In preparation for Monday’s lecture on Herman Melville’s short story “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Tale of Wall Street,” we’re showing Jonathan Parker‘s film adaptation Bartleby (2001) this Friday evening to our students. The film stars Crispin Glover as the title character, who comes to work not in a law office but in a public records firm headed up by a character listed in the credits as “The Boss” (David Paymer). One of the clerks is transformed into “Vivian,” the office manager (played by Glenne Headly), while the others are named “Rocky” (Joe Piscopo) and “Ernie” (Maury Chaykin).
Despite these changes, the short story’s signature phrase — “I would prefer not to” — remains prominently featured.
New York Times reviewer A. O. Scott writes that “Mr. Parker has brilliantly updated his source and grasped its essence, composing a sorrowful and hilarious tone poem about alienated labor, or an absurdist workplace sitcom, as if a team of French surrealists had been put in charge of ‘The Drew Carey Show.'” We’re hoping our students will agree.