How do I refer to works with identical titles?
Note: This post relates to content in the eighth edition of the MLA Handbook. For up-to-date guidance, see the ninth edition of the MLA Handbook.
It’s not uncommon for a writer to discuss two or more works with the same title. For example, a writer may compare different editions or translations of the same work or discuss a written work and its film adaptation with the same title.
When identical titles are styled identically—such as the italic titles of a novel and film of the same name—writers need to distinguish the works from one another in the context of discussing them. Pay special attention to points where your writing transitions from one work to another. To avoid confusion about identically titled works, these transitions should be clear and obvious.
Two years after Harper Lee published To Kill a Mockingbird, the film To Kill a Mockingbird, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, was released. Lee’s novel is narrated by Finch’s daughter, who is called Scout, while the film relies less heavily on Scout’s first-person narration.
The courtroom scenes of To Kill a Mockingbird are shortened in the film version, which also doesn’t explore the aftermath of the trial.
In-text citations can also aid in differentiating works with identical titles.
An early scene in To Kill a Mockingbird establishes Atticus’s character as well as the nature of his relationship with Scout. Atticus tells her, “You never really understand someone until you consider things from his point of view—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it” (Lee 30).
Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. Grand Central Publishing, 2015.
To Kill a Mockingbird. Directed by Robert Mulligan, Universal Pictures, 1962.