Enchanted: The European Fairy Tale and Its Influence


Yes, it’s the name of a Disney film; but that’s hardly the end of the story. Fairy tales appear in every culture, in all historical periods, and in a kaleidoscope of constantly-evolving variations. In this class, we will focus on the rich traditions of the fairy tale within European culture, beginning with the emergence of the literary tale in Renascence Italy and its subsequent transformation by French writers such as Charles Perrault and Madame d’Aulnoy before turning to the great fairy tale collections of the Romantic period by the German brothers Grimm, Russian Alexander Afanasyev, and others. We will consider the implications of the shift from oral to written culture and of the 19th-century association between folk materials and nationalism. We will explore metamorphoses of the fairy tale in fiction, drama, and poetry, with attention to works by Charlotte Brontë, Christina Rossetti, J. M. Barrie, Angela Carter, Helen Oyeymi, and others. Throughout the semester, we will also engage with the large and fascinating body of commentary on fairy tales from fields as disparate as history, anthropology, psychoanalysis, and literary criticism.