Fairy tales are wonderful texts to critically examine gender roles and representations in literature. The damsel in distress, the beautiful princess, the innocent young girl, the jealous stepmother, the charming prince, the ravenous wolf, the powerful king—all of these popular images reflect and reinforce cultural beliefs about gender. But as Dr. Carey discusses in his lectures, fairy tales can also play a role in reshaping how we think about our cultural beliefs. In short, fairy tales wield the power to shape and change our cultural beliefs.
In this discussion board post, you will analyze a specific passage from either the Brothers Grimm version of “Snow White” or one of the textual versions of “Little Red Riding Hood.” Through close reading, you will analyze how the passage either reflects specific cultural beliefs about gender or how it aims to reshape cultural beliefs about gender through revision, critique, or re-invention. In short, how does the passage depict gender, and what is the significance of its depiction of gender?
As you close read your chosen passage, keep in mind that fairy tales are filled with nuance and contradiction, sometimes reinforcing cultural beliefs about gender and sometimes undermining or challenging those beliefs in the same story. Through close reading and analysis, your task is to analyze where, how, and why the passage depicts gender in the way that it does. At some point in your post, you are also required to make reference to material from one or more of the Week 2 lecture videos, in which Dr. Carey offers his own close reading and analysis, as well as context to understand the fairy tales and their respective representations and revisions.
Please note: The passage you select should consist of 3-5 sentences from “Snow White” or one of the textual versions of “Little Red Riding Hood.” Choose a passage that lends itself to close reading and analysis, and relates to the topic of gender. You can write about a female character, a male character, a personified animal such as the wolf, or some other element in the fairy tale related to beliefs about gender (e.g., the magic mirror).
We want to hear YOUR analysis of gender in one of these stories. For that reason, do not consult any outside sources when writing your post. Avoiding outside sources, including internet sites, also helps you avoid accidental plagiarism. If any amount of your post is plagiarized, it will receive an automatic zero.
Possible questions to consider include:
Textual adaptations of “Little Red Riding Hood”
Note: remember to pick only one version of the fairy tale to analyze in your post.
What beliefs about gender are reflected in the descriptions and/or behavior of little red riding hood? In the version you’re analyzing, how does the character of little red riding hood reflect and/or revise cultural beliefs about gender as they relate to beauty, innocence, childhood, sex, or some other topic?
How do the actions and behaviors of little red riding hood reflect or revise specific cultural beliefs about gender? Do her actions fall in line with certain gender roles and conventions, or do they challenge those roles and conventions?
How does the figure of the big bad wolf represent and reinforce specific beliefs about male desire and masculinity? Are there moments when the wolf reflects a broader cultural belief about men? Pay attention to moments of personification. What do they tell you about the cultural beliefs shaping the big bad wolf?
Are there any moments or versions where the figure of the wolf challenges specific beliefs about men, male desire, or masculinity?
How do the setting and popular motifs of the tale (the woods, straying from the path, grandmother’s house, the basket, etc.) reflect cultural beliefs about gender? How do certain versions of the tale remix and play with these beliefs in ways that revise cultural beliefs? In certain versions, what recurring motifs, images, and symbols are adapted and changed to revise the tale’s representation of gender?
Brothers Grimm, “Snow White”
What cultural beliefs about gender does the figure of Snow White represent? What do you make of her innocence, beauty, youth, and naivety? As Dr. Carey discusses in his lecture, Snow White is more of a figure than a human being, and thus understanding her character requires that you think about what kind of beliefs, ideals, and values she represents or reflects.
In what ways is the evil queen more interesting than the titular character? In what ways does she reflect or challenge cultural beliefs about women and their relationship to power, beauty, authority, violence, and men? Does she expand how readers think about women or simply reinforce certain beliefs about women? What makes her the kind of character which continues to fascinate in more contemporary adaptations?
What role do the men play in “Snow White”? Does the absence of Snow White’s father, the King, tell us anything about the roles and representations of men in fairy tales? Is there a way to think about the King in relation to the magic mirror? Or what about the prince or the huntsman character, minor as they are in the Grimm version? Is there something about these characters and their function in the story that reflects cultural beliefs about gender?
What role do the “seven dwarfs” play in the story? How do they function to reinforce, reflect, or challenge specific beliefs about the role of men and women when it comes to things like work, housekeeping, and domesticity?
Finally, what function does the “magic mirror” play in the story? As a symbol of magic and transformation, what role does the mirror play in shaping or reshaping beliefs about gender? Is it a site where cultural beliefs are reflected or a site where cultural beliefs are transformed and challenged? How do you read the “magic mirror”? Do you agree with Dr. Carey’s interpretation of the “magic mirror” or do you read its function and role in the story in a different way?
1) Choose a Quote from “Snow White” or one of the textual versions of “Little Red Riding Hood.”
2) Discuss and analyze the topic according to the above directions (350-400 words)
3) Comment substantively on at least three of your classmates’ posts (minimum 50 words per comment)
1) Quote: Your quote may consist of 3-5 sentences. A quote longer than 3-5 sentences should be condensed to include only the most pertinent sections. Please remember: the length of your quotation does not count toward your word count. Place the quote at the top of your post—before you begin your discussion and analysis.
2) Discuss and analyze: After introducing your quote, you must then discuss and analyze how the passage either reflects specific cultural beliefs about gender or how it challenges cultural beliefs about gender through revision, critique, or re-invention. In short, how does the passage reinforce or revise specific cultural beliefs about gender, and to what end? Your chosen passage should allow you to analyze gender in precise and specific ways—not in broad generalizations. Your critical discussion must be 350-400 words.
Your post must also show evidence of engagement with the lectures. Make sure that you extend and enhance, rather than simply repeat, what is in the lecture. In other words, you can’t just offer a plot summary or a summary of the relevant lectures. We—and your classmates—want to know what you think, and why.
Your post should be well thought out, and relatively free of grammatical errors. Remember that you can also schedule an online appointment with the Writing Center for extra credit, getting help on your discussion post in the process. Consult the syllabus for more information on this extra credit opportunity. You should compose your analysis in Microsoft Word or another word processing program so that you can spellcheck your post before loading it on Canvas. Also ensure that you fully edit your post before you load it into Canvas. When uploading your final post, please cut and paste it in the text box. Please do not attach a separate Word document.
3) Comment: After you post to each discussion board, you must comment substantively on at least three of your classmates’ posts. Each comment should be a minimum of 50 words, and you must go far beyond saying “Great job!” or “I disagree.” Instead, you might indicate if your classmate’s post taught you something, or made you think about the topic at hand in a new way. If you think a classmate’s post is strong, explain why you think it’s strong. If you agree or disagree with a classmate, explain why you agree or disagree. You also might want to indicate how your classmate’s post relates to your own. Do you have a similar or different approach to the text and/or to the topic?
Please note: rude or unprofessional comments will result in an automatic zero for your entire post. We want you to engage with your peers, but in a respectful fashion.
Please remember: the word count (350– 400 words) applies to your original post only, not the combined total of your quotation, post, and comments. Your post and comments will be graded together based on a simple 12-point rubric (see the Discussion Board Assignment Rubric
for details). Grades and comments will be available on Canvas about two weeks after the deadline. If you have any questions about this assignment, you can ask them in the designated composition forum on Canvas.
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