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Feminist Fairy Tales: Who Needs a Prince?

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Monday, March 13, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1J0245
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Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman (Photo: Amy Parrish)

You might have heard something like this: "I don't want my daughter reading fairy tales!" or "Fairy tales are so sexist. All these girls needing a prince to save them!" But the truth is that the politics of gender in fairy tales are much more complicated than these statements acknowledge.

In fact, modern fairy-tale studies grew out of debates over how gender and sexism play out in traditional tales. Scholars have grappled with questions such as why so many famous fairy-tale heroines are waiting to be rescued—and whether they really need rescuing at all. Or they might find that something else is actually going on in the plot of these familiar stories, and also wonder what kinds of fairy tales have happy endings that aren’t dependent on a heroine’s rescue by a handy prince.

Such investigations revolutionized questions of gender and sexuality, opened the door to queer interpretations of classic tales, and rediscovered rich archives of tales with active hero(ines) of all genders. This work has even spurred the creation of new fairy tales that reflect contemporary mores in old stories.

Join folklorists Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman as they explore the roots of fairy-tale studies; look at familiar tales such as Cinderella and Bluebeard as well as some of their lesser-known versions; uncover a treasury of unfamiliar tales; and illustrate how scholarly discussions of sex and gender have transformed the art of the fairy tale as we know it.

Cleto and Warman are former instructors of folklore and literature at The Ohio State University and co-founders of the Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic.

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