CHID 480E: Adaptation was a 5-credit course offered during Spring Quarter 2014 in the Comparative History of Ideas Program at the University of Washington. Our class was made up of 15 bright, creative, and eager adapters and two enthusiastic instructors.
Over ten weeks, we explored three core narratives (The Taming of the Shrew, Sex and the Single Girl, and Sherlock Holmes) through various theoretical lenses. We learned from the work of, among others, Hayden White, Thomas King, Linda Hutcheon, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Siobhan O’Flynn, and Henry Jenkins.
We applied these seminar readings to a variety of primary texts: Franco Zeffirelli’s 1967 film of Taming of the Shrew starring Elizabeth Taylor; the film version of the Cole Porter musical Kiss Me Kate; the 1999 teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You; Helen Gurley Brown’s 1962 book Sex and the Single Girl and its 1964 film adaptation; the 2003 film Down With Love; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes Story “A Scandal in Bohemia”; the incredibly popular BBC television series Sherlock; and the American TV series Elementary.
Then, we took what we had read, seen, and discussed, and we set to work creating things. Our students were asked to come up with numerous quick adaptations throughout the quarter in the form of “Adaptacize” exercises. They collaborated with one another to write concepts and scripts, perform radio plays, and make videos. Finally, everyone was responsible for creating his or her own adaptive project, either alone or with a group. The results were pretty fantastic, ranging from video games to animations, full-fledged scripts for TV pilots and children’s picture books.
What we learned is that stories aren’t just retold for the sake of telling. They’re retold because they speak to us in important ways about who we are and how we relate to the world. Each one of our students’ projects tells its own story about both its maker and its audience.