Topics in Literature: Literature, Music, and Adaptation

Course Number: ENGL 165MA
Prerequisites: Check on GOLD
Advisory Enrollment Information: May be repeated for credit providing letter designations are different.
General Education Areas Fulfilled: Check on GOLD
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 165AA-ZZ
Quarter: Spring 2011
Day(s): MW
Time: 6:30 PM - 7:45 PM
Location: PHELPS 2524

May be repeated for credit to a maximum of 28 units provided letter designations are different.

This course examines the relationship between music and literature, with a particular focus on adaptation and appropriation: what happens when literary texts are adapted into musical ones, or when literary texts make use of music. We will think especially about how adaptation and appropriation are related to issues of race and culture: as writers adapt and appropriate musical genres of various stripes, from opera to jazz, they raise questions of racial politics, taste, elitism, class, spectatorship, and consumerism. In our first unit, we will examine the echoes of jazz in literature: we will study Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, T.S. Eliot, and Toni Morrison in the context of cultural debates over jazz in relation to race, sexuality, and social life in modernity. The second unit will take on adaptations of Prosper Merimée's Carmen, a French novella about a seductive Spanish gypsy—adapted as Georges Bizet's great opera Carmen, reimagined as an all-black American musical (Carmen Jones), reinvented by New Wave film director Jean-Luc Godard (Prénom Carmen), and somewhat bizarrely) recast into a “hip-hopera” featuring Beyoncé Knowles. Class assignments will include conventional essays, a creative (re)adaptation project, and a class Wiki page designed to forge links among our many interrelated course materials. Feel free to contact me ( if you have questions.