Wednesday, June 15, 2011

From Grimm to Disney

Course Description: Once upon a time … For centuries folk and fairy tales have fueled the popular imagination of people of all ages around the world. Fairy tales are perhaps most commonly associated with German literature, especially with the Brothers Grimm. Their tales have been adapted and reinterpreted in many countries. Here in the United States, the Walt Disney company was one of the first in the world to make movies out of the various fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm.

This First Year Seminar provides an introduction to the fairy tale tradition, an overview of the most famous German fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm and a comparison to the Disney movie adaptations. We will read, discuss and analyze various fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm as well as various Disney film adaptations, which most if not all students grew up with. In addition, the fairy tales will be illuminated from various perspectives, including formalist (structure and style), feminist, and psychoanalytic approaches. 

This seminar fulfills one or more of the following requirements of the McDaniel Plan: First-Year Seminar, Creative Expression, International Western and Textual Analysis

Learning Objectives: Through reading and analyzing fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm, students will gain a better understanding of the historical, social-cultural and political situation in 19th century Germany and Europe. In addition, students will learn how to compare the original fairy tales with the filmic adaptations by Walt Disney. This comparison will help students better understand the reasons why Disney has changed and subverted the originals. The course provides the students with the interpretative tools they need to critically examine the fairy tales and understand the fairy tale tradition. The learning objectives will be guided by some fundamental questions: What is the meaning of a particular fairy tale? What do fairy tales tell us about the culture they were crafted in? What do they mean to us today? What devices do the writers employ to accomplish their goals? What motifs and symbols are used in fairy tales and what do they mean? What are the various functions of fairy tales and how are these introduced and used in various tales?

Learning Outcomes: In the course of the semester, the students will improve their reading, writing and speaking skills and at the same time develop the analytical skills needed for a better understanding and an in-depth interpretation of the tales read and the films watched in the class. They will be able to identify motifs and symbols employed in the fairy tales and to critically analyze the tales and the films from various perspectives. In addition, they will write critical essays comparing the original tales with the film adaptations.

How the Learning Objectives will be met: The objectives will be met by using various methods: pre- and post reading assignments, class discussions, creating a blog and writing weekly reflections, taking notes and summarizing the class discussions and posting these summaries onto Blackboard, writing analytical papers, taking in-class  exams, and giving oral reports.

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