Part Five: Pedagogy
As outlined in Part Two: Criticism, there exists a history of children’s film criticism that includes a discussion of way in which films might be
taught to teachers to prepare them to incorporate film instruction into the school curriculum. Part Five: Pedagogy, as the epigraphs suggest, continues that discussion by politicizing a pedagogy of film. I try to show how teachers might appropriate the language of literary and film theory to provide students with what David Whitley, in “Reality in Boxes: Children’s Perception of Television Narratives” (1996), calls a “critical vocabulary” (50) for analyzing children’s media in general and children’s films in particular. Whitley borrows the word “modality” from linguistics to analyse the closing scenes of Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book, arguing that because films such as The Jungle Book “have now begun to form a major strand of young children’s viewing experience” (55), they should be taught seriously. Indeed, just as education students enrolled in Departments of Language and Literature are taught how to read and interpret children’s literature using literary theories ranging from formalism to feminism, new historicism, and Marxist-informed cultural studies, in the name of what Louis Giannetti calls “Cineliteracy” (xi) and what Tom Davenport calls “Media literacy” (195), students also should be taught how to use those same literary theories (including those of linguistics) to critique children’s films. Long overdue in all levels of American education, “visual literacy” (Stahl 6) provides teachers and students with a critical vocabulary for understanding how children’s films produce meanings, which circulate within the text as well as within the economy, the effect Marsha Kinder calls a “supersystem: a network of interrelated narrative texts or media products” (quoted in Wartella, 40).