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 articluate 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.
- Participants in this course will learn about the historical development of four fairy tales, and that familiarity will allow them to approach new fairy tales with a complex understanding of the visual, linguistic, and structural choices made by each artist.
- Based on their expansive background knowledge, participants will also become increasingly able to generate insightful questions about the text, its context, and its implications. Participants should also be conscious of their own historical position, and be able to identify the issues that they individually bring to the text.
- Finally, this course is designed to help participants craft and articulate original interpretations of the literature in the form of scholarly arguments. Throughout the course, these arguments will be made both orally and in written forms consistent with current academic standards.
Shadow Spinner. (Susan Fletcher, New York: Aladdin Paperbacks), 1999. (preview)
Beast. (Donna Jo Napoli, New York: Simon Pulse), 2003.
Pay the Piper: A Rock 'n' Roll Fairy Tale. (Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple, New York: Tom Doherty), 2005. (preview)
Smaller essays and short stories will be available in the Magical and Marvelous Coursepack
- Midterm Paper (6-8 pages, minimum, 2 secondary sources)
- Final Paper (8-10 pages minimum, 3 secondary sources)
- Final Exam (one essay question to be answered during the assigned exam period)
- Q&A Sheets (10 homework handouts)