National Dreams: The Remaking of Fairy Tales in Nineteenth-Century England

National Dreams: The Remaking of Fairy Tales in Nineteenth-Century England

National Dreams: The Remaking of Fairy Tales in Nineteenth-Century England

National Dreams: The Remaking of Fairy Tales in Nineteenth-Century England

Synopsis

"This engaging text makes explicit the ways in which fairy tales provide 'a space in which to encounter and then reflect upon national identities and differences.'... Highly recommended."-"Choice"

Excerpt

There exists, at present, a very large and increasing class of readers, for
whom the scattered fragments of olden time, as preserved in popular and
traditionary tales, possess a powerful attraction. The taste for this species of
literature has particularly manifested itself of late; the stories which had
gone out of fashion during the prevalence of the prudery and artificial taste
of the last century, began, at its close, to re-assert every where their ancient
empire over the mind
.

Edgar Taylor, 1821

A large readership still exists for what were once known as “popular and traditionary tales”—what we might today call fairy tales, folktales, wonder tales, or Märchen. From the early Victorian period to the present, written versions of such tales have been mainstays of popular and children’s literature. Celebrated as imaginatively liberating, psychologically therapeutic, or as windows onto particular cultures, fairy tales are generally embraced as products of something larger than an individual consciousness, older than the medium—writing—in which we experience the stories. But we have inherited more than a taste for “popular tales” from our nineteenthcentury predecessors: We have also inherited a set of ideologically charged textual practices and interpretive frameworks that reveal as much about Victorian literary culture as they do about oral folk cultures.

National Dreams is about the emergence of the popular tale collection as a form of popular reading material in England, during a crucial period: the 1820s through the 1850s. Specifically, this study addresses the resonance of four representative collections as literature for children and common readers—what was, in Victorian parlance, referred to as “class literature.” The wondrous stories found in the popular tale collections from this period certainly have inherent imaginative appeal, which has contributed to their . . .

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