It is widely accepted that writers find inspiration in the work of others, and use it to create new works. But some are more dependent on their source material than others. Rewriting well-known narratives can be a way to question past authorities, to explore otherness or even to find a broader audience. The best rewriters bring an entirely new understanding to the source material. They deepen, question or undermine the world of the original text without denying its power.
This course will look at some of the great “rewrites” of the English language, from mid-century classics like Wide Sargasso Sea and Grendel to a retelling of King Lear set in twenty-first century Delhi.
- Introduction: Taking inspiration, rewriting, plagiarism? The case of Mavis Gallant and Sadia Shepard.
- Beowulf and The hero and the monster.
- Shakespeare. His infinite variety.
- We That Are Young and Hag-Seed. Shakespeare in Delhi and Ontario.
- Robinson Crusoe and Foe. Silence and narrative control in the text that launched a thousand rewrites.
- Jane Eyre and Rebecca. Men and their wives.
- Wide Sargasso Sea. The madwoman in the attic revealed.
- Fairy Tales. The roots of the fairy tale as we know it. “Authentic” folk voices and literary rewrites. The beginning of psychological interpretation.
- The Bloody Chamber. Angela Carter and the translation, rewriting, and re-anthologizing of fairy tales.
- Mr Fox. Men and their wives revisited. The muse in her own words.
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Atrapa la Llebre (guest lecture by Lana Bastašić)
- Concluding thoughts. The ever-expanding world of rewrites. Literary reimaginings beyond the English tradition.
This class will be taught in English. No specific level is required to participate, but you should be comfortable listening to lectures in English. Asking questions and participating in discussion is encouraged, but no one will make you speak if you don’t wish to!
We will cover a number of texts and it may be unrealistic to read them all. Select three or four to read before or during the course (you may want to focus on reading the “rewrites,” as summaries/films are readily available for many of the originals. You are welcome to read the works in another language — the majority have been translated. No previous knowledge of any of these works is required to follow the class.
Beowulf (circa 975 AD)
Grendel, John Gardner (1971)
The Tempest and King Lear, William Shakespeare (1610, 1606)
Une Tempête, Aimé Césaire (1969)
Hag-Seed, Margaret Atwood (2016)
We That Are Young, Preti Taneja (2017)
Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe (1719)
Foe, J.M. Coetzee (1986)
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (1847)
Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier (1938)
Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys (1966)
The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault, tr. Angela Carter (1977)
The Bloody Chamber, Angela Carter (1979)
Mr. Fox, Helen Oyeyemi (2011)
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, CS Lewis (1865)
Atrapa la Llebre, Lana Bastašić (2018)
“The Ice Wagon Going Down the Street.” Mavis Gallant (1963)
“Foreign-Returned.” Sadia Shepard (2018)