Sophie Gee on Film Adaptations

Sophie Gee, currently assistant professor of English at Princeton University and author of The Scandal of the Season, discusses "Popular Adaptations of Classic Literature" in "The New York Times".

Mass-market adaptations make Great Books go bad. Or so conventional wisdom would have it. But every so often, plundering and pillaging a canonical text for the sake of entertainment gives it the kiss of life. Take "Beowulf" and "Paradise Lost." The unpalatable truth is that both originals are now virtually unreadable. "Beowulf" is written in Old English, an inflected Germanic tongue that looks a lot less like our language than one would hope. As for Milton's epic, it's in "normal" English, but its blank verse is so densely learned, so syntactically complicated and philosophically obscure, that it's almost never read outside college courses. Even Samuel Johnson, writing 100 years after Milton, said: "'Paradise Lost' is one of the books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to take up again. None ever wished it longer than it is."
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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on January 17, 2008 9:22 AM.

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