In this course, we will address the question of how young American women are acculturated to see some roles as desirable and others as unacceptable. In particular, we will explore the impact of popular culture, especially fairy tales, on the formation of a woman's self-image. We will examine the value of beauty, kindness, youth, sexuality, and wealth from variety of angles, and we will also assess what fairy tales from different cultures suggest about a woman's optimal size, age, intelligence, and aggressiveness.
We will begin by reading several versions of fairy tales from different time-periods and cultures, and we will contextualize those readings with commentaries that are also written from a range of perspectives: psychoanalytic, feminist, and sociological. Students will be required to see several film versions of the fairy tales we examine, although there will be no formal screenings. Once we have a fuller grasp of the variants of a given tale, it will be easier to appreciate what values are being endorsed by the popular dissemination of one particular version. We will then contrast the most well-known and influential versions of fairy tales with feminist revisions of those tales by Angela Carter, Jeanette Winterson, Tanith Lee, Jane Yolen, and others.