Fairy Tales Transformed?: Twenty-First-Century Adaptations and the Politics of Wonder (Series in Fairy-Tale Studies) by Cristina Bacchilega was released this month. I received a review copy from the publisher as part of the full disclosure, but as always, the words here are my own. Also, the book discusses the SurLaLune site in brief as part of the modern presentation of fairy tales in our culture in the introduction. That's fun for me. It's a relatively short mention, but there all the same.
But with or without that reference to SurLaLune, Bacchilega shares some fascinating viewpoints and discussion of how fairy tales are present and used in our modern culture. From her introduction:
In Jack Zipes’s words, “Fairy tales are informed by a human disposition to action—to transform the world and make it more adaptable to human needs, while we try to change and make ourselves fit for the world” (Zipes 2012, 2). This statement is not, given Zipes’s project in The Irresistible Fairy Tale (2012), to be understood as a definition that encompasses the genre of the fairy tale, but it identifies transformation as central to what most fairy tales do or anticipate. Like Zipes, I am interested in exploring how fairy tales affect the making of who we are and of the world we are in, and I agree that thinking about transformation—within the tales’ storyworlds; in the genre’s ongoing process of production, reception, reproduction, adaptation, and translation; in the fairy-tale’s relation to other genres; and more generally as action in the social world—offers a spacious and productive way into that exploration.
This is not light, casual reading, but it is fascinating and if you are a regular SurLaLune reader, you will find references to many of the things that have appeared on this blog and on the main site over the last fifteen years. I don't offer much analysis, I just share fairy tale news. In this book, Bacchilega analyzes and considers why fairy tales are so prevalent and useful. For me as a reader, there was some nostalgia rather like reading through a scrapbook. I admit it is just plain fun to read her text and be familiar with the materials she references. I've been watching it rather closely for years.
And when the description says 21st century, it's true. Granted the last few years aren't as well represented due to the time frame of publishing a print book--it would be fun to throw all of the recent TV shows better into the mix, for example, such as the unexpected continued success of both ABC's Once Upon a Time and NBC's Grimm--but most of the texts/products considered here are recent. You won't be reading yet another in depth analysis of Cocteau's or Disney's Beauty and the Beast but of Pan's Labyrinth instead or even Disney's Enchanted.
And less I forget, here's the book description:
Fairy-tale adaptations are ubiquitous in modern popular culture, but readers and scholars alike may take for granted the many voices and traditions folded into today's tales. In Fairy Tales Transformed?: Twenty-First-Century Adaptations and the Politics of Wonder, accomplished fairy-tale scholar Cristina Bacchilega traces what she terms a "fairy-tale web" of multivocal influences in modern adaptations, asking how tales have been changed by and for the early twenty-first century. Dealing mainly with literary and cinematic adaptations for adults and young adults, Bacchilega investigates the linked and yet divergent social projects these fairy tales imagine, their participation and competition in multiple genre and media systems, and their relation to a politics of wonder that contests a naturalized hierarchy of Euro-American literary fairy tale over folktale and other wonder genres.
Bacchilega begins by assessing changes in contemporary understandings and adaptations of the Euro-American fairy tale since the 1970s, and introduces the fairy-tale web as a network of reading and writing practices with a long history shaped by forces of gender politics, capitalism, and colonialism. In the chapters that follow, Bacchilega considers a range of texts, from high profile films like Disney's Enchanted, Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth, and Catherine Breillat's Bluebeard to literary adaptations like Nalo Hopkinson's Skin Folk, Emma Donoghue's Kissing the Witch, and Bill Willingham's popular comics series, Fables. She looks at the fairy-tale web from a number of approaches, including adaptation as "activist response" in Chapter 1, as remediation within convergence culture in Chapter 2, and a space of genre mixing in Chapter 3. Chapter 4 connects adaptation with issues of translation and stereotyping to discuss mainstream North American adaptations of The Arabian Nights as "media text" in post-9/11 globalized culture.
Bacchilega's epilogue invites scholars to intensify their attention to multimedia fairy-tale traditions and the relationship of folk and fairy tales with other cultures' wonder genres. Scholars of fairy-tale studies will enjoy Bacchilega's significant new study of contemporary adaptations.