In preparation for running a short course on fairy tales, I have become interested by the difference in ending between Perrault’s Little Red Riding Hood and the Grimm Brothers’ Little Red Cap. In Perrault’s, the story ends with the wolf devouring Little Red with the attributive moral that ‘Children, especially attractive, well bred young ladies, should never talk to strangers, for if they should do so, they may well provide dinner for a wolf.’ The Grimms’ tale, on the other hand, introduces the huntsman who rescues Little Red and her grandmother, Little Red’s killing of the wolf, her subsequent meeting with a second wolf who tries the same trick, and the final death of the wolf at the hands of the grandmother and Little Red. But what are we to make of these differences?
Given the impact Covid-19 is having on education, like a lot of schools we are offering transition or ‘Step Up’ courses for the GCSE and A Level years. In addition to the traditional academic subjects, we are running some short courses, and I have offered one entitled ‘The Rise and Rise of Fairy Tales: From Grimm to Disney’. Though I love fairy tales, I must confess to having avoided Disney for much of my life.
No longer though!
Yesterday I began by watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and comparing it to the Brothers Grimm tale. I could write several posts on each of them, but some of the adaptations made from the Grimm story to the Disney animation are particularly fascinating and worth exploring.
The perfect combination of an interest in the supernatural and being the right age meant that Buffy the Vampire Slayer came along at the perfect time for me. Like a lot of television – and particularly fantasy television – the complexity of the narrative often gets ignored. The fantasy genre is easily dismissed as ‘escapism’, and it is for this reason that some phenomenal writers (Stephen King is a great example) are often critically ignored. A quick search of academic writing about Buffy, however, will show you that there is serious academic research out there. I started re-watching Buffy recently, and I thought I would share my observations.
From Christopher Booker’s ‘The Seven Basic Plots’ (2004) to the variously attributed assertion that ‘all great literature is one of two stories: a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town’, I have found it fascinating to consider to what degree we can abstract general narratives from literature. Recently, though, I’ve begun to believe that there is really only one story…
I was covering this poem with my Y11 class this week when I finally came to some kind of understanding of the recurring sea imagery. I find it sometimes takes someone else talking about a text to give me focussed thinking space in order to consider these things; and, as the group were feeding back their analysis of the poem, I had one of those wonderful moments when I saw something that had previously eluded me.
In The Collapse of Parenting Sax outlines, as his subtitle suggests, ‘How we hurt our kids when we treat them like grown-ups.’ 1 Despite insisting that there are specific challenges facing parents in the USA that are not faced – at least, not to the same extent – as parents elsewhere, I have certainly seen an increase of these in the UK in both my personal life and my role as a teacher: in particular, the growing lack of respect of children towards adults; the increase in parents to protect children from difficulty or challenge (what Dr Sax calls ‘soft parenting’); and the over-scheduling of children’s time which detracts from quality parent-child interactions
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I have been covering William Blake’s ‘The Tyger’ with my Y11 class this week. Like many English teachers, I teach the companion poem ‘The Lamb’ at the same time, using the similarities and differences between the two to develop and deepen understanding. Having just finished teaching Of Mice and Men to my Y10 class, I was struck by some powerful similarities that are worth exporing1.
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Lennie’s demise at the end of Of Mice and Men is the culmination of the deaths that Steinbeck has used throughout the text to convey the hopelessness of the world these characters inhabit. Yet Lennie’s death does not just represent the death of their dream; it has a much more significant and symbolic role in our understanding of ourselves.
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As the ‘Reading Group Questions’ in the back of We Need to Talk About Kevin indicate, there is much to be made of the nature/nurture argument in the text. To me, however, this argument inevitably leads back to the concept of control. Who has it? Are Kevin’s character and his resulting actions an inescapable consequence of genes (nature) or does he, Eva or society have control over these factors (nurture)?
Continue reading “Narration in Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin”