English Department faculty, student present film adaptation research at virtual symposium

Assistant professors of English Craig Morehead and Dan Burns, with Christina Stafford ’25 presented at the joint Literature/Film Association and the Association of Adaptation Studies conference.

Elon University faculty Craig Morehead and Dan Burns, along with student Christina Stafford ’25 were panelists at the first jointly sponsored online conference of the Literature/Film Association and the Association of Adaptation Studies, the premier U.S. and U.K. venues for interdisciplinary scholarship on literature, film, television, game studies, new media and other forms of audio-visual culture.

Morehead, assistant professor of English, presented his research on how some films produce the same kind of political emotions that public monuments and memorials do. His talk “Monument Films and the Politics of Tragic Emotions” identified the aspects of a new film genre that aligns itself with the commemorative and political aspirations of monuments. Reading Oliver Stone’s film “World Trade Center” as an example of how these kinds of films create a national “tragic spectatorship,” he made the claim that monument films do their political work through orienting their audiences toward feeling certain national events as tragedies.

Inspired by their work in a recent Literature on Screen course, Burns, assistant professor in English, and Stafford, a first-year English major, gave a collaborative talk entitled, “Voice v. Vision: The Reception Histories of ‘If Beale Street Could Talk.’”

Their presentation examined Barry Jenkins’ 2019 adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel in dialogue with recent film scholarship as well as excerpts from the author’s own unfinished screenplay of his narrative. Written on-spec by Baldwin after Universal Studios acquired the rights to “If Beale Street Could Talk” in the mid-70s, the fragmentary document remains unpublished and is available only in the James Baldwin Papers at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture—where Burns conducted archival research in Fall 2021 with a grant from the Provost’s Office.

The virtual symposium, entitled “Only Connect,” highlighted the importance of textual, intertextual, social and biological adaptation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Literature/Film Association is currently the largest and most active scholarly society in the United States devoted to the study of literature and film. The U.K.-based Association of Adaptation Studies is committed to challenging assumptions concerning the boundaries of literature on screen and enlarging the place of adaptation studies across the humanities curriculum.