Experiencing World Cultures through Literatures in English

L112 — Fall 2021

Dana Anderson
Days and Times
9:25a - 10:40a TR
Course Description

Topic: Literature and Culture through the Lens of Disney

Few organizations have more definitively, more recognizably shaped global culture than the Walt Disney Company. An ambition that began nearly a century ago with one man in Missouri has now influenced billions and filled the world with innumerable texts, ranging from animated and live-action films to physical spaces and experiences. Time and again, these texts have taken a common source of inspiration: literature. Disney has vivified stories and characters from literary history that will forever bear the company’s stamp, a fact that has earned it perhaps equal numbers of supporters and critics in the process. This influence, coupled with the company’s incredibly wide range of interest in literature, gives us a unique vantage point from which to consider the key questions of our course:

  • What is “culture”? What roles do cultures play in making human experience meaningful?
  • What is “literature”? What distinguishes it as one type or kind of text or experience within culture?
  • How does literature enter culture and become “literature?”
  • What tools, ideas, and concepts help us to better understand what literature is, including its values and functions as part of culture?
  • Finally, how do filmic and material adaptations of literary texts give us insight into the above questions?

To engage these questions, we will read several works of literature in their original forms (in some cases, the English translations of their original forms). We will then view and analyze the various animated, live action, and physical/experiential adaptations that the Disney Company creates through its interpretations of these original texts. In each instance, our goal will be not merely to talk about the obvious differences between these texts and adaptations but rather to examine how these differences enable the texts to do different things in culture, to perform different persuasive functions—rhetorical functions—to and for their intended audiences. What we ultimately hope to experience in “Experiencing World Cultures through Literature” then, is an enhanced appreciation of how we make and share meaning as part of life, especially when this meaning comes from our engagement with literary discourse.


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