Tales of the unexpected: undoing ideal fairy tale femininity

Bonner, Sarah ORCID logo ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4006-5349 (2020) Tales of the unexpected: undoing ideal fairy tale femininity. In: Brugué, Lydia and Llompart, Auba, (eds.) Contemporary fairy-tale magic: subverting gender and genre. At the Interface / Probing the Boundaries series, 129 . Brill, Leiden, The Netherlands.

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004418998


This chapter explores the construction, repetition and dissemination of idealised gender norms in popular fairy tales and how, in contemporary visual re-workings, these conventions of, for the purposes of this chapter, femininity are being challenged. Philosopher Judith Butler’s theories of gender construction and performance underpin an analysis of how gender, as a series of acts and physical states, is constituted in fairy tales. Butler’s theories relate to the construction of gender norms and, further, the possibility to undermine that construction are central to this chapter. The understanding that gender is constructed of a series of repeated socially consensual performative acts finds example in the repetition of gendered types found throughout the fairy tale genre. The archetypal heroine of fairy tale fame is constructed according to a perceived social consensus of ideal femininity—she must be pretty, pure, obedient, youthful and morally sound—a model repeated through a number of tales. Thus the construction of ideal femininity is played out in the popular tales and internalised by readers/viewers of the fairy tale. The artworks analysed in this chapter show how subversive repetition can serve to interrupt, challenge, transgress and even reverse conventional attitudes towards gender. Through an examination of gender, other identity markers such as race, sexuality and social position will be made, further challenging the putative norms of femininity embedded in the popular fairy tale. The application of Butler’s theories to the fairy tale genre, and their constant repetition in literary, and more recently visual, form since the seventeenth century, reveals the potential to change perceptions of gender through subversive repetition. It is this subversive repeat, a mis-repetition, which allows for the possibility of change that will be examined here.

Item Type: Book Section
Publisher: Brill
ISBN: 9789004418998
Departments: Institute of Arts > Graphics and Photography
Depositing User: Sarah Bonner
Date Deposited: 18 Apr 2019 15:26
Last Modified: 25 Apr 2024 14:55
URI: https://insight.cumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/4191


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