My course is a hybrid version of a more traditional course I designed about ten years ago at my previous institution, “Disney: Gender, Race, Empire.” This course emerged out of another course I taught: “Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality,” which was often a challenging course to teach, primarily because of student resistance to thinking about the effects of intersecting systems of oppression. However, each time I taught RCGS, I noticed that students reacted well to the unit on media, and that was often the moment where the majority of them engaged with the themes of the class. So I created Disney in order to address these themes by considering them within the context of recent Disney animated films. Since then, I’ve taught the course regularly. Here at OSU, it’s a DPD course, and seems to be incredibly popular among undergraduates who are often new to the ideas presented in the class. However, almost all the students are familiar with the Disney films we discuss, and some of them seem to have very deep attachments to the films.
I’m capping the hybrid version of the course at 35 students, as I want to have a small enough group to figure out what I’m doing! We’ll meet once a week for an hour and twenty minutes, and I’m organizing the modules around specific films, with themes emerging from the films. For example, early on in the term students will learn about film theory and criticism, and gain exposure to basic concepts about gender, race, class, etc., and then in the week we focus on Pocahontas, students will read about colonialism and conquest, genocide, and the politics of representation of indigenous women. Outside of our classroom time, students will screen films, complete readings and short critical essays, participate in online discussions (possibly using “voicethread,” to be able to focus our discussions around specific sets of images and representations), and do online homework assignments and quizzes. Also, I’m creating a small group assignment of developing a “learning guide,” where students can collaborate (using wikis) to figure out how they might engage child viewers about themes and issues in the films. I’m planning to use our class meeting time for face-to-face discussions about the themes that emerge each week, and I may include short lectures to give more context and help make connections when needed.