ANT 310L • European Folktale
3:00 PM-4:00 PM
Folktales recur in retellings across national borders and time periods in Europe and beyond, from prehistory and antiquity through today's popular culture; it can be argued that "the ability to tell a story" is one of the hallmarks of the human species. This class will focus mostly on collected folktales, but also on their literary retellings and adaptations, in printable story form (mostly prose, but occasionally in song) as well as in film and illustration. We will examine both a wide selection of collected Indo-European folktales as well as numerous perspectives for understanding, interpreting and applying these tales. We will look at the aesthetic, ethical, social, historical and psychological values that (it can be argued that) the tales reflect in themselves. In addition, we will read and discuss significant theoretical and methodological paradigms applicable to the folktales under study, including such perspectives as formalist / structuralist (Aarne & Thompson, Propp), nationalist / aesthetic (Grimm, Lang, Tolkien), mythic / archetypal (Jung, Campbell, Tolkien, Bly, Pinkola-Estés), socio-historical (Darnton, Warner, Rowe, Zipes, Tatar, Shavit), psychoanalytical / therapeutic (Bettelheim, Pinkola-Estés, Haase), and feminist / gender studies approaches (Warner, Gilbert & Gubar, Rowe, Pinkola-Estés, Bly). Throughout the course, we will be simultaneously exploring the enduring presence of folktale-derived narrative in current popular and high culture.
Upon completion of this course, the student should be familiar with a variety of Indo-European folktales, be able to discuss several approaches to studying them, be able to identify the most important motifs of these tales, be familiar with some of the most influential folklorists, writers and editors of the tales, and be able to assess the significance of folktales for contemporary Western culture. The class presupposes no prior work in folklore or the folktale; it is intended to introduce students to a fascinating, multicultural set of texts, and to ask questions about folk culture, oral tradition, and story-telling that continue to interest anthropologists, literary scholars, linguists and the general public.