English 583: Special Topics in World Literature            

Professor C. Allen                                                                                     


Title:   Indigenous Literature and/as Film: Adaptation, Marketing,

            and the Consumption of Native Images




Over the past decade, literary works by indigenous writers - American Indian, Aboriginal Australian, Canadian First Nations, New Zealand Maori - have been adapted into feature-length films for the North American, European, and international markets.  In this course we will explore a number of these adaptations in order to investigate several key issues in indigenous literary and film studies and in adaptation theory.


Required Texts


Course Packet

Other short readings on Electronic Reserve


Alexie, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (Atlantic Monthly Books)

Alexie, Smoke Signals: The Screenplay (Hyperion)

Duff, Once Were Warriors (University of Hawai'i Press)

Ihimaera, The Whale Rider (Harcourt)

Pilkington, Rabbit-Proof Fence (Hyperion)


Films to be Viewed in Class


Smoke Signals (Miramax)

Once Were Warriors (Fine Line)

Whale Rider (Newmarket)

Rabbit-Proof Fence (Miramax)


Recommended Indigenous Films


The Fast Runner  (Inuit)                                                                           Ngati (Maori)

Medicine River  (First Nations/American Indian)                                    Te Rua (Maori)

Skins (American Indian)

The Business of Fancy Dancing (American Indian)

Naturally Native (American Indian)

The Doe Boy (American Indian)


Books on Reserve


Berkhofer, The White Man's Indian: Images of the American Indian from Columbus to the

Present (1978)

Braudy and Cohen, ed., Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, 5th ed. (1999)

            * includes assigned essay by Chatman

Cartmell and Whelehan, ed., Adaptations: From Text to Screen, Screen to Text (1999)

Goldie, Fear and Temptation: The Image of the Indigene in Canadian, Australian, and New

Zealand Literatures (1989)

Kilpatrick, Celluloid Indians: Native Americans and Film (1999)

McFarlane, Novel To Film: An Introduction to the Theory of Adaptation (1996)

Naremore, ed., Film Adaptation (2000)

            * includes assigned essays by Andrew and Stam

Singer, Wiping the War Paint off the Lens: Native American Film and Video (2001)

            * includes assigned Forward by Robert Warrior




1.         Class Participation.  20%

            Students will be rewarded for actively contributing to class discussions and for listening

attentively, as well as for coming to class on time, well prepared, and with a positive

attitude.  In addition, the participation grade will include in-class writing assignments.


2.         Discussion Teams.  30%

Each student will sign up to be part of a Discussion Team for one class period. 

Discussion Teams are responsible for 1) Meeting outside of class to coordinate their

research efforts and to discuss their plans for leading class discussion; 2) Conducting

relevant research on the text or texts they are responsible for, including book and film

reviews, articles or web sites that provide background information about the authors,

filmmakers, cast members, and/or characters depicted in the books and films, as well as

any other relevant scholarship from books, articles, or web sites; 3) Presenting relevant

information to the class; 4) Preparing a prompt for a brief in-class writing assignment on

the assigned text(s) to help set up class discussion; 5) Directing the class's attention to

specific passages or scenes in the assigned texts and posing useful questions for class

discussion.  In addition, 1) each Team should prepare a 1 - 2 page handout to give to the

class that includes a bibliography of relevant sources and the Team's major observations,

arguments, and/or questions about the text or texts, and 2) each Team member should

turn in a 1 page account of her or his participation in the Discussion Team.  Discussion

Teams should plan enough material and questions to cover about an hour or so of

class time.  Team members will be graded individually.


3.         Final Project Proposal.  1 page.  10%


4.         Final Project.  5 - 7 pages.  40%

            Option A: Based on the primary and secondary texts we have read and viewed for class,

as well as your own research, develop a theory for adapting indigenous literary texts into

film.  Provide a full list of Works Cited that follows MLA style guidelines.

Option B: Choose one of the literary/film pairings assigned for class and analyze the

effectiveness of the adaptation.  Make sure you define what you mean by an "effective"

adaptation.  Support your analysis and argument with close readings as well as relevant

research, and provide a full list of Works Cited that follows MLA style guidelines.

            Option C: Compare two of the adaptations we read and viewed for class.  Which

adaptation do you think is more effective, and why?  Make sure you define what you

mean by an "effective" adaptation.  Support your analysis and argument with close

readings as well as relevant research, and provide a full list of Works Cited that follows

MLA style guidelines.

Option D: Create your own final project that is relevant to our readings, viewings, and

class discussions.  Include a full list of Works Cited that follows MLA style guidelines.

You must have the instructor's approval to take this option.


Daily Syllabus

Week 1

Tues                              Introduction to course policies and syllabus.

                                      In-class screening of film trailers.


                                      1. Theorizing Adaptation


Thurs                             Read Chatman, "What Novels Can Do That Films Can't (And Vice

Versa)" (course pack), and handout on film terms.

Turn in list of top five choices for Discussion Teams.


Week 2

Tues                              Read Andrew, "Adaptation" (course pack), Stam, "Beyond Fidelity:

The Dialogics of Adaptation" (course pack), and handout on Gerald

Vizenor's concept of the "postindian."

                                      Mini-lecture: Introduction to Native America and American Indian



2. Postindians in the U.S.A.: Alexie's Smoke Signals


Thurs                             Read Alexie, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven.


Week 3

Tues                              Read Warrior, "Forward" (course pack), and reviews of Smoke Signals

(course pack).

                                      Web assignment: visit Alexie's web site at www.fallsapart.com.

In-class screening of Smoke Signals.


Thurs                             Read Alexie, Smoke Signals: A Screenplay.

                                      Discussion of Smoke Signals.


                                      3. Warriors and Whale Riders in Aotearoa/New Zealand


Week 4

Tues                              Read Taylor, "Sad Joke on a Marae" (electronic reserve), and Hulme,

"Silence on Another Marae" (electronic reserve).

                                      Mini-lecture: Introduction to Aotearoa/New Zealand and Maori culture.

Thurs                             Read Duff, Once Were Warriors.

                                      Discussion Team #1: __________________________________________


Week 5

Tues                              In-class screening of Once Were Warriors.


Thurs                             Discussion of Once Were Warriors.

                                      Discussion Team #2: __________________________________________


Week 6

Tues                              Read Ihimaera, "The Whale" (electronic reserve) and The Whale Rider.

                                      Discussion Team #3: __________________________________________


Thurs                             In-class screening of Whale Rider.

                                      Final Project Proposal due in class.


Week 7

Tues                              Discussion of Whale Rider.

                                      Discussion Team #4: __________________________________________


Thurs                             Comparative discussion: Once Were Warriors and Whale Rider.

                                      Discussion Team #5: __________________________________________


                                      4. Aborigines Go Hollywood: Rabbit-Proof Fence

Week 8

Tues                              Read Walker, "We Are Going" (electronic reserve), and Frankland, "Who

Took the Children Away?"(electronic reserve).

Mini-lecture: Introduction to Australia and Aboriginal cultures.


Thurs                             Read Pilkington, Rabbit-Proof Fence.

                                      Discussion Team #6: __________________________________________


Week 9

Tues                              In-class screening of Rabbit-Proof Fence.


Thurs                             Discussion of Rabbit-Proof Fence.

                                      Discussion Team #7: __________________________________________


Week 10

Tues                              Comparative discussion: Smoke Signals, Once Were Warriors, Whale

Rider, Rabbit-Proof Fence.

                                      Discussion Team #8: __________________________________________


Thurs                             Final projects due in class.

                                      Final class discussion.