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  • Thomas Leitch
    Professor
    University of Delaware
    Department of English
    307 Memorial Hall
    Newark, DE 19716
    (302) 831-2298
    Office Hours: W, 12:30-3:30pm & by appointment

    Biography

    Thomas Leitch, trained as a literary scholar at Columbia and Yale, drifted into cinema studies when he discovered a love of storytelling that transcended literature. Even before he came to Delaware to teach film studies, he had already begun to explore this love in his first book, What Stories Are: Narrative Theory and Interpretation. Since then he has taught undergraduate courses in film, specializing in popular Hollywood genres from romantic comedy to film noir, and graduate courses in literary and cultural theory.

    Leitch has continued to move back and forth between literature and cinema studies in ten books and over a hundred essays. Since preparing an annotated bibliography of his teacher Lionel Trilling, he has published extensively on narrative theory, genre theory, and popular culture. In addition to Perry Mason and Crime Films, which was nominated for an Edgar Allan Poe Award in 2003, he has written two books on Alfred Hitchcock and coedited a third. For the past ten years, most of his work—especially Film Adaptation and Its Discontents: From Gone with the Wind to The Passion of the Christ—has focused on the process of textual adaptation and its broader implications for the teaching of English. His most recent books are Wikipedia U: Knowledge, Authority, and Liberal Education in the Digital Age and the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Adaptation Studies. He is currently working on The History of American Literature on Film.

    A two-time alumnus of the Salzburg Seminar, Leitch has taught as a Fulbright Lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He serves on the steering committee of the Delaware Teachers Institute and on the editorial boards of Literature/Film Quarterly, Adaptation, Journal of Adaptation in Film and Performance, Hitchcock Annual, Studia Filmoznawcze, the Contemporary Film and Media Studies series published by Wayne State University Press, and the Adaptation and Visual Culture series published by Palgrave Macmillan. He regularly reviews mystery and suspense fiction for Kirkus Reviews, where he is Mystery Editor.

Degrees 

  • Ph.D., English, Yale University, 1976
  • M.A., English, Yale University, 1973
  • B.A., English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University, 1972

Research Projects 

Publications 

  • Wikipedia U: Knowledge, Authority, and Liberal Education in the Digital Age
    Leitch, Thomas
    Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014.

    ​Since its launch in 2001, Wikipedia has been a lightning rod for debates about knowledge and traditional authority. It has come under particular scrutiny from publishers of print encyclopedias and college professors, who are skeptical about whether a crowd-sourced encyclopedia—in which most entries are subject to potentially endless reviewing and editing by anonymous collaborators whose credentials cannot be established—can ever truly be accurate or authoritative.

    In Wikipedia U, Thomas Leitch argues that the assumptions these critics make about accuracy and authority are themselves open to debate. After all, academics are expected both to consult the latest research and to return to the earliest sources in their field, each of which has its own authority. And when teachers encourage students to master information so that they can question it independently, their ultimate goal is to create a new generation of thinkers and makers whose authority will ultimately supplant their own.

    Wikipedia U offers vital new lessons about the nature of authority and the opportunities and challenges of Web 2.0. Leitch regards Wikipedia as an ideal instrument for probing the central assumptions behind liberal education, making it more than merely, as one of its severest critics has charged, "the encyclopedia game, played online."

     
  • Film Adaptation and Its Discontents: From Gone with the Wind to The Passion of the Christ
    Leitch, Thomas
    Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007.

    ​Most books on film adaptation―the relation between films and their literary sources―focus on a series of close one-to-one comparisons between specific films and canonical novels. This volume identifies and investigates a far wider array of problems posed by the process of adaptation.

    Beginning with an examination of why adaptation study has so often supported the institution of literature rather than fostering the practice of literacy, Thomas Leitch considers how the creators of short silent films attempted to give them the weight of literature, what sorts of fidelity are possible in an adaptation of sacred scripture, what it means for an adaptation to pose as an introduction to, rather than a transcription of, a literary classic, and why and how some films have sought impossibly close fidelity to their sources.

    After examining the surprisingly divergent fidelity claims made by three different kinds of canonical adaptations, Leitch's analysis moves beyond literary sources to consider why a small number of adapters have risen to the status of auteurs and how illustrated books, comic strips, video games, and true stories have been adapted to the screen. The range of films studied, from silent Shakespeare to Sherlock Holmes to The Lord of the Rings, is as broad as the problems that come under review.

     
  • Perry Mason
    Leitch, Thomas
    Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2005.

    ​Perry Mason was one of the most successful television programs from the 1950s and remains one of the most influential crime melodramas from any period. The show's influence goes far beyond its nine-year tenure (1957-66), the millions of dollars it generated for its creators and for CBS, and the definitive identification it provided its star, Raymond Burr. Perry Mason has become a true piece of Americana, evolving through a formulaic approach that law professors continue to use today as a teaching tool.

    In his examination of Perry Mason, author Thomas Leitch looks at why this series has appealed to so many for so long and what the continued appeal tells us about Americans' attitudes toward lawyers and the law, then and now. Beginning with its roots in earlier detective fiction, stories of fictional attorneys, and the work of Erle Stanley Gardner (the show's creator), Leitch lays out the circumstances under which Perry Mason was conceived and marketed as a distinct franchise. The evolution of Perry Mason is charted here in an inclusive manner, discussing the show's broadcast history (ending with the series of two-hour telemovies that aired nearly twenty years after the original series ended) alongside its generic nature and place within popular culture, the show's ideological dynamic, and issues of authorship in the context of television. This concise study is an excellent tool for television and media scholars as well as fans of the Perry Mason series.

     
 
  • UD College /Dept. Name  •   Address  •   Newark, DE 19716  •   USA
    Phone: 302-xxx-xxxx  •   E-mail: xxxxx@udel.edu

 

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