Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Topics in Women and Literature

ENGL 290.401
instructor(s):
TR 10:30-12

This course addresses feminist critiques and rewritings of fairy tales. Traditional fairy tales (such as those by Andersen and the brothers Grimm) construct gender categories that identify women with children, thus infantilizing the feminine subject and erasing (or metaphorically displacing) her sexuality. In the twentieth century, these stories begin circulating to a wide readership of children, thus making such gender categories normative. Mechanisms for disseminating these categories range from the nuclear family to the Disney film industry. We will begin our critique of the fairy tale tradition by reading several versions of and commentaries on different fairy tales, paying particular attention to the synecdoches that represent women, such as the Rose in "The Beauty and the Beast," or the footless dancer in "The Red Shoes." Students will be required to see several film versions of the fairy tales we examine, although there will be no formal screenings. Finally, we will turn to feminist revisions of the fairy tale tradition in the works of Angela Carter, Jeannette Winterson, and in the collection edited by Jack Zipes. Requirements include a short (one-page) oral presentation and three 6-8 page papers. I generally lecture for about 15 minutes or so, and the remainder of the class is devoted to discussion.