The Irresistible Fairy Tale: The Cultural and Social History of a Genre

By Jack Zipes | Go to book overview

Appendix A
Sensationalist Scholarship:
A “New” History of Fairy Tales

In early modern Europe, then, what was a mixed-media environment char-
acterized by talking and manuscripts became even more mixed by the
addition of mass print. Again, we need to stress that mass print did not
replace talking or manuscripts. Major media generally accumulate; they
do not supplant one another. We also should emphasize that mass print
did not at any point or in any place become the predominant mode of
communications. For several centuries after the introduction of mass print,
literacy rates remained low. People who can’t read—and that was the
majority of the European population until the late nineteenth century—do
not read manuscripts or printed texts. They talk. Orality, though not pri-
mary orality, survived well into the modern era even where print and liter-
acy spread fastest and penetrated most deeply. And even among people
who were literate, talking and manuscripts hardly disappeared once print-
ing and printed matter became widely available. For many—and perhaps
even most—purposes it remained easier to talk to someone than to write a
note to them, and easier to write a note to them than to print one.

—Marshall Poe, A History of Communications (2011)


The Historical Background to the Publication
of A New History of Fairy Tales

On July 30, 2005, Ruth Bottigheimer upset many of the folklorists attending the Fourteenth Congress of the International Society for Folk Narrative Theory in Tartu, Estonia, by delivering a paper titled “Fairy Tale Origins, Fairy Tale Dissemination, and Folk Narrative Theory,” which dismissed the oral tradition as providing the source of literary fairy tales and proclaimed

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