Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Grimm Legacies 2012: The Grimms, Sendak, and the Zeitgeist by John Cech

The Juniper Tree: And Other Tales from Grimm  

The Juniper Tree: And Other Tales from Grimm translated by Lore Segal and Randall Jarrell and illustrated by Maurice Sendak was the primary focus of John Cech's presentation at Grimm Legacies, titled "The Grimms, Sendak, and the Zeitgeist." I posted about the book almost a year ago and shared the book description and table of contents with some images so go there to see those During his talk, Cech had a rotating slide presentation of Sendak's illustrations for the book. Since these illustrations are rather small format in their book I really enjoyed seeing them in their blown-up glory on the screen where more of the minute details were visible.

I'll share some highlights of the Cech's presentation here interspersed with images from the book.

First published in 1973, The Juniper Tree marked a tipping point in the interest in fairy tales during that era. Up to that point, there hadn't been many fairy tales illustrated with more of a salt and vinegar feel, with perhaps the most recent having been Wanda Gag's collections first published in 1936. (I've posted about Gag's Snow White previously, but need to devote some more posts to her work. Note to self.)

The book was first a collaboration between Randall Jarrell and Sendak, but Jarrell died when the project was barely begun with only five translations. (You can read one of my previous posts about Randall Jarrell here.)

Lore Segal was chosen to complete the collaboration. Together, she and Sendak chose the tales that resonated best with them, some well-known and others not as well-known, resulting in 27 tales with one illustration for each.

Sendak chose to illustrate an important, key point in the plot of each tale. Some have criticized his illustrations as claustrophobic, but Cech interprets the choices as intimate, close-up views of the characters. He studied the engraving work of artists such as Albrecht Dürer and the early illustrated versions of Grimms, too.

Cech referenced a few books, articles and videos in his presentation, including:

Three Gay Tales from Grimm (Fesler-Lampert Minnesota Hertitage Book Series) Tales from Grimm (Fesler-Lampert Minnesota Heritage) More Tales from Grimm (Fesler-Lampert Minnesota Heritage) Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (Fesler-Lampert Minnesota Heritage)

Wanda Gag's fairy tale books

Fables for Our Time and Famous Poems Illustrated by James Thurber

Beyond the Looking Glass: Extraordinary Works of Fairy Tale & Fantasy by Jonathan Cott (I've owned this but can't find it again on my shelves. Hmmmm.)

"Some Day My Prince Will Come": Female Acculturation Through the Fairy Tale by Marcia R. Lieberman (this is an article and I linked to it on JSTOR which requires login to access) (This, for your quick reference, is anti-fairy tales in the name of feminism.)

Don't Tell the Grown-Ups: The Subversive Power of Children's Literature by Alison Lurie, specifically the reprint of "Fairy Tale Liberation" (I am going to devote another post today to this book.)

Sendak on Colbert: The videos, Part I and Part II, are online and have content warning if that concerns you. They are funny and rather unexpected from Colbert and Sendak, but then again not.

Tell Them Anything You Want, a documentary about Sendak by Spike Jonze

Finally, more about John Cech:

John Cech is the author of fiction, prose, poetry, and criticism for adults and children, including Angels and Wild Things, a study of the work of Maurice Sendak. Cech is Professor of English and Children’s Literature and the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he also directs the Center for Children’s Literature and Culture. Cech has been a commentator on children’s culture for NPR’s “All Things Considered,” and he was the creator, producer, and host of “Recess!”--the public radio program about the cultures of childhood, which aired nationally from 1998-2006.

Please note that these are from my own notes and may not be 100% accurate to Cech's presentation. When it comes to these topics and day-long thinking fests, my own brain imposes my knowledge and thoughts into my notes, so any errors will be rightfully mine. He should be consulted for any direct quotations or clarification.

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