Film of the book

Course Dates: 24/01/19 - 21/03/19
Time: 13:00 - 15:00
Location: KS - Keeley Street
Tutor: Patricia Sweeney

Read works of fiction and view their cinematic adaptations, considering if 'fidelity' is important in bringing a literary text to the screen. Includes James M. Cain's 1941 novel Mildred Pierce, filmed as noir/melodrama in 1945 (dr.Michael Curtiz) and two novels with screenplays by Harold Pinter: Penelope Mortimer’s 1962 novel The Pumpkin Eater (dr. Jack Clayton,1964) and Accident (1965) by Nicholas Mosley (dr. Joseph Losey,1967).


What is the course about?

We will read works of fiction and view their cinematic transformations, developing an understanding of plot,
characterisation and narrative in a film making context. Each session includes analysis and discussion of the literary text and an opportunity to view and consider extracts from the films.

Biographical information:
Patricia Sweeney is Programme Coordinator for Literature and Film at City Lit, with specialist teaching interests in modern and contemporary literature, drama and film adaptation. In addition to her work at City Lit, Patricia has taught literature courses for the Open University and Literature, Drama and Film courses for Birkbeck, University of London.

What will we cover?

James M Cain: Mildred Pierce
We will read Cain’s 1941 novel of post Depression California, considering the protagonist’s function as femme fatale or victim. Contributing to the origins of the ‘Los Angeles novel’, Cain’s characters pursue the ‘frontier myth’ of California as the fabled land of opportunity, yet the reality is often a place of disappointment and failure.

Film: Michael Curtiz’s 1945 film challenges some of the accepted noir conventions, but is firmly placed in the canon. The film’s narrative is recounted in three flashbacks, two in the discourse of a ‘woman’s film’ or ‘melodrama’.
Joan Crawford stars as Mildred, a housewife with ambitions to succeed in a man's world.

"For her (Mildred) Los Angeles is neither the Emerald City nor the Great Wrong place, but a house and a job and even sometimes a husband - in Glendale." - David Wyatt in The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of Los Angeles, 2010

The Pumpkin Eater by Penelope Mortimer
We shall be examining Mortimer’s 1962 novel, which deals with themes of identity, sexuality, marriage and motherhood.

"She captured the times every bit as deftly as any angry young man." Rachel Cooke, NYRB, 2015

"A subtle, fascinating, unhackneyed novel…in touch with human realities and frailties, unsentimental and amused…so moving, so funny, so desperate, so alive…a fine book, and one to be greatly enjoyed."
Elizabeth Janeway, The New York Times

Film: The Pumpkin Eater, directed by Jack Clayton in 1964, with a screenplay by Harold Pinter.
Actors: Anne Bancroft, Peter Finch & James Mason

Accident: "Nicholas Mosley's major theme is 'the public face and the private helplessness…He writes particularly well the prose of shock, of the dead, small hours: and he also writes, as few can, of the pain and purpose of marriage." (Sunday Times, London)

Film: Directed by Joseph Losey, Accident, Winner of the 1967 Grand Jury Prize at Cannes, is one of three film collaborations with Harold Pinter.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

-Identify key aspects in the work of selected writers.
-Identify social contexts of the books and films
-Appreciate the process of rendering the novel into film.
-Consider the relationship between verbal and visual language.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

All levels are welcome, though some experience of literary and/or film study would be an advantage.
An enjoyment of reading texts and viewing films is essential.
You will have a commitment to developing your analytical skills.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

A variety of teaching methods will be used: tutor exposition, large and small group discussion, readings and viewings of DVD extracts. You will be expected to undertake preparatory reading before the class.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

You will need to obtain two texts:
Mildred Pierce (1941) by James M Cain; Orion, 2008
The Pumpkin Eater (1962) by Penelope Mortimer; Penguin Classics 2015 or NYRB, 2011
Extracts of Accident will be supplied by the lecturer. (Dalkey Archive Press, 1991)
Bring a pen and paper or a tablet to take notes.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Look for other courses in Literature and Film Studies under History, Culture and Writing on the website at or in the prospectus under Humanities.

General information and advice on courses at City Lit is available from the Student Centre and Library on Monday to Friday from 12:00 – 19:00.
See the course guide for term dates and further details


Customer Reviews 1 item(s)

Write a review
[The tutor] is a wonderful lecturer - always well prepared, she encourages class participation, is helpful and sends us home with copious interesting notes. I learnt a lot, particularly about how a film is made and all the aspects thereof. We first discussed the book, then saw extracts of an iconic film of the book. The film often differs from the book but proves valuable in most cases, the film being an art form in its own right. It is based on the book but need not be exactly like the book. It is only important to retain its essence.
Course Rating
Review by Tish / (Posted on 13/04/2015)

Sorry, this course is now full

Course Code: HLT62

Full Thu, day, 24 Jan - 21 Mar '19

Duration: 9 sessions (over 9 weeks)

Full fee: £159.00
Senior fee: £127.00
Concession: £70.00

Please note: we offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. For more information visit our online Help Center. You can also visit the Information, Advice and Guidance drop-in service, open from 12 – 6.45, Monday to Friday.