Light and the Uncanny: Two Film Versions of "Wuthering Heights"

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The presentation is a demonstration of how to introduce students to theoretical issues in adaptation studies by examining the use of light in two film adaptations of Emily Bronte’s "Wuthering Heights" — William Wyler’s 1939 classic starring Lawrence Olivier and Peter Kosminsky’s ambitious 1992 failure starring Ralph Fiennes. Scholars of adaptation have long argued about whether it is possible to translate such standard elements of fiction as first-person narrative and authorial ambiguity effectively to the screen. The approach I will describe creates a laboratory for students to test competing theoretical perspectives. They begin with a close study of the uncanny elements in Bronte’s novel as reported by an unreliable narrator and then move to an examination of the ways the two film adaptations portray the uncanny, with particular attention to lighting effects. Attention is given both to the technical limitations under which each film crew operated and to the differing ambitions of the films — Wyler’s tackling only half of the novel, while Kosminsky’s version recounts the story of both generations. The study concludes with discussion and evaluation of Linda Hutcheon’s list of film theory clichés from A Theory of Adaptation.


Keywords: Film, Adaptation
Stream: Curriculum and Pedagogy; Student Learning, Learner Experiences, Learner Diversity
Presentation Type: 30 minute Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Dr. Gayla McGlamery

Associate Professor and Chair, English Department, Loyola College
Baltimore, Maryland, USA

I study Victorian literature and culture and also write on adaptations of nineteenth-century literature to film. I received my B.A. from Baylor University and my Ph.D. from Emory University and have taught at Loyola College in Baltimore for twenty-one years. My most recent article is "The Claim, the Western, and 'The Mayor of Casterbridge'," published in "Literature/Film Quarterly."

Ref: L09P1440