Michelle Mouton
Assistant Professor
Cornelle College
Office: South Hall 107
Office ph: x8625

English 111: Romantics and Victorians on Screen

Course Description
Course Requirements
Maintaining Academic Integrity
Contact Information
Schedule: Weeks One, Two, Three, Four
Paper Assignments

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"Online Reserve" readings are available for printing through our class website. Films are held on reserve in Cole Library and you may view them there at any point during the block. The following are available at the Commons Bookstore:

  • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, Bedford-St. Martin’s
  • Jane Austen, Emma, Norton Critical Edition
  • Henry James, Washington Square, Oxford World Classics
  • James Joyce, The Dead, Bedford-St. Martin’s
  • Timothy Corrigan, A Short Guide to Writing About Film, Third Edition
  • Recommended

  • MLA Handbook, Fourth or Fifth Edition
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    Course Description


    A film adaptation not only converts the original novel into a different medium, but presents the filmmakers’ interpretation of the original. Several versions of the same novel will likely interpret and present it very differently. The 1831 and 1994 versions of Frankenstein each emphasizes and omits significant portions of Mary Shelley’s novel to reflect concerns, aims, and assumptions of its time, rather than hers. A filmmaker’s historical context, cultural assumptions, explicit political agenda, aesthetic aims, marketing goals, or an audience’s assumed knowledge all influence a film version’s transformation of the book it adapts. This block, we’ll study three nineteenth-century English novels and two adaptations of each, and we’ll reflect on what each says about the cultural moment in which it was produced. With intensive writing and class discussion, you’ll develop your vocabulary for analyzing literature and film, practice critical thinking and careful reading, and come to better understand the expectations of college writing.

    In discussions we’ll consider the following questions: why have film adaptations of works by the likes of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, and Henry James become so numerous in the past decade? In what ways are these films feminist, anti-feminist, or "post-feminist"? Do they represent nostalgia for a better time? Or, in contrast, do they implicitly present our time as thankfully more advanced? What class and racial politics do the novels and films reflect? Scholars contentiously debate these matters, and you’ll develop your own responses to them, and pose other questions that interest you, over the course of the block.

    Class Format

    Class discussion, in-class writing, and group work will make up the majority of our class time and will be supplemented only by an occasional, brief lecture. Your attendance, full preparation for class, and active participation are crucial to your success. I invite you to read ahead when you find yourself with extra time. Some days require more reading than others, and on the block system, falling just a little behind in preparation can quickly become disastrous. If you run into problems, see me immediately to discuss them so that I can help you catch up. This is particularly important because late papers in this course will receive a failing grade. I’ll consider an extension only in cases I consider to be true emergencies, and if you see me to make alternative arrangements in advance of the paper’s due date.

    Workshops, Revisions, the Writing Center

    Each week, I’ll facilitate a peer review workshop in which you'll share and respond to one another’s papers. Bring two copies of your paper to each workshop, one to hand in, and one for your peers. You’ll use peer responses to revise each paper before submitting it for a grade. Additionally, you’ll sign up to have your paper discussed during one of these workshops by the full class. On this day, you’ll bring enough photocopies of your paper for everyone. Workshops are designed to improve your ability to interpret assignments, understand the expectations that instructors have of your work, and evaluate college papers. The campus Writing Resource Center provides further assistance in the form of tutorials, handouts, model papers, and on-going writing adjunct courses. I encourage you to bring a draft of your paper to the Center for assistance before submitting it to me for grading. It is located in the basement of Bowman Carter Hall (mall entrance). For more information, see http://cornellcollege.edu/wrc/. The Center is an excellent resource that you can use throughout your time at Cornell College.

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    Course Requirements

    75% - 3 formal papers, each 4 pages (25% each)
    15% - Discussion Forum (10% for posts; 5% for summary)
    5% - Final Writing Exercise
    5% - Participation: Reading Checks, In-Class Work, and Preparation

    Papers and Writing Exercise

    You’ll submit, revise, and resubmit three formal papers, 4 pages each. Although I’ll grade only the final version of each, drafts and worksheets will be factored into your participation grade. There will be no final exam in this course; rather, the final writing exercise will allow you to synthesize and demonstrate what you’ve learned. All drafts and papers should be word-processed and formatted according to the MLA handbook.

    Discussion Forum

    You’ll also participate in an informal, ongoing, web-based discussion forum. The forum will enable you to practice literary analysis, ask questions of your peers, and discuss whatever you find intellectually striking in the material. For full credit, you’ll post at least 4 messages per week (16 total) and moderate one week’s discussions. As participant, check in nearly every day. As moderator, your job is to keep the conversation moving with engaging questions and to summarize the discussion in 1-2 pages (250-500 words) at the week’s end. A week officially ends on midnight Saturday, and during your assigned week you’ll post your summary within twenty-four hours of this time (in other words, before midnight Sunday). Our last half-week officially ends Tuesday evening, and summaries must be posted by Wednesday evening. As with class discussion, I encourage you to be lively and respectful as you challenge and develop one another’s ideas. The attached handout explains how to access and participate in the forum.


    At the end of the block, I’ll assess your overall participation. This portion of your final grade includes your drafts, preparation for class, homework, attendance, in-class writing, contributions to discussion, group work, and reading checks—all of which I’ll collect in folders throughout the block. I expect you to participate frequently, thoughtfully, and courageously. While this assessment contributes only 5% in itself to your final grade, your on-going participation will improve all of your coursework. The course will be more enjoyable, and you’ll advance most quickly as a critical reader of film and fiction, if you ask questions, risk interpretations, do frequent writing, and develop your most imaginative and astute sparks into formal papers.

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    Maintaining Academic Integrity

    Plagiarism is using others’ words or ideas without crediting them fully and accurately, and it is a serious academic offense. Plagiarism can be as blatant as stealing or buying someone else’s paper and submitting it as your own, or as unintentional as paraphrasing someone’s idea but forgetting to give them credit. In class, we’ll discuss what constitutes plagiarism in more detail, but know that you are ultimately responsible for avoiding it in any form. Put simply, if you plagiarize, you’ll receive an "F" as your final course grade. The MLA Handbook is the standard style guide for writing English papers and it explains how to use and document your sources properly, whether a lecturer, an online article, or a textbook. The Writing Resource Center Web Site provides a useful summary of MLA documentation and other help with citing sources; see "Handouts" at http://cornellcollege.edu/wrc/. Feel free to ask me questions at any time regarding documentation.

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    Contact Information

    I welcome office visits, whether for help with classwork or simply to discuss your experience of Cornell, and my office hours are listed below. If you can’t make these times, contact me to set up an appointment. I check my email several times throughout the day, and encourage you to reach me through email. You can also call me at my office (x4223). I ask, however, that you call me at home only between 8:30 am and 9:00 pm, and only if urgent.

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    Please note our meetings times and places carefully each day.

    Week 1

    Mon. Sept. 4 AM South 18

    Introduction: Literature to Film

    Tues. Sept. 5 AM South 18
    • Frankenstein; 1-85;
    • Contextual Documents, in Frankenstein, 190-204;
    • "Elements of Fiction," online reserve;
    • Introduction to Screening the Novel, handout;
    • Post introductory paragraph to discussion forum.
    Wed. Sept. 6 AM South 18
    • Frankenstein, 86-132;
    • Contextual Documents, 205-223;
    • Short Guide, Ch. 1 and 2
    PM South 207

    Office Hours

    Thurs. Sept. 7 AM South 18
    • Frankenstein, pp. 132-189;
    • Short Guide, Ch. 3
    11:00 AM King’s Chapel

    Opening Convocation

    PM Cole 125

    Viewing: Frankenstein (1931);
    Conference sign-up.

    Fri. Sept. 8 AM Cole 125
    • Murfin, "What is Cultural Criticism?" in Frankenstein 296-409;
    • Zakharieva, "Frankenstein of the Nineties: The Composite Body," in Frankenstein, 416-431.
    • Heller, "Frankenstein and the Cultural Uses of Gothic," online reserve.
    • Short Guide, Chapters 5.
      Viewing: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994
    PM Cole 125

    Discussion of essays and films.

    Sat. Sept. 9 AM, PM South 207


    • Read some of the online model reviews and bring a one-page informal essay on your own ideas.

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    Week 2

    Mon. Sept. 11 AM South 18
    • Essay 1 due (2 copies), Peer Review Workshop;
    • Read A Short Guide, Ch. 7.
    Tues. Sept. 12 AM South 18
    • Emma, Volume I
    PM South 207

    Office Hours

    Wed. Sept. 13 AM South 18
    • Emma, Volume II
    PM South 207

    Office Hours

    Thurs. Sept. 14 AM South 18
    • Emma, Volume III;
    • Poovey, "The True English Style, in Emma, 396-400.
    PM Cole 125
    • Revised Paper 1 Due, with Worksheet. Viewing: Emma (1997).
    Fri. Sept. 15 PM Cole 125
    • Viewing: Clueless (1995)

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    Week 3

    Mon. Sept. 18 AM South 18
    • Discussion of Films and Essays
    • Ferris, "Emma Becomes Clueless," in Emma, 435-444;
    • Nachumi, "‘As If!’ Translating Austen’s Ironic Narrator to Film," online reserve;
    • Looser, "Feminist Implications of the Silver Screen Austen," online reserve.
    PM South 207

    Office Hours

    Tues. Sept. 19 AM South 18
    • Paper 2 Due (2 copies), Peer Review Workshop
    PM Cole 108
    • Short Guide, Ch. 6;
      Library Research Day
    Wed. Sept. 20 AM South 18
    • Washington Square
    PM South 207

    Office Hours

    Thurs. Sept. 21 AM South 18
    • Washington Square
    PM Cole 125

    Viewing: The Heiress (1949)

    Fri. Sept. 22 AM Cole 125
    • Revised Paper 2 Due;
      Viewing: Washington Square (1997)
    PM Cole 125

    Discussion: Film Versions of Washington Square.

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    Week 4

    Mon. Sept. 25 AM South 18
    • Paper 3 Due (2 copies); Peer Review Workshop
    PM South 207

    Office Hours

    Tues. Sept. 26 AM South 18
    • The Dead
    PM Cole 125

    Viewing: The Dead (1987)

    Wed. Sept. 27 AM South 18
    • Revised Paper 3 Due;
      Discussion: The Dead
    PM South 18

    Final Writing Exercise

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    Paper Assignments

    Paper 1 (3-4 Pages)

    Write a review essay of Kenneth Branaugh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein that considers his handling of what you consider to be the most crucial challenge in adapting Shelley’s novel to film. What core element of the novel has he successfully or unsuccessfully transformed? You may discuss Whale’s adaptation for comparison. I encourage you to be creative, and to use the best reviews you discover online as models.

    A successful review will

    An excellent review will also be creative, stylistically mature, and rich in content. We'll discuss and clarify these criteria in class.

    Paper 2 Options (4 pages)

    1. Does Clueless better represent Austen’s ironic narrator than does Emma, as Nachumi claims? Compare three versions of one scene in detail in order to support your claim.

    2. Suzanne Ferriss writes that "Heckerling’s version [Clueless] presents women of the 1990s as less empowered or enlightened than women in the original novel." Do you agree? Briefly summarize Heckerling's argument, then build your own. Use detail from, and analysis of, the novel and films to support your ideas.

    3. A topic of your choosing, approved in advance.

    Paper 3 Options (4 pages)

    1. Select a crucial problem that a filmmaker would have adapting Henry James' novel to the screen. Briefly explain the problem, using (at least two) scholarly readings of Henry James's novel relevant to your topic for assistance. For example, critical readings might help you to build your argument about James' literary style or to identify an important interpretation of the novel. Then, analyze how one film has tried to address that problem. In what ways is that attempt effective, and in what ways is it not? How does the film's attempt reinterpret James' novel? How does the novel both conform to and resist that interpretation?

    2. A topic of your choosing, including a research component, approved in advance.

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