Date of Award

12-14-2009

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

Abstract

Modern retellings of fairy tales, and new stories in the heroic tradition, serve a dual purpose in late twentieth century and twenty-first century American culture: they entertain readers with fantastic tales of heroic feats and mystical occurrences, and they promote cultural or political messages, such as gender coding, to an audience in an attractive and compelling way. These retellings highlight and comment upon social, political, gender and other issues in modern culture. Francesca Lia Block and Anne Sexton both have retold fairy tales in new forms and settings to question the roles of women in modern society. In its updated version, Block's Cinderella story offers women the option to repair the relationships with their sisters, valuing familial love alongside the security and love the prince offers. These authors are challenging the accepted gendered norms of behavior and asking readers to consider their own positions within the gender hierarchy in place within society. An example of this is J .K. Row ling, who puts a new spin on Joseph Campbell's heroic cycle in her Harry Potter series of books. Rowling is revising this familiar pattern by moving to a more corporate model of heroism focusing on a team rather than a single hero narrative. The team is of mixed-gender, where the combination of stereotypically male and female traits is what makes the team effective. Row ling highlights previously undervalued traits typically coded as feminine by showing the strengths of the female characters in her novels as different from the strengths of the males, but equal. The coming of age of the three main characters Harry, Ron, and Hermione becomes a main theme in the novels.

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