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Postmodern Fairy Tales

Gender and Narrative Strategies

By Cristina Bacchilega

Publication Year: 1999

Postmodern Fairy Tales seeks to understand the fairy tale not as children's literature but within the broader context of folklore and literary studies. It focuses on the narrative strategies through which women are portrayed in four classic stories: "Snow White," "Little Red Riding Hood," "Beauty and the Beast," and "Bluebeard." Bacchilega traces the oral sources of each tale, offers a provocative interpretation of contemporary versions by Angela Carter, Robert Coover, Donald Barthelme, Margaret Atwood, and Tanith Lee, and explores the ways in which the tales are transformed in film, television, and musicals.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

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pp. ix-xii

THIS BOOK BEGAN a number of years ago (inexplicably to her, even before Bruna was conceived) and I am grateful for the many institutional, textual, and personal encounters which transformed both me and the book on my long way to writing it. ...

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1. Performing Wonders: Postmodern Revisions of Fairy Tales

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pp. 1-27

ABUNDANCE, RATHER THAN LACK, motivates this study. Reproduced in a variety of discourses, fairy tales in the second half of the twentieth century have enjoyed an explosive popularity in North America and Western Europe. While many adults may not remember, and many children may not have been exposed to versions ...

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2. The Framing of "Snow White": Narrative and Gender (Re)Production

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pp. 27-48

TH E FA I RY TALE'S MAGIC depends on our suspension of disbelief: we do not expect the tale's events to be realistic. Even more, though, magic is invoked through the tale's matter-of-fact, artfully simple narrative that relies on dialogue and single strokes of color to produce a feeling of familiarity and wonder at the same ...

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3. Not Re(a)d Once and for All: "Little Red Riding Hood"'s Voices in Performance

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pp. 49-70

REREADING IS THE MAGIC KEY to rewriting: re-viewing a narrative like "Snow White," as Barthelme, Coover, Carter, and Molinaro have done, raises questions that demand revising its naturalized artifice. As we have seen, this rewriting need not be simply a stylistic or ideological updating to make the tale more ap- ...

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4. In the Eye of the Beholder: "Where Is Beast?"

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pp. 71-102

ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR TALES OF MAGIC, "Beauty and the Beast" is known as sub-type C of "The Search for the Lost Husband" (AT425) to folklorists, who have counted approximately fifteen hundred versions. This tale's history and diffusion exemplify the vital interaction of folk and literary texts.1 The most ...

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5. "Be Bold, Be Bold, But Not Too Bold": Double Agents and Bluebeard's Plot

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pp. 103-138

NOWADAYS BLUEBEARD' S NAME evokes the image of a man with a dark secret, a number of murdered wives, and a blood-stained key. Everybody knows that. But perhaps because "Bluebeard"'s gruesome theme is not deemed appropriate for children, now considered the primary audience for classic fairy tales, people ...

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Epilogue. Peopling the Bloody Chambers: "Once upon Many Times" and "Once upon One Time"

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pp. 139-146

THE REVISED MAGIC OF POSTMODERN FAIRY TALES overtly problematizes mimetic narratives, gender identities, and humanistic conceptualizations of the subject, calling into question the naturalized yet normative artifice of the tale of magic. These antimythic narratives, however, are not all performatively the ...


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pp. 147-190

Works Cited

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pp. 191-204


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pp. 205-208

E-ISBN-13: 9780812200638
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812216837

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 1999