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Literary Adaptation from Shakespeare to Osofisan


Admission requirements

A relevant BA degree. If in doubt, please contact the study adviser:ms. L.L.J. Kouters MA


Adaptation forms a rich and fascinating topic in literary studies. Since the very earliest history of cinema, film directors have turned to novels and plays as materials for their own art, while television, too, has a long history of adapting works of literature from Austen to Zadie Smith. In addition to this, literary authors themselves have adapted the work of their predecessors, with William Shakespeare as one particularly famous example.

In this course, we will examine a range of literary adaptations from the early modern period to the present day. The first half of the course is devoted to the work of William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, focusing both on how they themselves adapted their source materials and on how their work has been adapted by others, for example Preti Taneja and Keith Hamilton Cobb.

The second half focuses on adaptation from the eighteenth century to the present day. It examines the following topics: Robinson Crusoe and the European genre of the shipwreck narrative; cinematic adaptations of Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw and What Maisie Knew, and Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day; postcolonial adaptations of Greek tragedy by Yaël Farber and Femi Osofisan.

Course objectives

At the end of the course students will:

  • Be able to reflect analytically and theoretically on the nature of adaptation as a literary phenomenon, and on its broader cultural and political dimensions;

  • Be able to offer detailed and sophisticated analysis of specific literary adaptations;

  • Have deepened their ability to engage in informed academic dialogue and debate with others;

  • Have further developed their academic presentation skills;

  • Have further developed their academic writing skills by means of a substantial research essay.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


  • Classroom Presentation (25%)

  • Research essay (4,500 words) (75%)

Research MA students should analyse at least one literary work not on the reading list for this course. Their research essay should also offer substantial theoretical reflection on adaptation as a literary and cultural phenomenon.


  • Classroom Presentation (25%)

  • Research essay (4,500 words) (75%)


Students who fail the course can submit a revised version of their research essay if their essay grade is at least a 5. If their essay grade is lower than a 5, they must write a new research essay on a new topic.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

  • Ovid, Heroides 18 (“Leander to Hero”) and 19 (“Hero to Leander”), trl. Grant Showerman, Loeb Classical Library 41 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1941). Accessed online via the library catalogue.

  • Christopher Marlowe, Hero and Leander. Any scholarly edition; Hero and Leander also included in the Norton Anthology of English Literature]

  • Selections from Thomas Nashe, Lenten Stuffe (1600), and Ben Jonson, Bartholomew Fair (1614). (These will be provided by the instructor.)

  • William Shakespeare, The Tempest.

  • William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet.

  • William Shakespeare, King Lear.

  • William Shakespeare, Othello

  • For the Shakespeare plays, any good, recent scholarly edition will do (Arden, Oxford, Cambridge et cetera). A good and affordable recent edition of the complete works is The RSC Shakespeare: The Complete Works (ed. Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen).

  • Michel de Montaigne, “On Cannibals,” trl. John Florio (1603). (Will be provided by the instructor.)

  • Aimé Césaire, Une Tempête/A Tempest, English trl. Richard Miller.

  • Suniti Namjoshi, selected poems from Snapshots of Caliban.

  • DVD West Side Story (1961; dir. Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins).

  • Preti Taneja, We That Are Young.

  • Keith Hamilton Cobb, American Moor.

  • Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (Oxford World’s Classics).

  • Selections from: Johann Gottfried Schnabel, Wunderliche Fata einiger See-Fahrer (Nordhausen 1732).

  • Selections from: Johann Karl Wezel, Robinson Krusoe. Neu bearbeitet (Leipzig 1780).

  • Selections from: Artur Blaim, Robinson Crusoe and His Doubles. The English Robinsonade of the Eighteenth Century (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2016).

  • Selections from: Josiah Blackmore, Manifest Perdition: Shipwreck Narrative and the Disruption of Empire (Minneapolis: Minnesota UP, 2002).

  • Henry James, The Turn of the Screw (Penguin or Oxford World’s Classics).

  • Henry James, What Maisie Knew (Penguin).

  • Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day.

  • DVD The Innocents (1951; dir. Jack Clayton).

  • DVD What Maise Knew (2012; dir. Scott McGehee and David Siegel).

  • DVD The Remains of the Day (1993; dir. James Ivory).

  • Femi Osofisan, Tegonni: An African Antigone.

  • Yaël Farber, Molora.

Note: English translations will be provided for the non-English materials.


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  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Arsenaal