Thank you all so much for being such awesome followers, and a special thanks to those of you who filled out my feedback survey at the end of last year. It was very helpful and encouraging, and it helped me make some decisions about how the blog will look in 2019. So, without further ado, here’s a look at what to expect on the blog this year!
Recommendation Day: I really enjoyed Recommendation Day as a feature, and I’d love to keep it going this year. Everyone’s suggestions were truly fantastic, and it will be a great way to keep me reading for fun in the midst of reading for my Qualifying Exams (more on that later).
Monthly Wrap-Ups: I’ll still make posts about what I’ve read every month, though I might change the format to leave out the book covers, because I feel like that probably clogs up people’s dashes too much (and it’s time consuming).
Top Five Wednesdays: I’ll try to be more consistent about Top 5 Wednesdays because it’s pretty simple and a lot of people enjoy it!
Book Reviews: I’ll still be doing book reviews as usual! However, I’ll also be adding a special kind of review, but I’ll talk more about that later!
First Friday Fairy Tales: I love these, and I’m keeping them. lol
Iridia Content: You’ll still see Iridia content pop up from time to time, even though publication is currently put off indefinitely. I’ll try to be a bit more diligent about updating when I’m working on it and how the publishing journey is going.
TBR Lists: I ultimately found these too stressful because I already have plenty of due dates for school, so it doesn’t feel good to try to tell myself to read certain books in a month.
The Diverse Reading Challenge: I gave it a go, but in the end, I don’t think I can keep it running for a second year. I really appreciate those who did participate, but since it’s not something I need for myself anymore, I don’t want to add the pressure to read specific books at a specific time this year. That said, if you still want to talk about diverse books, please come chat with me about them! I’ll continue to boost them as I read them.
Quote Graphics: These were a new thing I tried out later in the year, and while they were kind of fun, my heart wasn’t really in them. Maybe I’ll still do one from time to time, but otherwise I’ll stick to graphics about Iridia.
Fairy Tale Retelling Reviews: In 2019, I’ll be reading for my Qualifying Exams in Comparative Literature and Folklore for my Dual Ph.D. I plan to take them early 2020, but I’ll start reading this coming year. One of my lists is fairy tale retellings, so I thought it would be fun to do a different sort of comparative review as I read them (there are like, 25+ on my list). These might coincide with FFFT, but most likely not. I figure I’ll be reading and reviewing these books anyway, so I thought I might put a little twist on them which will also be a helpful study guide for my exams! Depending on how spring semester goes, this might not start up until late spring, but we’ll see!
Cat Photos: I have posted an occasional picture of my cats, Milo and Millie, but tbh I take so many pictures I don’t know what to do with them, so I’ll put those on here more! 😉
Me Stuff: I got away from doing it this year because I was trying to gear the blog in a particular direction prior to the publication of UNROOTED (which is no longer happening). So, I figure I can go back to being a little bit more personable on the blog. I’ve kind of missed it.
Thank you all so much again for being so great. I hope to meet and interact with more of you this year, and as new ideas and new things come up, I’ll be sure to let you know. Happy New Year to everyone!
Hello again! I’m happy to say I’ve got a much longer list for you here. If you have access to JSTOR or a local library, you may be able to get access to some of them that way, but I’m not sure how all that works in Argentina. Anyway, here’s a long list of feminist fairy tale scholars that I know of (*or have met)!
Gahhh sorry it took so long for me to get to this, nonnie! I love this topic so I wanted to make sure I had time to give you a good answer.
This is kind of the nexus of all of my professional research interests (my first Master’s Thesis was related to this topic, and I’m also writing a couple of term papers now that discuss it in a couple of different ways). Below, between the lines, I’m including an excerpt from the term papers I’m working on (cobbled together from the two of them).
The fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm began as oral folktales known as Märchen before they were collected and compiled in Die Kinder- und Hausmärchen between 1812 and 1857. The project was begun in an effort to compile a set of stories that were uniquely German in order to establish a German national identity. This romantic nationalism led to the Grimms seeking out those whom they perceived to be the folk—primarily older women in the countryside of Germany. Some of their sources were educated friends, such as the Wild and von Haxthausen sisters, who reported stories told to them by their nursemaids. Many of their stories were contributed by Dorothea Viehmann, who became the idealized image of what a folk narrator of Märchen looked like—an elderly, wizened woman with little formal education. Peter Taylor and Hermann Rebel write of the source of the Grimms’ collection:
Before the Hessian peasantry’s tales became the property of children and academicians, through the services of the Grimms and their successive publishers, they were almost entirely in the minds of village storytellers most of whom, it appears, were women. There is even some evidence to suggest that the tales were not only by but also for women, something not entirely unexpected in a region legendary for its powerful women. (Taylor & Rebel 254)
Over the course of their project, the Grimms’ goals became less ethnographic and more literary, as public interest in their collection grew. Opportunities for financial benefit led to the brothers (largely Wilhelm), editing and adapting their collection both for authenticity and for literary palatability. The Grimms notably established their own literary register and narrative style that emulated but was different from the women’s oration style in the way it had been collected. Thus, Die Kinder-und Hausmärchen represents a text that has already passed through two phases of gendered mediation even before its translation into English. Scholars such as Siegfried Neumann delineate how the Grimms, particularly Wilhelm, edited the text over time for their more literary—and thus more masculine—concerns: “Through his textual revisions, however, Wilhelm—despite all his efforts to reconstruct the ‘genuine’ voice of the folk—increasingly endowed the fairy tales with a poetic art form of his own making. In other words, the Grimms’ original striving to record the oral tradition was gradually replaced (at least from our contemporary perspective) by literary principles” (Neumann 975).
Stories perceived to be not German enough (i.e. too French) were removed, but further editorial changes were made as well. Family dynamics and gender politics were altered, and Wilhelm inserted his own narrative voice that moved the Märchen from the oral tradition into the literary world. Because most who read the Grimms’ collection even to this day are most familiar with the eighth edition from 1857, few are exposed to the earlier folk variants of the stories. Changes are thematic and linguistic and narrative, and they set the stage for a change in how certain stories would be perceived well into the future.
Neumann, Siegfried. “The Brothers Grimm as Collectors and Editors of German Folktales.” The Great Fairy Tale Tradition: From Straparola and Basile to the Brothers Grimm, ed. Jack Zipes. W.W. Norton and Company, 2001.
Taylor, Peter and Hermann Rebel. “Hessian Peasant Women, Their Families, and the Draft: a Social-Historical Interpretation of Four Tales From the Grimm Collection.” Journal of Family History. Vol 6, Issue 1, 1981. 347-378.
There’s far more to be said on the oral=feminine, literary=masculine dynamic, but it’s one that has a long history and one which greatly impacts the history of fairy tales. I find it endlessly intriguing, and it’s a big part of what drives The Iridia Series on the meta-narrative level. It’s why, for example, none of the POV characters are cisgendered men. It’s why Pomona is illiterate and remains illiterate throughout the series (no magical reading skills gained, in part because she doesn’t need them). Questions about writing and storytelling as a whole are central to the entire project. I hope it comes through!
Last week, I attended the National Pop Culture/American Culture Association Conference in Indianapolis! This continues a series of posts summarizing the post interesting things that happened and the things I learned. I attended a lot of panels on YA Literature, Fandoms, and Fairy Tales, which is very topical for this blog, so I thought it would be fun to put together a summary of events! Enjoy!
Heteronormativity in Fairy Tales: Challenging the Prince(ss)
Featuring Yours Truly (Indiana University); AnnaMarie Christina Ramsey (San Antonio, Texas); and Megan Cannella (University of Nevada)
A Court of Norms and Poses: Anti-Subversion in a New Fairy Tale Novel
I kicked off the session with my paper on ACOTAR as an adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast” and “East of the Sun and West of the Moon.” I plan to continue this project and eventually publish it, but this portion of the project focused on how ACOTAR might closely resemble the plot structure of its sources, but it fails to continue the tradition of social critique present in the earlier tales. It also seems to devalue certain feminine values despite being hailed as “feminist.” Here is my graphic representing the plot movements of the stories.
My paper used feminist theory, adaptation theory, and a formalist approach to examine how well ACOTAR holds up the tradition of its predecessors. My conclusion is that it is a mixed bag. Some quotes for you:
In a 2015 interview, Maas stated, “I didn’t want to
be confined to one mythology when I created the world of A Court of Thorns and Roses, so it became a blend of
creatures that interest and frighten me. Which has really given me the freedom
to do whatever I want with Prythian and its inhabitants” (Maas 2015). This pastiche of tradition has been criticized as culturally
appropriative, a concern of third-wave feminism. However, it may also represent
an example of the Derridean concept of bricolage,
as described by Gordon Slethaug: “Within bricolage, textual reference may
be mere allusion to characters, situations, ideas, and styles, and these
fleeting allusions or citations provide keys to the new artistic production. In
this way citation, palimpsest, and bricolage supplement predecessor and force
new meaning onto culture and texts” (Slethaug 193). Much of Maas’s
interpretative work in adapting the tale features bricolage, and it does force new meaning onto the story,
though it is far from the only adaptive choice of hers which does so.
This aversion to feminine domesticity is also revealed by the change
Maas makes in the tasks Feyre must complete Under the Mountain (her version of
the troll kingdom in “East of the Sun and West of the Moon”). While in the
source tale, the heroine must clean the tallow she spilled on her husband’s
shirt to prove that she is his true bride, Feyre must escape an enormous
carnivorous worm in a mud pit; solve a riddle to save her friend from being
crushed; and kill three innocent faeries, including one she believes to be
Tamlin. These tasks are all physical and mental with excruciating consequences,
and in between the tasks she is subjected to sexual humiliation at the hands of
the High Lord of the Night Court, Rhysand, by being forced to wear revealing
clothes, drinking drugged wine, and performing seductive dances. Feyre’s
femininity is not a strength that helps her save herself and her love—it is
instead stripped away from her and seen as a weakness used to mock her.
In the end, I concluded that while ACOTAR is structurally a very competent retelling of its source material, it lacks the depth of social critique that makes it “hold up” to the tales it is sourced from. This is a project I plan to continue and may even make into a major part of my dissertation, but for now it’s an analysis of just one dimension of retelling fairy tales.
A Failure to Ascend: The Sequel
This paper by AnnaMarie Christina Ramsey analyzed the race and gender representation in the Disney film Descendants 2. This is a continuation of the analysis she conducted on Descendants, the first film of the series. She pointed out that the only black character with lines in Descendants 2 is Uma, the villain, while the others are mere background characters. The characterization of the men of color (Jay as a thief and Carlos as a jock) are also limiting and problematic. Further, the female characters are also reduced to gendered stereotypes, in that Mal is known for her hairdressing skills and Evie for her baking–while Ben’s ability to soothe the warring females at the end establishes his dominance as a man in the narrative. Finally, difference is seen as negative, because Mal transformed into a ash-blonde in order to fit in to Auradon and only returns to her natural purple when she is rejected. Ramsey argues that representation such as this greatly affects the self-perception of the children consuming the media, and I absolutely agree.
Part of Your Destabilized Heteropatriarchy: A Critical Discussion of Fan Reimaginings of The Little Mermaid
This amazing paper was given by Megan Cannella from the University of Nevada and focused on how Disney’s Ariel is depicted in fanworks. She began her paper by arguing that fans position Disney Princesses as sites of rebellion and criticism through fanfiction and comics. She offered two fanfiction works as her sample, but clarified that the patterns she identified were consistent across Ariel fanworks. Her two primary observations were that when Ariel is depicted in her mute human form, she is more likely to be submissive and in her canonical straight relationship with Eric. When she is depicted as a mermaid, she is more likely to be in a dominant role and more likely to be depicted in a lesbian relationship. Cannella displayed word maps of the fanfictions she analyzed, showing how words for body parts and characters are either distant (Eric/Ariel) or more closely tied (Ariel/Rapunzel) depending on the fic. This paper had the room laughing but also created a fantastic discussion, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the rest of this research plays out!
Feminism, Film, and Fairy Tales
Featuring Kathryn N. McDaniel (Marietta College), Brian Walter, and Paula de Villavicencio (University of Waterloo)
Little Red Riding Hood: A Feminist Hollywood Star
Paula de Villavicencio’s paper took a comparative look at Charles Perrault’s fairy tale compared to the 2011 film version Red Riding Hood (which itself was adapted from the novel by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright). She argued that the film was less didactic that Perrault’s story, but that the cinematography and direction of the film highlighted some interesting elements of the story. She claims that the film takes a voyeuristic, male-gaze-oriented approach to Red’s body and sexuality, implicating the audience in their participation in patriarchal violence. I loved this argument and it makes me want to watch the film again!
Smart Women, Beastly Choices: J.K. Rowling and Disney Studios Reimagine “Beauty and the Beast”
Kathryn McDaniel drew parallels between Rowling’s Harry Potter series and the 2017 remake of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and claims that these parallels were intentional due to the casting of Emma Watson, who had played Hermione Granger, as Belle. She also noted the use of the “Beauty and the Beast” story present in the Harry Potter stories–namely, Remus&Tonks and Bill&Fleur. McDaniel also noted that the Beast is first dismissive of romance, but must learn to accept it again, both as a genre and a value, in order to begin his transformation back into a human (as someone on the aromantic spectrum, I take issue with this theme, though not with the argument because I think McDaniel’s observation is correct). McDaniel seemed to suggest that the film was more feminist than not, and this prompted and interesting discussion at the end with others in the room who had a slightly different perspective.
Beautifying the Beast: Genre & Gender in Condon’s “Beauty and the Beast”
The third paper of the panel also featured on the 2017 Beauty and the Beast, but it focused instead on how gender ideology is presented in the film, particularly with regard to masculinity. He notes how the opening of the film takes a nearly fetishistic interest in the makeup sequence as the prince gets ready and hides the prince’s face for a considerable amount of time–already indicating an interest in gender presentation in the film. He spent time analyzing the dynamics between Gaston and LeFou (and my favorite observation of his was that Gaston is repeatedly given highly phallic objects, such as the collapsible telescope and the hunting knife). This presentation of gender ideology has extensive effects. Walter argued that the Disneyfication of children is in fact empire-building–through the way gender and other ideologies are presented in the film, audiences are taught to perceive divergence from the norm as inferior. Condon conceded that the inclusion of LeFou as gay is not insignificant: “Condon’s inclusion of the same-sex couple at the end allows the film to have it’s overwhelming WASP-cake and at least taste it for other relationship possibilities too.”
I was thrilled to attend and participate in these two fairy tale panels, and they consisted of only the first half of my day! Check back in soon to see a post on the second half. 🙂
That’s a great list!! I also clicked through to your essay on Campbell. So interesting, and I’m glad it meant that much to you! Campbell is a bit infamous in the field of folklore, but he has been instrumental in getting people interested in the topic. He once lived and wrote in my hometown, so I’ve always thought that was a neat connection.
That’s really cool! (The coolest thing my area has is Shaquille O’Neal.)
Funnily enough, most of the negative reception I’ve heard of Campbell has been from friends I’ve introduced him to, mostly because I introduce him via that passage on the $1 bill. Everyone thinks I love him ironically, but nope. 😛 100% genuine beef.
(Though if there is one negative I can say about his legacy, it is that I too am sick of essays that think “applying the hero’s journey to a slice of life show” counts as deep analysis.)
Campbell’s writing definitely has charm, which is no doubt why it’s made such an impression on so many, you and me included! And yeah, that’s the crux of why folklorists are frustrated with his influence, along with his willy-nilly approach to method and his tendency to make broad claims without sufficient evidence. Alan Dundes made an infamous presidential address at the American Folklore Society Annual Meeting in 2005 which, in part, slammed Campbell as an “amateur” folklorist stealing the spotlight of “real” folklorists (a fact which he blamed on folklorists and bookstores, not Campbell directly). Since I eschew the ivory tower, elitist mentality, I found the lean of Dundes’s criticism obnoxious, but he had interesting things to say about folklore as a discipline, to which several other folklorists responded. The provocation and responses were published in Grand Theory in Folkloristics, edited by Lee Haring, which I’m still making my way through. But if you would like names of other folklorists to read along with Campbell, I have a long list of recommendations!
Ah, Alan. Dundes is the second big-name folklorist I ever got into, and while I can certainly see where he’s coming from, I also can’t help but think of the lack of methodology as part of Campbell’s charm. Sometimes I’m just not up for more method-driven, “scholarly” reading – or I’m trying to recommend stuff to my less folksy friends and am tired of the fact that explaining methodology takes up 85% of every conversation. Someone’s gotta take one for the team and talk in a way us plebeians can understand.
I also honestly find Jungian analysis really spiritually nourishing, in a way that Freudian analysis just can’t compete with (although Freudian analysis is on average 100% funnier). Grand Theory sounds really interesting, and I’d love to hear those other recommendations c:
lol “Ah, Alan” is pretty much how people in the field refer to him, too. XD That or “Errghh Dundes.” Brilliant, but as my professor put it, “an expert provocateur.” And yes, I certainly see where you’re coming from! I find there to be great value in the work of people outside “““The Field”““ because it does offer a more approachable angle to what we do–though I do think (or maybe hope?) that turgid prose is going out of style with new academics, so the walls won’t be so thick in the future.
And when it comes to things like Jungian analysis or Freud’s work, it all depends on how you’re using it! I find those theories in particular can remain quite fruitful for literary analysis, though they’re not much good scientifically. No need to throw the baby out with the bathwater! Both offer unique perspectives that, like Campbell, wound up being so pervasive that it’s silly to ignore them or pretend they don’t have any value, even if it might not be what it was originally intended for.
My other recommendations include Diane Goldstein (amazing, accessible prose and awesome field of study–health and disease folklore); Dorothy Noyes (applies Freudian thought to festival practices in Catalonia–prose is a little denser); Maria Tatar, Jack Zipes, Cristina Bacchilega, Bruno Bettelheim, and Veronica Schanoes for fairy tale stuff. Bettelheim wrote THE book on fairy tales and childhood psychoanalysis (The Uses of Enchantment), while Schanoes wrote Fairy Tales and Psychoanalytic Theory. Both of these seem right up your alley!
Cool question! The German word is Männchen, which simply means “little man.”
This is generally translated into English as “imp” rather than “dwarf” (Zwerg) or “elf” (Elf). It could be a shortened form of Wichtelmännchen, which is one name for an imp. The word “imp” in English tends to denote a servant of the devil or a familiar of a witch. A rumpelstilt in German, however, was a kind of goblin. Rumpelstiltskin as he appears in the story is far more likely to be an imp or goblin than a dwarf, though you are right that Germany and Scandinavia share heritage and dwarfs are abundant in German fairy tales.