As spring semester is winding down, registration has opened for fall classes. If you are in need of finding an upper-division course that satisfies your cross-cultural gender studies, as well as your race and ethnic studies, then here is one that might interest you.
You’ve probably seen the posters around campus that advertise a course on “Walt Disney and Pop Culture” (HUM 3703). Next fall Dr. Douglas Brode will discuss Walt Disney’s works and their effects on current culture.
Dr. Brode, who has taught at Syracuse University in New York, is an award-winning journalist, a film critic, a novelist and a graphic novelist. Presently, he is a faculty member of UTSA’s Department of Philosophy and Classics. Dr. Brode answered some questions for “The Paisano” about his fall course:
What will you be discussing in the “Walt Disney and Pop Culture” Course?
The way in which the films of Walt Disney (as well as TV shows and theme parks) have influenced the way people see the world. The degree to which films that were made as entertainment transcend that limitation and become art by conveying social and personal ideas. That is, the manner in which the films reflect society and also help to change it, and Walt Disney’s own personal vision — conveyed through the movies and all other materials from Walt Disney productions.
What materials or books will you be using?
Both of my books, “From Walt to Woodstock: How Disney Created the Counterculture” and “Multiculturalism and the Mouse: Race and Sex in Disney Entertainment.” The films will be drawn from those made before the death of Walt Disney (1966) and which he personally supervised. We will see the classic animated films but also westerns, nature documentaries, and situation comedies for a full spectrum of Disney’s work. We will also see the forbidden film, “Song of the South,” to determine if it is or isn’t racist in the minds of my students.
How did you come up with a course like this one?
While teaching at Syracuse University and writing books on subjects that interest me, I happened on the idea of teaching courses that lead to books and writing books that lead to courses. The two are synergistic for me – I can’t separate them.
What other courses have you taught — either in New York or Texas?
Many, many. Here at UTSA I have taught courses on “The Twilight Zone,” “Star Wars,” and “Vampires: Fact, Film, and Fiction.” Some of these were also offered at Syracuse University before I moved here to Texas. My own personal favorite course is “Shakespeare: A Literary and Film Study,” which I’m currently teaching and will teach again next spring.
What advice would you give for students in the Disney course?
Don’t sign up unless you are willing to put about three hours work in, each and every week. This isn’t (pardon the bad pun) a Mickey Mouse course. Though of course Mickey is included in the curriculum. It’s a course for people who want to work hard and learn a great deal about Walt Disney in particular, popular culture in general.
Do you have any plans to create new courses at UTSA like this one? Or do you know of any courses similar to yours?
I don’t know of any. One of the new courses I’ll be teaching this coming fall is “The Western.” Again, I have a book on the subject, “Dream West”, which I’ll use as the text. I just signed to do two books on “Star Trek” and I may, in due time, create a course on the films and franchise. I’d like to do a course on mob movies.
Are you teaching any screenwriting or graphic novel writing courses?
No, not at this point.
What do you hope for students to learn in this Disney course?
A great deal about the way in which aspects of popular culture that seem to be there just for the fun of it can actually contain complex meanings when analyzed and deconstructed. That’s what we do in all my classes.
Any plans for a new book or projects?
For the Christmas season of 2014, my book “Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Watching John Wayne Movies” will be released. Shortly after that, “Out of this World: The 100 Greatest Science Fiction Films.” My third graphic novel, about the Mafia and titled “Made Men,” will probably be the next one after that.
For more information on the “Walt Disney and Pop Culture” Course, visit ASAP or bluebook.utsa.edu.