Fairy Tales and Feminism: New Approaches

By Jarvis, Shawn C | German Quarterly, October 1, 2005 | Go to article overview

Fairy Tales and Feminism: New Approaches


Jarvis, Shawn C, German Quarterly


Haase, Donald, ed. Fairy Tales and Feminism: New Approaches. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2004. 268 pp. $27.95 paperback.

This collection of essays, an expanded version of a special issue of Marvels & Tales, offers a comprehensive overview of contemporary feminist fairy-tale scholarship and its many agendas, critical approaches, and concerns. The eleven essays are joined by the common thread: "the continuously emergent nature of the fairy tale and its powerful, if unpredictable, relation to gender" (Haase, xiii).

Like Haase's other work as an editor, this volume is expansive and interdisciplinary, assembling contributions from international scholars with multifaceted approaches. Haase's preface provides important sociohistorical and generic context, as well as background on the production and reception of the fairy tale. His introductory essay is an excellent overview of the thirty years of scholarship since the Lurie/Iieberman debates of the 1970s, and he clearly outlines the central concerns of feminist scholarship of the past three decades as they were created and then often defined by those debates. The bibliography is currently the most extensive available on contemporary feminist research dealing with the fairy tale.

Although not overtly presented in this way, the articles fall into relatively neat groupings. The first three (Bottigheimer on fertility control and the image of the modern European fairy-tale heroine; Seifert, on feminist approaches to 17th-century Contes de fées; and Blackwell, on German women's fairy tale fragments) rehearse the birth of the European tradition, with looks at sociohistorical, cultural, and literary influences on the writers of the early tales in France and Germany, and the recovery of the female tale writers by modern feminists. The second set of articles (by Harries and Stone) examines the autobiographical nature of tale-writing and -telling. Harries uses the fairy tale trope of the magic mirror and the fracturing of self to examine post-war novels; Stone reflects on her own story as a feminist critic, teller, and writer of fairy tales. Although a scholar and critic and well versed in this genre, she unwittingly changed characters and other details of the story in her re-tellings. She discovered she had retained the original's essential message, but that the message morphed as her own needs as story-teller and -writer shifted. …

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