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ENGL 20118 - Reinventing the Fairy Tale, Spring 2008

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Author: Jacquilyn Weeks
Notre Dame OpenCourseware (OCW) offers free online educational resources for the course "Reinventing the Fairy Tale" in the Department of English. This course is structured around four main fairy tales: "Cinderella," the frame narrative for The Arabian Nights, "Beauty and the Beast," and "The Pied Piper of Hamelin," and we be looking at a number of different reinventions of those tales in the form of short stories, novels, poems, picture books, songs, and films. The focus will be on the stylistic, rhetorical, and ideological changes that are grafted into different versions.
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REINVENTING THE FAIRY TALE

Jacquilyn Weeks

English Department
University of Notre Dame

Course Structure: 75 minute classes - twice weekly

Illustrations, clockwise from top left: Cinderella. Arthur Rackham, 1919.
Scheherazade, the heroine of the One Thousand and One Nights. Edmond Dulac, 1907.
The Pied Piper of Hamelin. Kate Greenaway, 1888.
Beauty and the Beast. Walter Crane, 1875.

Course Description

This course is structured around four main fairy tales: "Cinderella," the frame narrative for The Arabian Nights, "Beauty and the Beast," and "The Pied Piper of Hamelin," and we be looking at a number of different reinventions of those tales in the form of short stories, novels, poems, picturebooks, songs, and films. Because the basic content will be familiar to most students, the focus will be on the stylistic, rhetorical, and ideological changes that are grafted into different redactions. Each variation that we study will be contextualized in its historical moment, and through class discussion, we will map the major developments of each tale, and because fairy tales often teach lessons, we will always be asking ourselves “What is the moral of this story?” For example, in 18c. France, “Beauty and the Beast” was penned to persuade young women to accept physically or intellectually undesirable but financially and socially advantageous marriages. What does that mean in context of Disney’s musical celebration of true love: “bittersweet and strange/finding you can change/learning you were wrong”?

Each set of fairy tales will also be paired with theory blocs addressing different critical frameworks: “Cinderella” with gender theory, The Arabian Nights with post-colonial and race theory, “Beauty and the Beast” with queer theory, and “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” with theories relating to the development of national identity. Students will be presented with a variety of (sometimes contradictory) arguments, and class discussion will be focused on exploring these intersections.

Note: The idea that fairy tales are for children or are somehow "innocent" is a fairly recent development. Fairy tales often articulate the extreme experiences of human emotion, and several of the stories that we will be looking at deal frankly and explicitly with sex, murder, child abuse, rape, and other "adult" topics.

This course was also cross-listed as GSC 20549.

 

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