-study


Film Viewing: Emma (2:04), Crazy (2:00), Clueless (1:37) Shawshank (2:37), +1 from list


Analytical essay


In-class tests





Reading Week

In preparation for your 2-hour midterm test, you must read Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, during Reading Week and watch the film The Shawshank Redemption. This should take not more than 6 hours total. If you have already read/watched them, use Reading Week to refresh your knowledge of both text and film. Your midterm test will consist of two sections. Section I will cover the first 5 lectures. Section II will be about The Shawshank Redemption. Each section will consist of 4 questions. You must answer one question from each section.



Analytical essay — 50% (first draft 25%; second draft 25%)

Mid-Term 2-hour Paper (on lectures 1-5 and The Shawshank Redemption) — 30%

Final 1-hour paper (covering whole course)— 20%


Required Texts

Crazy Rich Asians, a novel by Kevin Kwan, 2013.  

Emma by Jane Austen, 1815-6, is freely available online at gutenberg.org —You can choose the format, including html, pdf, & kindle.) http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/158

Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King, 1982.


Required Films

Emma, dir. Autumn de Wilde (2020)

Clueless, dir. Amy Heckerling (1995)

Crazy Rich Asians, dir. Jon M. Chu (2018)

The Shawshank Redemption, dir. Frank Darabont (1994)



There will be seven workshops in total (following Lectures 3 to 9). In small groups, you will discuss and analyse the film adaptation of a passage/chapter from a text (see schedule). A brief synopsis of the story plus the relevant reading will be available in Moodle. You must read the chapter and watch the film clip (also available in Moodle) before each lecture, and be prepared to discuss it in your group. You should set aside 2 hours each week for preparation.


Analytical Essays

You must choose one of the following text/film combinations for your analytical essay. Film/text choices will be done on a first-come-first-served basis; you will sign up via Moodle, starting November 1st, 2020. This will give you plenty of time to read your source text. The first lecture will cover writing about film and theories of adaptation, so you will start out from Week 1 with the tools necessary to write your analysis. Unless otherwise stated, source texts below are novels. For those of you interested in musical adaptations, there are a few suitable texts. (The class is capped at 25, so, even if you are the very last to sign up, you will have 26 films from which to choose.)

  1. Atonement, by Ian McEwan (2001); film dir. Joe Wright (2007). Jamed McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Romola Garai.
  2. The Boy in Striped Pyjamas, by John Boyne (2006); film dir. Mark Herman (2008). David Thewlis, Vera Farmiga, Rupert Friend.
  3. The Children of Men, by P.D. James (1992); film dir. Alfonso Cuarón (2006). Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine.
  4. The Client, by John Grisham (1993); film dir. Joel Schumacher (1994). Susan Sarandon, Tommy Lee Jones.
  5. Breaking Dawn, by Stephanie Meyer (2008); films (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I & The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II) dir. Bill Condon (2011/2012). Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson.
  6. The Bridges of Madison County, by Robert James Waller (novella 1992); film dir. Clint Eastwood (1995). Meryl Streep, Clint Eastwood.
  7. Brokeback Mountain, by (short story 1997); film dir. Ang Lee (2005). Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal.
  8. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, by Ian Fleming (1964); musical film dir. Ken Hughes (1968). Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes.
  9. "Cinderella," by The Brothers Grimm (fairy tale 1812); Ever After: a Cinderella Story, film dir. Andy Tennant (1998). Drew Barrymore, Angelica Huston, Dougray Scott.
  10. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker (1983); film dir. Steven Spielberg (1985). Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover.
  11. The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown (2003); film dir. Ron Howard (2003). Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen.
  12. Don't Look Now, by Daphne du Maurier (short story 1971); film dir. Nicolas Roeg (1973). Donald Sutherland, Julie Christie.
  13. Forrest Gump, by Winston Groom (1986); film dir. Robert Zemeckis (1994). Tom Hanks, Robin Wright.
  14. Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus, by Mary Shelley (1818); Mary Shelley's Frankenstein film dir. Kenneth Branagh (1994). Robert De Niro, Kenneth Branagh.
  15. The French Lieutenant's Woman, by John Fowles (1969); film dir. Karel Reisz (1981). Meryl Streep, Jeremy Irons.
  16. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson (2005); film dir. Niels Arden Oplev (2009). Daniel Craig, Rooney Mara, Christopher Plummer.
  17. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1929); film dir. Baz Luhrmann (2013). Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan,Tobey McGuire, ; film dir. Jack Clayton (1974). Mia Farrow, Robert Redford.
  18. Grimms' Fairy Tales, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (fairy tales 1812); Into The Woods film dir. Rob Marshall (2012). Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Chris Pine, James Corden.
  19. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, by J.K. Rowling (1997); film dir. Chris Columbus (2001). Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint.
  20. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling (1998) ; film dir. Chris Columbus (2002).
  21. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling (1999) ; film dir. Alfonso Cuarón (2004).
  22. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling (2000) ; film dir. Mike Newell (2005).
  23. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J.K. Rowling (2003) ; film dir. David Yates (2007).
  24. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J.K. Rowling (2005) ; film dir. David Yates (2009).
  25. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling (2007) ; films dir. David Yates (2010 / 2011).
  26. Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad (novella 1899); film (made for television) dir. Nicolas Roeg (1993). Timothy Bateson, Tim Roth, John Malkovich.
  27. The Hobbit or There and Back Again, by J.R.R. Tolkien (1937); film trilogy dir. Peter Jackson (An Unexpected Journey, 2012; The Desolation of Smaug, 2013, The Battle of the Five Armies, 2014). Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage.
  28. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (2008); film dir. Gary Ross (2012). Jennifer Lawrence. Julianne Moore.
  29. The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy (1984); film dir. John McTiernan (1990). Alec Baldwin, Sean Connery, Sam Neill.
  30. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë (1847); film (several versions available).
  31. The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan (1989); film dir. Wayne Wang (1993). Rosalind Chao, Kieu Chinh, Tsai Chin, Lisa Lu.
  32. Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton (1990); film dir. Steven Spielberg (1993). Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum.
  33. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott (1868); film dir. Greta Gerwig (2019). Saorise Ronan, Emma Watson.
  34. The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954); film dir. Peter Jackson (2001). Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin.
  35. The Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers, by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954); film dir. Peter Jackson (2002).
  36. The Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien (1954); film dir. Peter Jackson (2003).
  37. The Martian, by Andy Weir (2011); film dir. Ridley Scott (2015). Matt Damon.
  38. Matilda, by Roald Dahl (children's book 1988); film dir. Danny DeVito (1996). Mara Wilson, Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman.
  39. Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo (1862); musical dir. Tom Hooper (2012). Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe.
  40. Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984), by George Orwell (1949); film dir. Michael Radford (1984). John Hurt, Richard Burton, Suzanna Hamilton.
  41. Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens (1838); Oliver! film dir. Carol Reed (1968). Ron Moody, Oliver Reed, Mark Lester.
  42. Ordinary People, by Judith Guest (1976); film dir. Robert Redford (1980). Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore.
  43. The Polar Express, by Chris van Allsburg (children's book 1985); film dir. Robert Zemeckis (2004). Tom Hanks.
  44. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen (1813); film dir. Joe Wright; film dir. Robert Z. Leonard (1940). Laurence Oliver, Greer Garson; TV series, dir. Cyril Coke (BBC 1985). Elizabeth Garvie, David Rintoul.
  45. Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen (1811); film dir. Ang Lee (1995). Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman.
  46. Shoeless Joe, by W. P. Kinsella (1982); Field of Dreams, film dir. Phil Alden Robinson (1989). Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones.
  47. "Snow White and Seven Dwarfs," by the Brothers Grimm (children's fairy tale 1812); animated musical film dir. David Hand, et al (1937); Snow White and the Huntsman film dir. Rupert Sanders (2012). Kristen Steward, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth.
  48. A Time to Kill, by John Grisham (1989); film dir. Joel Schumacher (1996). Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson.
  49. Twelve Years a Slave, by Solomon Northup (memoir 1853); film dir. Steve McQueen (2013). Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch.
  50. Whale Rider, by Witi Ihimaera (1997); film dir. Niki Caro (2002). Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rawiri Paratene.



(subject at minor changes before the end of add/drop)

Read & watch Emma, Clueless, and Crazy Rich Asians BEFORE 21JAN



Workshop Focus


Introduction — theories of adaptation; why adapt?; is the book better?; film v. TV; writing about film (rottentomatoes; Ebert & Roper; The Guardian); examples taken from Harry Potter

3-hour lecture


Character/casting, supporting actors: a look at several Jane Eyre films/series, and how different actors affect characterisation



Emma: narrative structure of Romantic novel; script-writing; filming in 21stC (landscape; bloopers like coke cans appearing in shots)

Ever After (feminist adaptation)





Crazy Rich Asians: narrative structure of modern novel; lighting

Brokeback Mountain (LGBTQ issues at the movies)


Clueless: adaptation 200 years on; town v. city; UK to USA.

The Bridges of Madison County (short text to film; challenging social mores


READING WEEK READ & WATCH Shawshank Redemption


MIDTERM TEST on Shawshank Redemption



Emma: filming in 21stC (scenery; props; landscape; bloopers like coke cans appearing in shots)

Don't Look Now (foreign locations)


Crazy Rich Asians: movie soundtracks; musical motifs; visual effects; cinematography

Heart of Darkness (colonial writing; post-colonial viewings)


Clueless: costuming; make-up; hairstyling; characterisation

12 Years a Slave (memoirs to film; revisiting in time of BLM



Endings: adapting for the small screen: Pride & Prejudice & Death Comes to Pemberley (from novel by PD James — a sequel to Austen's novel)



A Time to Kill (final courtroom scene)


Race and film: The Color Purple; Whale Rider

FINAL TEST (Oscar category-oriented)


NO CLASS: free time for revising your essay






2020-2021 Second Semester
Contact Hours per week
Form of Assessment
100% coursework
Thursday , 1:30 pm - 4:20 pm , Online Teaching
A minimum Level 5 in English Language HKDSE exam, or an equivalent score in another recognized English proficiency test.