The process of writing this paper will be broken down to give you a maximum amount of feedback before you hand in your final draft. A draft (five pages minimum) will be due to me, and you will receive comments in time to revise your drafts for a peer review exercise. It is extremely important for an academic to be able to offer suggestions and comments on another person’s writing, and this exercise is designed to help develop that skill in a comfortable setting (and, of course, to ensure that you get as much feedback on your own writing as possible).
You are encouraged to choose your own topic, but I will offer a list of possible starting points closer to the time. As you read, however, consider the ways in which your own interests intersect with the material at hand. Political Science majors may want to explore the importance of fairy tales in building and deconstructing national identities. Business students might look at the ways in which fairy tales are marketed and the kinds of censorship associated with that market. Art students could focus on picturebooks and the role of the illustrator in storytelling. Similarly, as you are looking through scholarly essays, you should also consider the topics that those authors have chosen, for example: homosexual symbols in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, the relationship between “Cinderella makeovers” and capitalist commercialism, the narrator’s relationship to national identity, the relationship between storytelling and gender. You certainly do not want to borrow someone else’s argument wholesale (see the note on plagiarism), but all of these topics should model for you the possible complexity of arguments relating to our course theme. Consider tackling one of these arguments from a different perspective or using a scholarly article that you completely disagree with as a starting point for highlighting your own position.
All papers need to be produced with MLA citations and a bibliography. A minimum of two secondary sources are required. Feel free to use secondary materials from the course readings, but I will be especially impressed with original research.
The final paper has the same process as the midterm, but in reverse draft order. The first draft (6 pages minimum) will be submitted for peer review, and the second draft (7 pages minimum) will receive comments directly from the professor. Again, the topic will be entirely up to you. You will need a minimum of three secondary sources.
Your final exam will consist of one essay question: “What is a fairy tale?” You may consider this all semester, but bear in mind that there are many ways of answering it. Although there is no single correct answer, your essay will be judged on how well you present and defend your argument. You will be expected to reference critical works that we will have read in class, and you are welcome to use the stories that we’ve looked at as examples. We will discuss this at length throughout the semester, but you might begin by considering a few questions – How is the fairy tale distinct from the folktale, the myth, the legend, or the ghost story? Is it only a written genre, or are there oral fairy tales? How has the definition of the “fairy tale” changed over the years? You can focus your essay on answering one of these subquestions if you find them helpful.
These are small homework assignments that are designed to help you focus on the reading. There are eleven of them scheduled throughout the semester, but you are only required to complete ten. If you do choose to complete all eleven, you’ll earn a bit of extra credit. The grades for this will be fairly informal –
- check plus (A): The assignment was completed fully and the answers demonstrate original thought and careful reading
- check (B): The assignment was completed and the answers reflect some thought and attention to detail.
- check minus (C): The assignment was only partially completed or the answers demonstrate a sloppy, hasty misreading of the text
(Note: Lengthiness and original thought are not the same thing. These assignments are not intended to be hugely cumbersome, so be as concise as you can. One page is plenty.)
To be ready for each class, you should write down two general questions about the reading/viewing for that day. PLEASE NOTE: We will generally start each class period by quickly reading through these questions. Although all of them may not be answered in the course of the class (or, if they’re really good questions, in the course of our lifetimes), it is important for all of us to understand the way that we think about texts. Questions can be as simple as “What is the author talking about in the fourth paragraph?” or as complex as “If the cultural context of the story is…, is the author supporting this system by writing…, or is she really subversively challenging the system in …way?”