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The History of American Literature on Film


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements Introduction: American Cinema and American Literatures Chapter 1. 1895-1915: The Attraction of Adaptation Chapter 2. 1915-1927: American Exotics Chapter 3. 1927-1939: Novel Impressions Chapter 4. 1939-1951: Invisible Adaptation Chapter 5. 1951-1967: Weaponized Bestsellers Chapter 6. 1967-1975: Counterculture Classics Chapter 7. 1975-1989: Screening the Silenced Chapter 8. 1989-2007: Adapt or Die Chapter 9.2007-2018: Entertainment for Me Bibliography Index

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A comprehensive history of American literature on film, analyzing the changing cinematic art and politics of adaptation between the years 1896 and the present.

About the Author

Thomas Leitch is Professor of English at the University of Delaware, USA. His most recent books are Wikipedia U: Knowledge, Authority, and Liberal Education in the Digital Age (2014) and The Oxford Handbook of Adaptation Studies (2017).


A thrilling story of the history of American literature on screen, from Hollywood's inception to the present, The History of American Literature on Film demonstrates Hollywood's diverse and fraught relation to American literary traditions. A boon to film, literature, adaptation, and media scholars, the book provides a history of Hollywood film, as well as a valuable analysis of the variegated and multiple "scripts" that provoke and serve as sources for film adaptations. Focused on distinct themes, yet wide-ranging and full of important insights about American film, literary, and media cultures, this exhilarating book is as informative as it is deeply pleasurable to read. * Julie Grossman, Prof. of English and Communication and Film Studies, Le Moyne College, USA *
This monograph benefits from Thomas Leitch's extensive career researching and teaching American literature, film, and adaptation. Rigorously researched and rich with knowledge and insight, this wide-ranging, multi-faceted, deftly integrates larger purviews with closer analyses, bringing fresh and rigorous insights to long-standing debates. This formidable achievement is a valuable contribution to adaptation studies. * Kamilla Elliott, Professor of Literature and Media, University of Lancaster, UK *
A superb achievement. Leitch challenges conventional notions of 'literature' and 'history' and in doing so puts practices of adaptation at the heart of Hollywood cinema. Writing with characteristic wit and intelligence, he traces how American cinema, in its irreverent approach to its national literature, shaped the cultural context for best-sellers, classics and comic books alike. Those who just dip in will find insights on every page, not just into films, stars and genres but into topics as diverse as the shift to sound in the 1930s and convergence culture in the 2000s. But Leitch's real achievement is to carry his sustained argument with such vigour and conviction over so many years of cinema history and so many pages of this absorbing book. * Professor Christine Geraghty, Honorary Professorial Fellow, University of Glasgow, UK *

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