Film paper

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Your second essay assignment also is a brand new one for Fall 2015, one I have been trying without much success to integrate into the calendar of the last few iterations of the course. This assignment is designed to free up a substantial amount of time for you at the end of the semester so that you can devote extra time to the seminar project. Instead of having your usual lengthy reading assignments, for the last three class meetings you need only to watch one film and then write up a short paper on it, which you will then present to the whole class on the day you are turning it in (unlike the library paper, where you present a draft and then have a week to rewrite before turning in the version to be graded). Not only will this hopefully be a fun undertaking, as you will get the chance to think and write about how Wilde and /or his texts have been re-presented/reinterpreted/reimagined through the medium of film, but also a well-deserved break from the constant and demanding reading load you will have labored under for the rest of the semester.

The first step toward completing this assignment is to sign up for a film. You can find the sign-up sheet in Google Docs at:
You may find a list of the films you may choose from at the bottom of this assignment sheet. As we get closer to the end of the semester, I will say a few brief words about any remaining films to aid in your selection process, but you should feel free to do some research of your own on (or ask me any questions you might have about) any titles that may sound interesting to you, for you can sign up as early as you like. Once you have determined which film you would like to choose (as well as a backup selection or two), go to the sign-up sheet and scroll through any names/titles already there to make sure nobody has beaten you to the punch. If your title is not yet listed, simply type your name and your film’s title (copied and pasted from the list below) on one of the five lines for day on which you would like to present. Obviously, if there are five classmates already signed up for the day you were hoping to get, you will need to pick a different date.
Next, watch your film. Many will be available for viewing and/or purchase online, and some actually may be checked out from Simpson. I also own a copy of each and every one, so you are also welcome to simply borrow my copy (one as a VHS tape, the rest as DVDs). As with the library paper, you will have a fair amount of leeway as to what you address in your essays, but in general you should explain how the film is relevant to our study of Wilde and/or to late Victorian literature and culture more generally. This is not a review (that is, a personal evaluation of the film’s strengths and weaknesses), but rather an argument about how it relates to (e.g., complement and/or contradict, supplement and/or transplant) our readings, our discussions, etc. If a staging/retelling of a particular text, how closely does the film follow the original? If the film takes obvious liberties with Wilde’s original, what is significance of these changes? What do they add to our previous view/understanding of the literary text, or what do they reveal about the filmmakers and/or their own time period (and their view of Wilde)? The Cave and Kaplan chapters from the Cambridge Companion are worth a second look to spur some possibilities.
Also, even though this assignment requires you to watch a full-length film, your thesis/focus need not be a comprehensive one. Treatments of whole films are certainly allowed, but given the word count parameters for this paper, it likely will be difficult for you to adequately discuss the film as a whole; thus, you are welcome to write about a limited number of scenes instead, or even just one important scene, if you wish.
Regardless of how broad or narrow your focus is in terms of the number of scenes from the film you discuss in depth, you will be required to summarize the whole film for the class before you read your paper to us. On your due date, you each will have 15 minutes of class time. Start with your summary of the film (what happens, who the main characters are, what the major similarities/differences are, how it is filmed, etc.). Then, you need to read your paper to us. In whatever is left of your 15 minutes, discussion of your ideas will follow (and you should be prepared to field questions about other parts/aspects of your film that you did not talk about, as well). While your presentation will not receive a grade, I will be assigning substantial class participation points based on my opinion of your content; you also may receive extra points that day for both your delivery of the material (primarily, your pace and pitch) and for how well you perform during the discussion portion of the presentation time.
YOUR PAPER IS DUE ON THE DAY OF YOUR IN-CLASS PRESENTATION. You will need both to turn in a hard copy and to upload your file to Wilde World 2015. A late paper will have its grade knocked down one full level (that is, from A to B) unless I grant you an extension ahead of time. Regardless, you must complete this assignment by the end of finals week to fulfill the course requirements and receive a passing grade for the class. Also, I will not grade your essay until you have uploaded it to the blog. This assignment is worth 10% of your final course grade.
Your paper should be 500-750 words in length. Turning in work falling outside the parameters of the word count requirements also will negatively impact your grade. Please include your word count somewhere on the essay. Your paper should be typed, double spaced, and formatted according to MLA guidelines. Your essay also should be pledged, as we do have an honor code here at Mary Wash. I expect you to abide by that code in all your work for this course, including this essay. I will prosecute honor violations, and ignorance is not an excuse where plagiarism is concerned; again, it is your responsibility to avoid misuse of source material(s). If you are at all unclear about any issue related to plagiarism, you always should check with me first before submitting your work.
I will grade your paper on the quality of its content, as well as on all the basic qualities of a successful essay, including but not limited to: clear thesis statement, strong organization, logical paragraphing, coherent and thoroughly developed argument/presentation, successful integration of quoted material and/or outside sources where applicable, grammatically correct writing, and a mature sense of style.
1. BBC Video’s An Ideal Husband (1969) or Lady Windermere’s Fan (1985)
2. BBC Video’s The Importance of Being Earnest (1988) or The Picture of Dorian Gray (1976)
3. Dorian Gray (2010), starring Ben Barnes and Colin Firth
4. A Good Woman (2004), starring Helen Hunt and Scarlett Johansson
5. An Ideal Husband (2011), starring Cate Blanchett, Minnie Driver, and Rupert Everett
6. The Importance of Being Earnest (1952), starring Michael Redgrave and Edith Evans
7. The Importance of Being Earnest (2002), starring Rupert Everett and Colin Firth
8. A Man of No Importance (1995), starring Albert Finney [my copy of this one is VHS]
9. Oscar Wilde’s Salome (2000), starring Steven Berkhoff
10. Pact with the Devil (2002/2003), starring Malcolm McDowell
11. The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), starring George Sanders, Donna Reed, & Angela Lansbury
12. Salomé [silent] (1922), starring Alla Nazimova and Mitchell Lewis
13. Salomé (2013) or Wilde Salomé (2011), starring Al Pacino and Jessica Chastain
14. Velvet Goldmine (1998), starring Ewan McGregor, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, & Christian Bale
15. Wilde (1997), starring Stephen Fry and Jude Law
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