Sunday, March 28, 2010

Women in Folklore Month: Ruth B. Bottigheimer

Ruth Bottigheimer is a another woman who is currently active in fairy tale scholarship with a few books and numerous articles to her credit. Her approach is somewhat different from other names currently active in the field, making for a diverse experience when you study her work.

First, here's her bio on the Stony Brook University website:

Ruth B. Bottigheimer teaches courses on European fairy tales and British children's literature and also directs independent studies in the same fields. Her work crosses disciplinary boundaries, contextualizing genres in their socio-historical cultures of origin, assessing them in terms of publishing history parameters, and utilizing linguistics in discourse analysis. Her languages of research are English, German, and French, occasionally Italian and Spanish. She maintains a continuing interest in the history of illustration and its shifting iconography, as well as in children's religious socialization through the use of edited Bible narratives. In conjunction with these areas, she has taught, and continues to teach, seminars in England, Portugal, Germany, and Austria. Her ongoing research includes the history of early British children's literature; the seventeenth-century Port-Royalist Nicolas Fontaine; and a new history of fairy tales.

Fairy Tales: A New History (Excelsior Editions) by Ruth B. Bottigheimer

From the publisher:

Where did Cinderella come from? Puss in Boots? Rapunzel? The origins of fairy tales are looked at in a new way in these highly engaging pages. Conventional wisdom holds that fairy tales originated in the oral traditions of peasants and were recorded for posterity by the Brothers Grimm during the nineteenth century. Ruth B. Bottigheimer overturns this view in a lively account of the origins of these well-loved stories. Charles Perrault created Cinderella and her fairy godmother, but no countrywoman whispered this tale into Perrault's ear. Instead, his Cinderella appeared only after he had edited it from the book of often amoral tales published by Giambattista Basile in Naples. Distinguishing fairy tales from folktales and showing the influence of the medieval romance on them, Bottigheimer documents how fairy tales originated as urban writing for urban readers and listeners. Working backward from the Grimms to the earliest known sixteenth-century fairy tales of the Italian Renaissance, Bottigheimer argues for a book-based history of fairy tales. The first new approach to fairy tale history in decades, this book answers questions about where fairy tales came from and how they spread, illuminating a narrative process long veiled by surmise and assumption.

Fairy Godfather: Straparola, Venice, and the Fairy Tale Tradition by Ruth B. Bottigheimer

From the publisher:

In the classic rags-to-riches fairy tale a penniless heroine (or hero), with some magic help, marries a royal prince (or princess) and rises to wealth. Received opinion has long been that stories like these originated among peasants, who passed them along by word of mouth from one place to another over the course of centuries. In a bold departure from conventional fairy tale scholarship, Ruth B. Bottigheimer asserts that city life and a single individual played a central role in the creation and transmission of many of these familiar tales. According to her, a provincial boy, Zoan Francesco Straparola, went to Venice to seek his fortune and found it by inventing the modern fairy tale, including the long beloved Puss in Boots, and by selling its many versions to the hopeful inhabitants of that colorful and commercially bustling city.

With innovative literary sleuthing, Bottigheimer has reconstructed the actual composition of Straparola's collection of tales. Grounding her work in social history of the Renaissance Venice, Bottigheimer has created a possible biography for Straparola, a man about whom hardly anything is known. This is the first book-length study of Straparola in any language.

I have Straparola's Facetious Nights available on SurLaLune.

Grimm's Bad Girls and Bold Boys: The Moral and Social Vision of the Tales by Ruth B. Bottigheimer

From the publisher:

In this book -- the first in more than fifty years to treat the entire body of Grimms' Tales -- Ruth B. Bottigheimer provides a thorough analysis of the stories' content, focusing in particular on the matter of gender. By combining a sociohistorical examination of the stories with close scrutiny of the language in which they are told, Bottigheimer reveals coherent patterns of motif, plot, and image and brings new insight into the moral and social vision of the collection.

Bottigheimer has many, many articles to be read and discovered, too. A simple web and database search will produce much more of her work and theories about fairy tales.

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