Saturday, October 17, 2009

Five best: academic studies of fairy tales

Holly Tucker, the author of Pregnant Fictions: Childbirth and the Fairy Tale in Early-Modern France, teaches at Vanderbilt University.

For the Wall Street Journal, she named a five best list of academic studies of fairy tales.

One book on the list:
The Uses of Enchantment
by Bruno Bettelheim
Knopf, 1976

Fairy tales are hardly the stuff of sweet childhood dreams. The original versions of the Brothers Grimm tales and Mother Goose overflow with blood, sex and death. But Bruno Bettelheim reassures us that a little fairy fright can be a good thing. From his perspective as a practicing psychoanalyst, the horrors of wicked witches and candy houses allow children to process their darkest fears and greatest desires. Here, Freud's theories take center stage: Cinderella's shoe transforms into a symbol of female sexuality that, when lost, spells the end of virginity. "The Uses of Enchantment" moved the fairy tale into mainstream psychology when it was first published in the 1970s. In fairy tales, adults often meet horrible fates. In real life, so did Bettelheim: He committed suicide in 1990 and, not long after, his reputation was tarnished by accusations of child abuse.
Read about the other four books on Tucker's list.

--Marshal Zeringue