The newest issues of the Journal of Amerian Folklore crossed my desk this week and it is a special issue devoted to fairy tales.
Journal of American Folklore Special Issue: The European Fairy-Tale Tradition Between Orality and Literacy (Volume 123, Number 490, Fall 2010).
Here's the table of contents:
The European Fairy-Tale Tradition Between Orality and Literacy by Dan Ben-Amos
Straparola and the Fairy Tale: Between Literary and Oral Traditions by Jan M. Ziolkowski
The Invention of Fairy Tales by Francisco Vaz da Silva
Straparola: The Revolution That Was Not by by Dan Ben-Amos
Fairy Godfather, Fairy-Tale History, and Fairy-Tale Scholarship: A Response to Dan Ben-Amos, Jan M. Ziolkowski and Francisco Vaz da Silva by Ruth B. Bottigheimer
The issue is essentially a response to the controversy brought on by the publication of Ruth B. Bottigheimer's Fairy Tales: A New History (Excelsior Editions) a few years ago. This ended up being a somewhat hot topic at the AFS annual meeting last week, too, at least in one session. Essentially in the book, Bottigheimer argues for the literary history of fairy tales, discounting an oral tradition. The book has caused much controversy from its assertions (content) to its basic techniques and evidence (academic standards of presentation and argument). This new issue of The Journal of American Folklore addresses both sides of the argument and gives Bottigheimer an opportunity to respond.
Overall, it's a fascinating argument and one that has been picked up by the media in recent years, too. So it's important to be aware of the arguments and what is being claimed and then decide for yourself, of course. For full disclosure, my expertise is in the literary tale, but I have dealt with oral tradition, too. I stand firmly in the middle which may get me squashed for I think it takes both oral and literary traditions especially in our popular cultures to get us where we are today. I see the world as too fluid to choose absolutes.