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Contemporary Fiction and the Fairy Tale

Edited by Stephen Benson

Publication Year: 2008

Recent decades have witnessed a renaissance of interest in the fairy tale, not least among writers of fiction. In Contemporary Fiction and the Fairy Tale, editor Stephen Benson argues that fairy tales are one of the key influences on fiction of the past thirty years and also continue to shape literary trends in the present. Contributors detail the use of fairy tales both as inspiration and blueprint and explore the results of juxtaposing fairy tales and contemporary fiction. At the heart of this collection, seven leading scholars focus on authors whose work is heavily informed and transformed by fairy tales: Robert Coover, A. S. Byatt, Margaret Atwood, Angela Carter, and Salman Rushdie. In addition to investigating the work of this so-called fairy-tale generation, Contemporary Fiction and the Fairy Tale provides a survey of the body of theoretical writing surrounding these authors, both from within literary studies and from fairy-tale studies itself. Contributors present an overview of critical positions, considered here in relation to the work of Jeanette Winterson and of Nalo Hopkinson, suggesting further avenues for research. Contemporary Fiction and the Fairy Tale offers the first detailed and comprehensive account of the key authors working in this emerging genre. Students and teachers of fiction, folklore, and fairy-tale studies will appreciate this insightful volume.

Published by: Wayne State University Press

Series: Series in Fairy-Tale Studies


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Introduction: Fiction and the Contemporaneity of the Fairy Tale

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pp. 1-19

What does it mean to be contemporary? It is in one sense the condition to which we are all tethered: to be together with time. As all good historicist criticism attests, we cannot help but live out our days in the present, however much we may desire to reach outside our moment, to step backward...

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1. Penetrating to the Heart of the Bloody Chamber: Angela Carter and the Fairy Tale

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pp. 20-46

Angela Carter was a writer whose dedication to the appropriation, recycling, and combining of often antithetical literary forms led to the formulation of a unique and often inflammatory style, and nowhere is this better illustrated than in The Bloody Chamber, her collection of short stories published in 1979. Of all the books that she produced, this slim collection of...

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2. Migrant Fictions: Salman Rushdie and the Fairy Tale

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pp. 47-73

Fairy tales in Salman Rushdie ’s fiction appear in diverse guises. They crop up as decorative extras to gild a witty aside, function as integral elements in convoluted extended metaphors, and even (in a collective form) provide structural models for Rushdie ’s formal experiments with recursive narrative patterns and nonstop tale-telling. Rushdie also seems to have a...

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3. “Ancient Forms”: Myth, Fairy Tale, and Narrative in A. S. Byatt’s Fiction

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pp. 74-97

A. S. Byatt’s fiction is shot through with allusions to well-known fairy tales. Hardly a chapter goes by without a prick on the finger, an impenetrable hedge, or an enchanted tower. When her characters aren’t meditating on the significance of fairy tales in their lives, her narrators are commenting...

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4. Margaret Atwood and the Fairy Tale: Postmodern Revisioning in Recent Texts

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pp. 98-119

Margaret Atwood is not only one of today’s best-known writers but also one who demonstrates the power and beauty of fairy tales. Fairy-tale intertexts function in nearly all of her work, including novels, short story collections, flash fictions and prose poems, poetry, children’s books, and...

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5. The Late Fairy Tales of Robert Coover

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pp. 120-143

Of all those contemporary writers over whom the fairy tale has exerted a significant influence, Robert Coover is perhaps the most consistent. His fairy-tale texts are relatively few in number, yet they stretch across his writing career, beginning in the late 1960s with the story experiments of the...

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6. Theorizing Fairy-Tale Fiction, Reading Jeanette Winterson

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pp. 144-177

What theoretical issues arise at the beginning of the twenty-first century from thinking about the use of the fairy tale in postmodern fiction? This is a grand question that, upon examination, could fan out in a variety of different permutations, but one constant is the need to define one ’s terms...

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7. Extrapolating from Nalo Hopkinson’s Skin Folk: Reflections on Transformation and Recent English-Language Fairy-Tale Fiction by Women

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pp. 178-204

By 1993 when Angela Carter’s third short-story collection, American Ghosts and Old World Wonders, was published, readers of her short fiction may not have agreed on the liberatory import of her feminism but knew to read her apparent flights of fantasy and “waywardness” as metanarrative...

List of Contributors

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pp. 205-206


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pp. 207-210

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780814335826
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814332542

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2008

Series Title: Series in Fairy-Tale Studies
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OCLC Number: 778073878
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Contemporary Fiction and the Fairy Tale

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • English fiction -- 20th century -- History and criticism -- Theory, etc.
  • Literature and folklore -- History -- 20th century.
  • Fairy tales in literature.
  • Influence (Literary, artistic, etc.).
  • Intertextuality.
  • Literary form -- History -- 20th century.
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