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Feminist Fairy Tales

ENGL 592.301
instructor(s):
T 9-12:00

At the intersection of feminist revisionism, cultural studies, literature, folklore, and psychoanalysis stands the fairy tale. In this course, we will explore the question of how young American women are acculturated through fairy tales by contextualizing the most familiar stories in a variety of ways: we will read different versions from various cultures and time periods, investigate a range of interpretive methods, and compare this newly prismatic vision with images produced by American popular culture. The point is to assess the impact of such images on the formation of a woman's self-image. What is the relative importance of beauty, kindness, youth, sexuality, intelligence, size, aggressiveness, and wealth in the portrait of a generally "desirable" Western woman?

We will begin the course by looking at different versions of traditional tales, including several film versions. Once we have a fuller grasp of the variants of a given tale, it becomes easier to appreciate what values are being endorsed by the popular dissemination of one particular version. We will then contrast familiar versions of well-known fairy tales with feminist revisions by Angela Carter, Jeanette Winterson, Tanith Lee, Jane Yolen, and others.

Requirements include one short (one-page) oral presentation and two ten page-papers.