Preface to the special issue on "reframing the early French fairy tale"

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Author: Holly Tucker
Date: Apr. 2005
From: Marvels & Tales(Vol. 19, Issue 1)
Publisher: Wayne State University Press
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 1,344 words

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For several years, I have taught a course on Approaches to the French Fairy Tale for our Freshman Seminar program at Vanderbilt University. As many Marvels & Tales readers who teach similar classes can relate, a course on fairy tales is guaranteed to raise the eyebrows of more than a few parents and administrators. However, sharing space in the schedule of classes with seminars such as "New York, New York: Film and Literature," "Musicals! All Singing, All Dancing," "The Social Construction of Hip Hop/Rap Music," and "The Simple Art of Murder: Knowledge and Guilt in Detective Literature," my fairy-tale course is in good company (or, in the case of the latter, perhaps not!).

In the context of a Freshman Seminar program, the choice of an ostensibly "lightweight" topic is a calculated risk that has the potential for a rich payoff. First, fairy tales and other such courses fill seats; my seminar is always over-enrolled. Second, and more important, the primary goal of our Freshman Seminar program is "to instill curiosity [in students] ... [to help them] examine all ideas critically [and] to develop a mind free of preconceptions" (http://sitemason.vanderbilt.edu/cas/freshmanseminars). What better way to challenge preconceptions than to ask students to engage critically texts that seem, at least initially to them, impermeable--and perhaps even antithetical--to scholarly discourse?

While the students change each semester, the notions or critical "frameworks" they bring to my classroom on the first day remain fairly stable: Fairy tales are, and always have been, for children. They are generally consistent across time and space. They remain untouched by the cultural politics of race, class, gender, and sexuality. And, of course, they are at their best when in the hands of Disney's Imagineers. As the fairy tale is increasingly recognized as a legitimate field for scholarly inquiry, researchers have offered up a treasure of evidence that dramatically rewrites these and other popular (mis)understandings of what is, in the end, a highly complex genre. From formalist and structuralist accounts of the fairy tale to psychoanalytic perspectives,...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A135078089