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Puss in Boots (from Shrek)

English 1A Course Syllabus

English 1A Fall 2017 Outline

Essays, the Research Paper, and Process Steps

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To modern audiences, the term “fairy tale” conjures up memories of Disney movies, including princesses and princes, singing mice, animated teapots and cups, and intrepid mermaids. However, the true history of fairy tales is much darker, including elements of murder, cannibalism, infanticide, and incest. Fairy tales, folk tales, and myths have always been more than simply stories for children; they mirror the fears, hopes, and values of the cultures that create them. Even in an age as technological as our own, these tales continue to be told because of their universal nature and their reflections of societal attitudes. This class investigates these narratives in the context of their origins, longevity, and evolving roles in popular culture. Our approach will be interdisciplinary, including explorations of how fairy tales relate to sociological and historical issues, psychological issues, gender roles, pedagogical, and film studies. We will investigate the universal prevalence of specific tale types and trace their transformations from oral storytelling through print to film, television, and the stage. We will also explore the evolution of the “literary fairy tale,” including the short stories by the pre-eminent post-modern literary creator of fairy tales, Angela Carter.

The textbook we will focus on initially is Maria Tatar’s The Classic Fairy Tales, second edition (a Norton Critical Edition). As the publisher states, “Fairy tales shape our cultures and enrich our imaginations; their narrative stability and cultural durability are incontestable. This Norton Critical Edition collects forty-four fairy tales, from the fifth century to the present. The Classic Fairy Tales focuses on six tale types: ‘Little Red Riding Hood,’ ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ ‘Snow White,’ ‘Cinderella,’ ‘Bluebeard,’ and ‘Hansel and Gretel,’ and presents multicultural variants and sophisticated literary rescriptings. . . . ‘Criticism’ gathers twelve essays that interpret aspects of fairy tales, including their social origins, historical evolution, psychological drama, gender issues, and national identities.”

As we work through the chapters in Tatar's anthology, we will read related works by Angela Carter, who wrote original stories using motifs from a variety of classic fairy tales, such as "Little Red Riding Hood," "Beauty and the Beast," and "Bluebeard." Critic Helen Simpson wrote in 2006 that “The Bloody Chamber is often wrongly described as a group of traditional fairy tales given a subversive feminist twist. In fact, these are new stories, not re-tellings. As Angela Carter made clear, ‘My intention was not to do ‘versions’ or, as the American edition of the book said, horribly, ‘adult’ fairy tales, but to extract the latent content from the traditional stories and to use it as the beginnings of new stories.”

We will next read Jane Yolen’s Briar Rose. Yolen took the motifs of the classic fairy tale "Sleeping Beauty" and created a novel about a young woman who travels from the United States to Europe to uncover her grandmother’s history and discovers haunting information about one of the darkest periods in modern history, the rise of the Third Reich and the devastating genocide now described as the Holocaust.

Throughout the semester, we will read articles relevant to the umbrella topic of fairy tales, focusing on issues like the use of fairy tales in child and adult education and media literacy development.