- New Approaches to Teaching Folk and Fairy Tales ed. by Christa C. Jones and Claudia Schwabe
When I first started teaching an undergraduate course on fairy tales, I was astonished to find that there were almost no resources on fairy-tale pedagogy at the university level. In his foreword to New Approaches to Teaching Folk and Fairy Tales, Donald Haase describes experiencing this dearth of resources, despite the popularity of fairy-tale courses and the recent explosion of innovative fairy-tale scholarship. As Haase states, “The new possibilities for teaching the fairy-tale” opened up by that scholarship “remind us that it is time to take stock of the present state of our teaching” (x). This volume does exactly that in a thorough and informative way that will be useful to any teacher of fairy tales and to fairy-tale aficionados in general.
As described in the excellent introduction, a central aim of the volume is diversity: in terms of the contributors, who come from a variety of institutions in the United States, Canada, and Europe; in terms of the departments in which they teach and their disciplinary backgrounds (including folklore, literature, history, psychology, anthropology, women’s and gender studies, linguistics, and second-language [L2] classes); and in terms of the material taught, which includes classic folk and fairy tales, literary and popular fiction, and visual media such as art and film. Although the focus remains primarily on European fairy tales, there is welcome attention to other traditions, such as the One Thousand and One Nights. One of the most useful aspects of this volume is the detailed discussion of methodology: all the contributors provide information on their central texts and assignments and their reflections on the practices that worked (and sometimes did not work) for them. Any teacher of fairy tales will take away ideas for what to try in the classroom and a renewed sense of the many different ways in which fairy tales can be taught.
The volume is divided into four parts. The first, “Fantastic Environments: Mapping Fairy Tales, Folklore, and the Otherworld,” includes the more traditional courses described in the volume, focused primarily on folk and fairy tales. In their class “Fairy Tales, Myth, and Fantasy Literature,” Christina [End Page 424] Phillips Mattson and Maria Tatar explore the intersection of these genres, demonstrating how tropes from myths and fairy tales migrate to children’s novels such as Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. Folklorist Lisa Gabbert discusses how teaching fairy tales in the first few weeks of “Introduction to Folklore” can introduce students to the terminology and central concepts of folklore as a discipline. Juliette Wood’s course “At the Bottom of the Well: The Otherworld as Folktale Environment,” which focuses on fairy tales and Irish mythology, includes one of the many innovative assignments described in this volume: students must create their own Otherworlds.
The second part, “Sociopolitical and Cultural Approaches to Teaching Canonical Fairy Tales,” includes courses that highlight the social, historical, and cultural background of the tales. Doris McGonagill’s German-language course examines the Grimms’ tales from an ecocritical perspective, focusing on the trope of the fairy-tale forest in nineteenth-century Germany. Also in a German-language classroom, Claudia Schwabe examines the socialist, anticapitalist messages of East German fairy-tale films, which transform the feudalistic lessons of the tales to serve a twentieth-century political purpose. In her French-language course, Christa C. Jones contextualizes the fairy tales of Charles Perrault with historical and cultural material from the reign of Louis XIV that reveals their underlying complexity. Anissa Talahite-Moodley’s course on the One Thousand and One Nights focuses on the frame tale of Shahrazad as an example of cultural dialogism and examines how her story has been reinterpreted in a variety of media, including literature, art, and dance. Talahite-Moodley uses this dialogic approach to “deconstruct the us-versus-them mindset” that students often bring to non-European tales (114).
The third part, “Decoding Fairy-Tale Semantics: Analysis of Translation Issues...