PERFORMING ARTS

The History of American Literature on Film

Bloomsbury Academic. (History of World Literatures on Film). Jun. 2019. 464p. ISBN 9781628923735. Tr. REF
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Despite this work’s title, Leitch (English, Univ. of Delaware; The Oxford Companion to Adaptation Studies) goes beyond a simple history, instead examining different approaches that Hollywood has taken in adapting American literature (primarily novels but also plays, poems, and comics) to film. An introduction explores why relatively few works from the American canon have been made into motion pictures, especially in comparison to British literature (notably, the subject of the previous volume in the series, The History of British Literature on Film, 1895–2015). While this introduction offers a few contestable assertions and leaves some threads of thought dangling, it nevertheless considers in close and thoughtful detail both the nature of the American and British film industries (especially the BBC’s effect on the latter) and analyzes each country’s literary tradition. Leitch dives into a chronological study of adaptations from 1895 to 2018. His coverage is impressive, including the usual blockbusters and star vehicles but also lesser-known works (including other, earlier adaptations of the L. Frank Baum’s “Oz” books), which results sometimes in sentences that are little more than long lists of movie titles and dates.
VERDICT Although slow going for most film buffs, this dense, scholarly work will appeal to academics interested in cinema studies.

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