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Reviewed by:
  • Teaching Fairy Tales by Nancy Canepa
  • Jamie Bienhoff (bio)
Nancy Canepa. Teaching Fairy Tales. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 2019.

Nancy Canepa's edited collection Teaching Fairy Tales not only offers several pedagogical approaches to teaching and using fairy tales in the classroom, but it also serves as an important contribution to ongoing critical fairy tale scholarship. The collection guides readers, both those new to fairy tale scholarship [End Page 210] and those who are veterans of teaching fairy tales, through various methodological and pedagogical approaches in crafting fairy tale units for language, literature, and other humanities courses. Ultimately, it succeeds as a resource for teachers searching for engaging activities and fairy tale courses.

Canepa writes that teaching these tales invites "distinct organizational questions," an awareness she brings to the structure of the collection. Rather than formatting the entries chronologically, she divides the collection thematically into two sections. The first, aptly titled "Foundations of Fairy-Tale Studies," (re)introduces important questions in the field of fairy tale scholarship, creating a clear framework for the latter section, entitled "Teaching and Learning with Fairy Tales." This second section offers an array of pedagogical approaches and activities for various classrooms and teaching styles.

In the first section, leaders in the field, such as Maria Tatar and Jack Zipes, explore some of the field's broad questions. For example, Tatar asks, "What is a Fairy Tale?" in order to define and contextualize the term fairy tale and in turn discuss the human desire for such stories. Graham Anderson's "Prehistory of Fairy Tales" examines the echoes of traditional tales in mythic traditions; Zipes' contribution compiles many of his key tenets of fairy tale studies into one article, particularly useful to students or those new to fairy tale studies; and Donald Haase rounds out the section with an investigation of the usefulness of a fairy tale canon. While many of these ideas may seem introductory to those well-versed in fairy tale scholarship, Canepa argues that compiling them into a single source not only allows for a "useful orientation for readers new to teaching fairy tales" but also provides optional introductory readings for students in fairy tale courses (7). To this end, the first section offers a clear and decisive framework for the pedagogical and methodological work that follows.

The second section delivers fascinating and innovative project and course ideas. Lewis Siefert begins the section with an overview of course types (introductory surveys, specialized topic courses, and adaptations) and pedagogical strategies (close reading and creative projects), and urges readers to "think collectively about how we teach what we teach" (70, emphasis in original). The rest of the section is further divided into seven chapters, each with a distinct objective; each chapter includes several independently written and coauthored essays exploring different facets of the chapter's overarching theme. Chapter 1 features essays exploring tale types as a tool to express the dynamic nature and complexities of fairy tales, such as Anne E. Duggan's consideration of sexuality and female agency in Monster Bridegroom Tales. In chapter 2, Linda Kraus Worley, Allison Stedman, Faith E. Beasley, and Jennifer Schacker each contextualize fairy tales through different historical and cultural frameworks to defamiliarize nostalgic stories of childhood. Chapter 3 [End Page 211] presents several scholarly approaches for new and seasoned teachers to consider incorporating into their classes. For example, Maria Nikolajeva models a cognitive-affective approach, and Ann Schmiesing guides readers through a disabilities studies perspective of tales. Christine A. Jones and Cristina Mazzoni offer strategies for French and Italian courses, respectively, while Maria Kaliambou provides general strategies for using fairy tales in a foreign language classroom. The next two chapters provide specific project ideas and sample syllabi. Finally, chapter 7 encourages tale creation through advice and notes from storytellers Kay Stone and Gioia Timpanelli. Many entries include appendices with handouts, activity instructions, and evaluation notes.

The scope and goal determine the length of each entry; some essays detail semester-long projects or activities across multiple courses, while other entries are much shorter, though no less detailed. Some essays eloquently detail the advantages and disadvantages of a semester-long project, such as Elio Brancaforte's "'Once Upon a...


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pp. 210-213
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