The Film Adaption


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From Bookshelf to Box Office: Literature & Film Adaptation – Ind. Study


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Which is better—the book or the movie? Neither one! Each is a separate artistic medium with its own merit.

Since the early 1900s, filmmakers have adapted literature for the movie screen. The practice of turning literature into movies is so common that there has been an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay since 1928. And nowadays about 75 percent of films that win Oscars have been adapted from written texts.

Why Study the film adaptation?

Studying the film adaptation helps students to become more skilled in literary analysis, encouraging them to think deeply about concepts such as theme, characterization, and plot structure. It also helps students to better understand how storytelling is influenced by audience, time period, culture, and medium. In short, studying the film adaptation helps us to better understand the techniques that both literature and film use to tell a story.

One Semester Film Adaptation Course

In this one-semester course, students will study the film adaptation through a variety of literary genres (including novel, drama, short story, nonfiction, and even children’s literature) and a variety of film genres (including drama, comedy, science fiction, musical, and animation). Students will be challenged to analyze the adaptations well beyond a basic how-the-movie-was-different-from-the-book comparison. They will discuss how film borrows from, intersects with, and transforms written texts; and they will examine the history, theories, benefits, and complications of the film adaptation. By the end of the semester, students will have a greater understanding of the elements of literature and a greater appreciation for the art of filmmaking.

This fun yet academic course will rely heavily on critical thinking, discussion, and written critical analysis. Students will watch seven movies, read the corresponding literature (including one work of the student’s choosing), and write three papers.


Please view prerequisites and required supplies below.

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The following readings/adaptations are strongly recommended because they will allow students to explore different types of adaptations (faithful, close, and loose) as well as a variety of genres, themes, and time periods. However, since this is an independent study, students may work with the teacher to make adjustments to this list as needed.

Instructor will supply links to articles, interviews, short stories, etc. Students will need access to the following movies. Be sure to note the release year as some movies have been remade. All movies are available on DVD or through streaming platforms such as Amazon, Hulu, and YouTube.

My Fair Lady (1964)
Rear Window (1954)
Shrek (2001)
The Princess Bride (1987)
Hidden Figures (2016)
Life of Pi (2012)

Each student will need a copy of the following books. Though ISBNs are provided, other editions are fine as long as they are the full, unabridged works.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly (ISBN-13: 978-0062363602)
Pygmalion and My Fair Lady by George Bernard Shaw and Alan Jay Lerner (ISBN-13: 978-0451530097)
Life of Pi by Yann Martel (ISBN-13: 978-0156027328)
Shrek by William Steig (ISBN-13: 978-0312384494)
The Princess Bride by William Goldman (ISBN-13: 978-0156035217)

Dawn Burnette​ is truly excited to be part of the Excelsior family as an English teacher! Dawn holds a B.A. in English Education/Journalism from Lenoir-Rhyne University and an M.A. in English Education from Georgia State University. She has also earned National Board Certification and gifted endorsement. While teaching English at a public high school for 15 years, Dawn served as English department chair, coached a nationally ranked dance team, and won a few local, state, and national teaching awards. Dawn loves sharing her passion for reading and writing, and she works tirelessly to help students reach their academic potential and to glorify God in all pursuits. Soli Deo Gloria!

When it was time for their children to start school, Dawn and her husband Rod moved the family from an Atlanta suburb to the North Georgia mountains, acquired way too many animals, and spent the next 12 years homeschooling. Their daughter Ansley graduated from Samford University in 2022 and works at Sight & Sound Theater in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and their son Beck graduated from and played collegiate golf at Lee University and the University of Georgia and began playing professional golf in 2024.

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2 reviews for From Bookshelf to Box Office: Literature & Film Adaptation – Ind. Study (5/5 stars)

  1. Rachel Fessler

    This class was one of my favorite I have taken for Excelsior. It made a great impact on my writing skills in a way that I actually enjoyed (since reading and watching films are some of my favorite pastimes). The homework was enjoyable, and easy enough to manage. If you read a lot, this is a great class to consider.

  2. Beth Ann

    I absolutely loved taking this course. Analyzing books and films gave be such an appreciation for adapters, and learning about different ways that adaptations are made was so fascinating. It was definitely a challenge to deep dive into the entire book and film the entire time, but it was definitely a good challenge. Definitely one of my favorite excelsior classes that I’ve taken.

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