Associate Professor Lesley Marx, Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town

Byron called Venice ‘a fairy city of the heart’ and its allure as a floating fantasy of labyrinthine canals, graceful gondolas and sighing bridges has captured the imagination of writers, painters and filmmakers. They have also been lured by its secrets and intrigues, its images of decay and palaces crumbling into the waters that wind their way through the city. This course will start by exploring a range of work that has tried to capture the mystery, the beauty and the unfathomable strangeness of this enchanting space: from Shakespeare’s Merchant and Othello, through Ruskin’s fascination with the stones of Venice and Turner’s evocation of its light to Italo Calvino’s prose poems and the more recent unfolding of John Berendt’s The City of Falling Angels. The focus of the subsequent lectures will be on a selection of stories and novels set in Venice and their film adaptations. 



1.   ‘The revel of the earth, the masque of Italy’

2.     Gothic Venice: ‘Don’t Look Now’ (story by Daphne du Maurier, 1971, film adaptation by Nicholas Roeg, 1973) and The Comfort of Strangers (novel by Ian McEwan,1981,film adaptation by Paul Schrader, 1990)

3.     Luchino Visconti’s Venice: Senso (1954, story by Camillo Boito, 1883)

4.     Luchino Visconti’s Venice: Death in Venice (1971, novella by Thomas Mann, 1912)

5.     Henry James’s Venice: The Aspern Papers, 1888 (film adaptation by Martin Gabel, 1947) and The Wings of the Dove, 1902 (film adaptation by Iain Softley, 1997)


Recommended reading

Boito, C. 1993. Senso (and other stories). New York: Dedalus.

Du Maurier, D. 1987. Daphne du Maurier's Classics of the Macabre. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.

Mann, T. 1986. Death in Venice. Cutchogue, N.Y.: Buccaneer Bks.

McEwan, Ian. 2006. The Comfort of Strangers. London: Vintage Books.


Date: 22–26 January   
Time: 3.30 pm
COURSE  FEES  Full: R510,00  Staff: R255,00  Reduced: R130,00