Authors@Alden: A Conversation with Samuel Crowl

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Dr. Samuel Crowl, a founding fellow of the Ping Institute and a trustee professor of English literature, specializes in Shakespeare and Renaissance drama. (Photo by Lauren Pond/University Libraries)

On Thursday, April 3rd at 5:30 p.m., the Libraries is proud to host Dr. Samuel Crowl in another installment of its Authors@Alden series. Crowl, a Ping Institute founding fellow and trustee professor of English literature, will discuss his latest book, “Screen Adaptations: Shakespeare’s Hamlet: The Relationship Between Text and Film.”

The twice-distinguished University Professor is the author of numerous essays, articles, reviews, interviews and books about Shakespeare in performance including “Shakespeare at the Cineplex: The Kenneth Branagh Era.” His expertise has taken him on lecture tours everywhere from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. to the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon, and on April 3rd, it brings him back to Alden Library. 

Shakespeare’s “language in action” has been a source of enchantment for Crowl since his early teens. After an education with prominent Shakespeare critics at Hamilton College and Indiana University, he began his OHIO career in the 1970s teaching courses about Shakespeare on film. It quickly became apparent to him that many of the movies covered in his classes outshone their academic reputations. He followed his interest, connected with other like-minded scholars and rose to prominence in the field of Shakespearean film studies.

“Shakespeare on film is its own genre with its own grammar and rhetoric,” Crowl said. “The question to ask is not, ‘Is the film good Shakespeare,’” but rather, ‘Is it a good film?’”

Attendees can look forward to learning more about the world of cinematic Shakespeare at the upcoming Authors@Alden event, where Crowl will offer insight on the process of translating the Bard from text to film.

"Screen Adaptations: Shakespeare's Hamlet: The Relationship Between Text and Film," Dr. Samuel Crowl's latest book.
“Screen Adaptations: Shakespeare’s Hamlet: The Relationship Between Text and Film,” Dr. Samuel Crowl’s latest book.

The process has been undertaken often — as Crowl notes in his book, Hamlet is fertile ground for film. There are approximately 20 literal adaptations of the play for the screen, not including use of the play as a subtextual backbone in movies such as the “The Lion King” and “L.A. Story.” For the sake of a richer analysis, Crowl chose to zero in on two classic Hamlet films that sample directly from Shakespeare’s language and narrative — Laurence Olivier’s 1948 adaptation and Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 version — and scrutinize every facet, including dialogue, screenplay, musical score, landscape, camera, and use of flashbacks.

His book — part of which was written in an Alden Library carrel – also draws upon new “behind-the-scenes” material from the British Library’s Laurence Olivier papers, and according to Crowl, it is the first to make use of the papers of Olivier’s Hamlet film editor, Helga Cranston.

All of these elements culminate in a fascinating analysis. As Crowl observed, although the two films originate from the same country, they are products of radically different historical contexts. The directors’ resulting approaches toward the adaptation of Shakespeare’s text are “challengingly different” and speak to changing times.

“These films carry on a vital conversation with one another,” writes Crowl.

It’s a discussion that you’re invited to participate in. Join us for “Authors@Alden: A Conversation with Samuel Crowl” in the 1951 Lounge on the fourth floor of Alden Library on Thursday, April 3rd from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Open to the public, the event will be facilitated by lorrain wochna, the Libraries’ instruction coordinator, and refreshments will be served.

You can also stream a live webcast of the event on the Authors@Alden page via Adobe Connect. Current students, staff and faculty of Ohio University can log in with their OHIO email and password, and alumni and friends can log in as a guest. Please plan to join the webcast 15 minutes early to ensure proper connectivity. If you have any questions about accessing the live webcast, please contact Kevin Prince at 740-593-4919.