Feminist aliens, black vampires, and gay witches: Creating a critical polis using SF television in the college composition classroom
Dawn Eyestone, Iowa State University, United States
Iowa State University . Awarded
The ability to critically consume entertainment media is a necessary skill for an educated and functional society—a polis; however, contemporary college students are experienced consumers of pop culture but not necessarily critical ones. Since categories of identity (race, class, gender, sexual orientation, dis/ability, culture) are constructed, maintained, and reified through mainstream forces including, powerfully, the media, the ability to critique these forces is critical for an educated polis. Drawing on scholarship in critical pedagogy, cultural studies, and media literacy, this study uncovers the relative effectiveness of speculative fiction (SF) television as a pedagogical tool for developing critical thinking skills in college level English composition students. This study answers the question: To what extend does SF aid students in engaging in deeper critical thinking, especially about critical categories of identity, while simultaneously meeting the overall goals for college-level composition courses? The study reveals that SF television is especially useful to the goals of college communication courses, especially first-year composition courses, which specifically attempt to teach critical thinking. This occurs in part because SF creates a safe space for students to explore “strange new worlds” of difference in identity where usual tendencies to resist critique are ameliorated by the distance inherent in students’ orientation to the genre.
Eyestone, D. Feminist aliens, black vampires, and gay witches: Creating a critical polis using SF television in the college composition classroom. Ph.D. thesis, Iowa State University.
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