Tales as Old as Time: Myth, Gender, and the Fairy Tale in Popular Culture Open Access

Palma, Shannan Treasure (2012)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/vx021g045?locale=en


Tales as Old as Time: Myth, Gender, and the Fairy Tale in Popular Culture
This dissertation theorizes the contemporary political value of myth through an examination of metonymic and narrative invocations of fairy tales in primarily, but not exclusively, American popular culture. It is an interdisciplinary study that takes a feminist epistemological approach to merging twentieth-century semiotic and historico-religious theories of myth with twenty-first century scholarship on comparative media. Through close reading, semiotic analysis, and transmedia comparison of Briar Rose, Beauty and the Beast, and Cinderella in popular culture, the author shows how fairy tale myth functions as gendered cultural shorthand for narrating the splintering of possibility after the achievement of many, but not all of the goals of the 1970s feminist movement. Women in particular use fairy tale myths to reconcile the tensions between individual and collective experience, to question traditional modes of thinking about self and other, and to rethink assumptions about desirable endpoints. These case studies point to the ways cultural norms about gender remain in flux, the ways rationality-based logic and fairy tale logic occasionally come into conflict. The author argues that addressing these points of contention in the same mythic framework in which they are communicated is critical to continued feminist movement.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents Introduction...1 Myth as a hermeneutic resource...6

The cases that follow...9

Chapter One: The mythic work of fairy tales...13

The problem of the mermaid...13

Fairy tales and fairy tale studies: some relevant partialities...18

Myth and the mythologists: another partial history...22

Feminist approaches to the tales...35

Some notes on methods...48

Conclusion...57 Chapter Two: Briar Rose...59

The myth of Sleeping Beauty (Briar Rose)...59

Four case studies...64

The cases in comparison...96


Chapter Three: Beauty and the Beast...106

The myth of Beauty and the Beast...106

The case studies...116

Conclusions: Re/Vision...168

Chapter Four: "Where every Cinderella story comes true"...175

The myths of Cinderella...175

The case studies...188

A language of aspiration...203


Insights gleaned from fairy tale myths...213

The significance of fairy tale myths to gender scholars...217

Works Cited...223

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