Oddly Modern Fairy Tales: A Selected Bibliography

November 6th, 2018

On November 13th, 2018, at 57th Street Books, Leading fairy-tale scholar Jack Zipes will contextualize a wide variety of spirited tales from the past as translated and/or collected in two new books, Workers' Tales (Ed. Michael Rosen) and Édouard Laboulaye's Smack-Bam, or The Art of Governing Men.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, unique tales inspired by traditional literary forms appeared frequently in socialist-leaning British periodicals, such as the Clarion, Labour Leader, and Social Democrat. Based on familiar genres—the fairy tale, fable, allegory, parable, and moral tale—and penned by a range of lesser-known and celebrated authors, including Schalom Asch, Charles Allen Clarke, Frederick James Gould, and William Morris, these stories were meant to entertain readers of all ages—and some challenged the conventional values promoted in children’s literature for the middle class. In Workers’ Tales, acclaimed critic and author Michael Rosen brings together more than forty of the best and most enduring examples of these stories in one beautiful volume. 

Édouard Laboulaye (1811–1883), one of nineteenth-century France’s most prominent politicians and an instrumental figure in establishing the Statue of Liberty, was also a prolific writer of fairy tales. Smack-Bam, or The Art of Governing Men brings together sixteen of Laboulaye’s most artful stories in new translations. Filled with biting social commentary and strong notions of social justice, these rediscovered tales continue to impart lessons today.

Ever since I began studying folk and fairy tales in the 1950s and also reading existentialist writers like Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, I have either written books about the German romantic writers and fairy tales from the 17th century to the present, or I have developed critical analyses based on my reading of the critical theory of the German Frankfurt School (Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Eric Fromm, Juergen Habermas, and so on). It would take me too long to cite all the writers and critics who have influenced me. So, I shall cite about ten and write a brief note as to why and how these writers have influenced me.

The Tale of Tales, by Giambattiste Basile - Giambattiste Basile, who published the first great collection of fairy tales called The Tale of Tales (1634). He wrote the tales in a Neapolitan dialect with great irony and insight into the contradictions of his times. His humor is outlandish, and his insights, deep.

The Serapion Brethren, by E. T. A. Hoffman - E. T. A. Hoffmann, who published The Serapion Brethren about 1818. He was part of the third wave of German romantic writers (1798-1819) and definitely the most subtle, brilliant, and crazy. All his tales celebrate the artist as hero and art as our only refuge in a perverse world. Though most of his tales have been translated into English for some time. He has never received the due he deserves.

The Metamorphosis and Other Stories, by Franz Kafka - Franz Kafka, whose works I discovered in the 1950s. I think I have read every novel and story he has ever written. As a young man, I identified a good deal with the problems he had with his father. He had a unique sense of humor and understood how patriarchy could easily turn into totalitarianism which it did soon after he died in 1922. He was the greatest writer of the absurd which I try to develop in my own fiction.

The Bloody Chamber, by Angela Carter - Angela Carter is by far the greatest feminist writer of fairy tales. Her pioneer book, The Bloody Chamber, is a revolutionary book of tales that sheds great light on sexism and also suggests alternatives to the way men and women relate to each other. Her stories are filled with subtle humor.

Eros and Civilization, by Herbert Marcuse - Herbert Marcuse, whose books such as Eros and Civilization and One-Dimensional Man has a huge influence on me. I named my very first book, The Great Refusal (1972) on his concept in One-Dimensional Man. He taught me how to thing comprehensively and critically. His own dissertation focused on the romantic writer in Germany, a country he fled because of the Nazis.

The Principle of Hope, by Ernst Bloch - Ernst Bloch, the superb philosopher of hope. His three-volume study titled The Principle of Hope, along with other works, had a profound influence on me. He explored the possibilities for changing our world in an optimistic and utopian manner with our feet on the ground. That is, he grounded his utopian thinking in real human experience.

About Jack Zipes: Jack Zipes is the editor of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (both Princeton), as well as The Great Fairy Tale Tradition (Norton). He is professor emeritus of German and comparative literature at the University of Minnesota.

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