(6/4/06 11:08 am)
fairy tale scholarship / uses in instruction|
You might look at Nicola Bown's _Fairies in Nineteenth Century Art and Literature_. Her third chapter, on Fairyology, treats how 19C texts that popularized science for children used fairies as metaphors for natural operations and insects. She argues this use of fairies was meant to allay anxieties about the new vision of nature as 'red in tooth and claw' that followed the dissemination of Darwin's evolutionary ideas.
Bettleheim's now controversial but still much cited _The Uses of Enchantment_ may be another, more basic resource. Bettleheim argues that children find repetitions of certain tales (individual to themselves) desirable because the tales in question are helping them to work through key psychological, developmentally appropriate issues. He urges parents and teachers not to explain likely dimensions of the tales, so as to allow the children to continue to give them complete unconscious access.
In your work, you might make a clear distinction between the use of fairy tales for moral instruction (how "didactic" is usually used in fairy tale scholarship) and their use to assist in children's intellectual instruction. Fairy tales are also often read by modern scholars for their embedded ideological content, which may not necessarily be intentionally conveyed (and thus has lead to modern fairy tale revisions, which mark off gender or class or culture as a basis for self-conscious revisions of this content).
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Best wishes for your project,
searsmith at yahoo dot com