Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Barbara J. Thayer-Bacon

Committee Members

Harry Dahms, Rebecca Klenk, Lois Presser


The purpose of this dissertation is to develop a pedagogical framework for applying a critical discourse methodology in the analysis of film as a multimodal, narrative construct of social discourse. This orientation is grounded in a cultural studies perspective that recognizes the significance of popular culture and allows me to situate film as a discursive practice, pedagogical resource, and (re)producer of social knowledges. Once situated, the need arises for a systematic method of critical analysis that controls for the rich, discursive landscape of multimodal artifacts without succumbing to over-reduction. My original contribution - the Active Critical Engagement (ACE) framework – addresses a gap in methodological applications for scholars interested in using critical discourse analysis and visual artifacts.

The ACE framework builds on multimodal critical discourse analysis to structure the interrogation of three films: My Name is Khan, Bhaji on the Beach, and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – films chosen because they allow for transnational considerations of Othering, orientalism, and situated experience. The key modal elements of text, imagery, and narrative are used to control for the semiotic richness offered in films. These elements are then filtered through analytic foci to identify and interrogate primary and secondary narratives for problematic iterations of power and marginalization. Finally, a post analysis functions as a reflective practice to allow for deeper interrogation of the interpreter’s experience.

The analysis generated by application of the ACE framework demonstrates the possibilities for facilitating a critical orientation - an orientation that questions dogmatic constructions of social knowledge that (re)produce discriminatory social practices. As a pedagogical tool, ACE finds its theoretical support in both critical and semiotic pedagogical methodologies. This reflects the centering of social justice issues and the impact of social discourses on the (re)production of social knowledges. This type of transformative teaching does diverge from most methods of standardized education and several practical concerns are considered. It is hoped that this research provides additional support for teachers incorporating critical analysis in their courses.

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