My Fairy-Tale Paper at #WSFS2017

Believe it or not, there’s always more to say about fairy tales, even canonical ones like “Snow White.” And that’s precisely what my paper at WSFS is about!

Franz Jüttner's Schneewittchen (1910). In public domain, from Wikimedia Commons.
Franz Jüttner’s Schneewittchen (1910). In public domain, from Wikimedia Commons.

Goodness knows I love a good conference. And thus I’m extremely pleased to return to the WSFS (or Western States Folklore Society) annual conference, after not making it to this regional conference, since, hm, 2006? An earlier incarnation of this conference, back when it was CFS (the California Folklore Society) was in fact one of the very first conferences I presented my research at, while still an undergrad at Berkeley. That conference deserves its own blog post, as it contained an epic road trip and home takeover as well as family awkwardness related to my research topic.

My paper this year, while on fairy tales just like that long-ago undergrad paper, represents my evolution as a scholar: I’m still working on gender and sexuality in fairy tales, but I’ve got more theoretical tools in my belt (more feminist theory; and queer theory where previously there was none). It’s part of an intellectual exploration that’s eventually going to become a book chapter, so I’m cautiously optimistic about receiving useful feedback.

I’ll be presenting on Saturday morning, and I’ll be live-tweeting the conference using the hashtag #WSFS2017 whenever I can. There’s a pretty big Berkeley contingent here, both past and present, so I’ll also be catching up with colleagues and generally trying to enjoy myself.

Anyway, here’s my abstract:

Waking Snow White: Denatualizing Gender and Sexuality in Contemporary American Fairy-Tale Literature

Contemporary American literary retellings of fairy tales destabilize fixed concepts of gender and sexuality through a number of narrative strategies that this paper shall explore. Drawing on recent feminist and queer fairy-tale scholarship (by Cristina Bacchilega, Vanessa Joosen, and Pauline Greenhill among others), this paper will examine novels, short stories, and poems that transform “Snow White,” ATU 709. Retellings such as Seanan McGuire’s novel Indexing, Francesca Lia Block’s story “Snow,” and Brittany Warman and Sara Cleto’s poem “Waking” all revise gender roles for Snow White. However, these revisions also have implications for the sexuality of the characters, with queer, liminal, and transbiological possibilities opened up in connection to and expanding on restrictive iterations of femininity. Whether rejecting heterosexuality or rejecting the notion of a scripted fairy-tale sexuality, these Snow Whites talk back to tradition in ways that illuminate both the intertwining of gender and sexuality and the transformations of fairy-tale texts through rewriting.

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