Kay Nielsen, Hansel and Gretel

Fairy Tales: Seduction, Subversion, and Transformation (In-Person)

Instructor: Jessie Kindig
BISR Central
68 Jay Street, #425
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Once upon a time, there were tales. Traveling the trade routes through Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, they transformed as they went. These stories carried the seeds of everything, as tales are want to do: humor, bawdiness, violence, morality, warnings, conservative traditionalism, alongside the possibility for subversion, magic. We encounter them now in their defanged and least interesting form: Disney-fied, with beautiful princesses and handsome, boring princes living happily ever-after. The uncanny power of the fairy tale fascinated nearly everyone: Marxists and fascists, Freud and Jung, Italo Calvino and Richard Wagner, feminists and surrealists and libertines. What explains the allure and politics of fairy tales? Why, in particular, did so many 20th-century feminists and leftists see in fairy tales not the happy Hollywood ending or conservative moralism, but stories charged with the power for social transformation?

In this course, we will answer such questions and more by reading canonical versions of the tales  (the Grimms, Charles Perrault, The Arabian Nights) alongside retellings and revisionings by Angela Carter, Helen Oyeyemi, Anne Sexton, and AS Byatt, and bring in theorists to guide us, including Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Audre Lorde, Katherine Angel, Amia Srinivasan, Jack Zipes, and Marina Warner. What is it about fairy tales like Bluebeard, Beauty and the Beast, and Snow White that prompt us to explore questions of power, sex, violence, seduction, entrapment, transformation? How can fairy tales help us tell our own tales today?

Fairy Tales: Seduction, Subversion, and Transformation will also be held online, starting Thursday, May 9th. For more information and to enroll, please visit the course page.  

Course Schedule

Monday, 6:30-9:30pm EST
May 06 — May 27, 2024
4 weeks


Course enrollment is currently only open for waitlisted students. Please email us to be placed on the waiting list.

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