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PWR 2BRC: Re-Make It Anew: The Rhetoric of Adapting, Rebooting, and Remaking

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Whenever a remake comes out or a book gets made into a movie, critics and audiences are quick to say “the original was better.” And yet, Hollywood and television studios -- and their audiences --love a reboot, a remake, a franchise, or an adaptation. From NBC’s Will & Grace to the new Mary Poppins movie, familiarity and nostalgia sell. Many movies and series are also adapted across cultures and languages, like the Danish Forbrydelsen, which became The Killing for American audiences, or the British Office, which got its own successful American makeover.

In this class we’ll question what’s at stake in such cultural recyclings. Why do audiences respond to familiarity? What can adaptations and remakes tell us about their cultural and political moments? To answer such questions, we’ll draw on work in adaptation, film, and music studies, and on theories of remixing, remediating, and translating. We’ll consider the biological analogies of “remixing,” and the legal boundary between “fair use” and infringing on copyright. Finally, we’ll consider how these debates and theories tap into longstanding associations between creativity and originality, as well as imitation and popular culture. Students will choose their own angles within this theme for their research project. For example, projects could center on the reception of a popular book turned film or television series, from Pride and Prejudice to Game of Thrones. Along the way, we’ll practice what we study as we adapt our research projects across essays and presentations. Students will also produce a third adaptation of their research in a form of their choice, whether an infographic, an op-ed, a piece of art, or even a poem.

Major Assignments

Research Proposal

(5 minute live oral presentation; written text of 600-1200 words): In this assignment, students write a proposal for a research project related to the theme of adaptation, framing the research question and situating it in their preliminary research. Projects could investigate how recent adaptations of Frankenstein have given voice to fears about bioethics in the age of stem cell research and CRISPR; how mashup artists like Girl Talk whose first album The New York Times called “a lawsuit waiting to happen”have shaped debates about originality and copyright; or how recent Marvel comics have reimagined the source materials in ways that respond to concerns about representation in Hollywood.

Written Research-Based Argument

(3000-3600 words; 10-12 pages) Students will craft a well-researched argument that investigates how the rhetoric of adaptation works in their particular case studies and fields of inquiry.

Delivery of Research

(10 minute live oral presentation with appropriate multimedia support) With this assignment, students will translate their research-based argument into a live oral presentation with media support. Students will think critically about how to employ the rhetoric of adaptation in their own presentations of their research, and about how their strategies will differ across the written and oral versions of their research arguments.

Genre/Mode Assignment

(Creative adaptation + ~500 word reflection) This assignment will ask students to engage more creatively with our class theme by reimagining/rebooting their RBA into a genre of their choice—a comic, an infographic, a poem, etc. Students will write a brief reflection that provides an explanation of their rhetorical choices, which will be the basis for their grade for this assignment.