The Western “fairy
tale” is a genre we may think we know from childhood memories, but this course
is an introduction to its complex history, multiple social uses, and
transformations into literary fiction and film for adults. Fairy tales today
permeate contemporary culture in various media, and one of our ongoing projects
as a class will be to explore why they “stick” and how they’ve changed.
When oral tales of
magic were first adapted into printed literature in 16th-century
Europe they were not literature for children or strictly of European
provenance; and the process by which, from the 18th through the 20th
century, fairy tales became a popular genre across national boundaries in the
modern world is hardly linear or ideologically monolithic. Rather, while
maintaining a strong grip on ordinary social life, fairy tales have over the
centuries and in different social contexts offered imaginative outlets for
desire and change. Approaching fairy tales as socializing narratives that are
continuously adapted, we will focus on how they encourage and discourage
specific gendered and other cultural behaviors or prejudices as well as how
they enable new possibilities.
popular fairy-tale plots and themes, the course has historical and
cross-cultural breadth: we will be reading English-language translations of
early modern Italian and French fairy tales, the popular XIX-century German
tales of the Brothers Grimm, and the much older tales of The Arabian Nights; and we will discuss how and why contemporary
filmic productions, graphic novels, and literary adaptations for adults
reproduce and question the genre.
include a group presentation, focused in-class activities, quizzes, a short
paper, a midterm, and a final examination. Attendance is mandatory. We will
discuss two or three fairy-tale films, and students are responsible for
watching them outside of class.
This is a large-enrollment course that is open to non-majors. Required reading not listed below will be available
to download and print via Laulima.
Required Texts (available at Revolution Books, 2626 King Street)
Mary Zimmerman, Arabian Nights: a Play
Emma Donoghue, Kissing the Witch
Fables: 1001 Nights of Snowfall
Beckett, Sandra L. (ed.). Revisioning Red
Riding Hood Around the World: An Anthology of International Retellings
Maria Tatar ed.,
The Classic Fairy Tale