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Reviewed by:
  • Féeries: Etudes sur le conte merveilleux XVIIe–XIXe Siècle
  • Lewis C. Seifert (bio)
Féeries: Etudes sur le conte merveilleux XVIIe–XIXe Siècle. No. 1: “Le Recueil” (2003) UMR LIRE, no. 5611. Université Stendhal-Grenoble 3.

This inaugural issue of the annual journal Féeries testifies to renewed interest in the literary fairy tale among French scholars. Féeries promises to be an exciting venue for scholarly exploration of the genre, appearing in the wake of three important, recent French-language monographs devoted to d'Aulnoy and the acta of a major conference in France on the eighteenth-century literary fairy tale (Anne Defrance's Les contes de fées et les nouvelles de Madame d'Aulnoy (1690-1698): L'imaginaire féminin à rebours de la tradition [1998]; Nadine Jasmin's Naissance du conte féminin. Mots et merveilles: Les contes de fées de Madame d'Aulnoy (1690-1698) [2002]; Jean Mainil's Madame d'Aulnoy et le rire des fées: Essai sur la subversion féerique et le merveilleux comique sous l'Ancien Régime [2001]; and Le conte merveilleux au XVIIIe siècle: Une poétique expérimentale [2002] under the editorship of Régine Jomand-Baudry and Jean-François Perrin). With a clearly defined chronological focus (from the seventeenth through the nineteenth century), the editors of this journal, led by Jean-François Perrin (Université de Grenoble), have proposed a comparatist approach to a period that witnessed the birth and mass diffusion of the European literary fairy tale. In an editorial, Perrin announces the themes for the next three issues: "Le conte oriental au XVIIIe siècle" (no. 2), "Politique du conte" (no. 3), and "Le conte, la scène" (no. 4). If the overall quality of the articles in this first issue is any indication, these forthcoming issues of Féeries will make significant contributions to the field. [End Page 133]

The first issue of Féeries is devoted to the topic of the collection ("le recueil") and explores in particular its interpretive and narratological effects on the literary fairy tale. Although these articles concentrate on examples from the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century contes de fées, the theoretical questions they address—over and above the literary historical importance of this specific corpus—make them highly useful to anyone interested in the genre. The eight articles demonstrate above all the constitutive effect of anthologization on the literary fairy tale. At this decisive moment in the history of the genre, these essays show, the practice of embedding stories in frame narratives and collections is not only a sign of an evolution toward generic autonomy but also an occasion for both paratextual and diegetic commentary on the conte de fées.

In the stimulating opening article, Jean-Paul Sermain lays out much of what is at stake theoretically in the topic of the collection. Asserting that folk and fairy tales by definition invite reuse and thus anthologization, Sermain contends as well that these practices implicitly refer back to the act of enunciation that produced the detachable tales in the first place. While referring to (and creating) an originary storytelling for their collections, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century writers, Sermain suggests, necessarily effected a transformation of memory, appropriating the past and reworking language. Sermain then examines some of the paradoxical effects of fairy-tale collections. They emphasize both the oral storytelling scene and its inscription into print. More specifically, they present the literary fairy tale as an extension of—but also a stranger to—oral storytelling: anthologies and frame devices posit a fundamental similarity between written and oral stories, all the while attracting attention to what the literary tale no longer is. As Sermain astutely observes, such collections and frames generally do not highlight the transformations they effect in the narratives they assemble. Equally revealing about seventeenth- and eighteenth-century fairy-tale collections, according to Sermain, is the conception of the writer they display. No longer content to inscribe oneself in a tradition, the writer is concerned above all with telling what has been excluded from literary discourse.

The next two articles concentrate on late-seventeenth-century collections. Anne Defrance studies how...


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