Breaking the Magic Spell: Radical Theories of Folk and Fairy Tales

Breaking the Magic Spell: Radical Theories of Folk and Fairy Tales

Breaking the Magic Spell: Radical Theories of Folk and Fairy Tales

Breaking the Magic Spell: Radical Theories of Folk and Fairy Tales

Synopsis

This revised, expanded, and updated edition of the 1979 landmark Breaking the Magic Spell examines the enduring power of fairy tales and the ways they invade our subjective world. In seven provocative essays, Zipes discusses the importance of investigating oral folk tales in their socio-political context and traces their evolution into literary fairy tales, a metamorphosis that often diminished the ideology of the original narrative. Zipes also looks at how folk tales influence our popular beliefs and the ways they have been exploited by a corporate media network intent on regulating the mystical elements of the stories. He examines a range of authors, including the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, Ernst Bloch, Tolkien, Bettelheim, and J.K. Rowling to demonstrate the continuing symbiotic relationship between folklore and literature.

Excerpt

In revising the essays in this collection, first published in 1979,I was surprised to find how “radical” they still are. Over twenty years have passed since I wrote these articles under the influence of the student and anti-war movement of the late 1960s and 1970s, the resurgence of interest in Marxism, and my own study of the Frankfurt School, in particular the works of Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, and Jürgen Habermas, coupled with the unusual philosophical works of Ernst Bloch. One would have thought that, since then, the political approach that I took would have become passé and surpassed by more sophisticated and moderate studies of folk and fairy tales. To a certain extent, this is true. Since 1979 there has been an abundant production of multi-faceted approaches to the oral and literary tradition of fairy tales. However, despite some superb feminist analyses and social criticism, there has been a strange avoidance to discuss social class, ideological conflicts, and the false assumptions of numerous psychological approaches in a frank and straightforward manner—one of the purposes in the original publication of this book.

I still maintain that literature and art cannot be fully understood without considering the socio-political-cultural context in which they are produced. In addition, the political nature of economics and technology is important to take into account. The forms, shapes, and messages of folk and fairy tales are determined by the conflicts in cultural fields of production in the public sphere. One of them is the culture industry that I discuss at various points throughout this book. Though conditions of production have changed immensely since I wrote most of my essays, the culture industry continues to be a determining factor in the transmission of folk and fairy tales, and with the advent of globalization and the formation of large media conglomerates, the culture industry has accumulated even more power in shaping art forms and their transmission. As long as there are conflicts and different . . .

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