Reclaiming the fairy tale as a feminist genre among contemporary British women writers: a discussion of motherhood, economics, and marriage
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A considerable number of British women writers have drawn on fairy tale narratives or themes in contemporary works from the late 1970's to the early 1990's. This trend is surprising because fairy tales have been criticized for idealizing limited gender roles and stressing the importance of marriage as a means to reaching happiness. Why are prominent writers such as Angela Carter, Carolyn Steedman, Fay Weldon, and Jeanette Winterson returning to the prescriptive and limiting texts of fairy tales, and how are they utilizing them? These writers are reclaiming a domain of storytelling that historically originates with women, as well as challenging the narrow moral direction the tales have taken since the seventeenth century. Carter, Steedman, Weldon, and Winterson are adopting this female realm of storytelling and using it to develop a body of feminist writing. There is a striking similarity in the concerns among these writers, who are universally revising the terms of motherhood in fairy tales, and simultaneously addressing issues of economic status that force women to marry. Because the publications in this study occur within a thirteen-year time period (1977-90), they suggest a cultural motivation for the uniformity of the revisions. The value in understanding feminist revisions of fairy tales lies in the inherent function of the fairy tale itself, which is to provide a model of cultural expectations. The examination of fairy tales affords us an opportunity to identity our cultural values, and to change those that do not suit us best, as these writers demonstrate with their works.
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 57-59).
Holcombe, Heather E (2000). Reclaiming the fairy tale as a feminist genre among contemporary British women writers: a discussion of motherhood, economics, and marriage. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from