Emory Report
February 9, 2009
Volume 61, Number 19

Great novels, great films
Salman Rushdie will briefly introduce each film. All screenings in White Hall 208.

Feb. 16, 8 p.m.
“The Age of Innocence”

Feb. 23, 7:30 p.m.
“The Leopard”

March 2, 8 p.m.
“Wise Blood”

March 16, 8 p.m.
“Great Expectations”

For more information, visit www.filmstudies.emory.edu.



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February 9
, 2009
Rushdie’s take on novels to film


It’s fitting that Emory Distinguished Writer in Residence Salman Rushdie will give his 2009 public lecture on campus just hours before this year’s Academy Awards broadcast.

Rushdie’s topic, “Adaptation,” will explore how one art form is “translated” or “migrates” into another — a trait shared by four of the five nominees for this year’s best picture award.

Rushdie’s lecture is scheduled at 5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22 in Glenn Memorial Auditorium. Tickets are sold out.

In conjunction with the lecture, the Office of the Provost and the Department of Film Studies will host screenings during February and March of four films made from great novels. At each screening, Rushdie will briefly introduce the film, says Matthew Bernstein, professor, chair and director of graduate studies for the department.

The series will wrap up with a campus forum on film and literature with Rushdie and Bernstein at 4 p.m. Thursday, March 19 in Brooks Commons of Cannon Chapel.

The screenings and forum grew out of Rushdie’s graduate English seminar this semester in which he will consider four great novels made into great films: Edith Wharton’s “The Age of Innocence”; Giovanni Di Lampedusa’s “The Leopard”; Flannery O’Connor’s “Wise Blood”; and Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations.”

“It will be fascinating for the community to learn about Rushdie’s ideas on the topic,” says Bernstein. Adaptation has a long history in filmmaking so it’s a natural topic for a series in Film Studies, he adds.

“The question that critics used to ask most often of film adaptations is: Are films being ‘faithful’ to the novel, play or source material? — ’faithful’ being a loaded term,” says Bernstein.

Too often the assumption is that if a film does not closely follow the original form, then it’s a bad adaptation. Then critics began to recognize that “a film can be faithful to the spirit of the work if not the letter,” he says.

“Today, I believe most of us recognize that adaptation is fascinating because it crystallizes a filmmaker’s creative process. It involves a huge number of creative choices that filmmakers make all the time, even with original screenplays not adapted from other works — about settings, characters, casting, dialogue and of course the narrative,” says Bernstein.

“These are the kinds of artistic choices we teach our students to discern when they watch films. I look at any film adaptation as that filmmaker’s interpretation of a novel, for instance, in the same way that a scholarly essay can interpret a text,” he says. “What the filmmakers retain from their source and what they invent can become the basis for reading the film a certain way.”

It’s difficult and costly these days to get the 35mm prints that the department typically uses in its film series, Bernstein says. “Yet the image 35mm provides is unparalleled — and this is a series of first-rate films.”