Transforming Fairy Tales: Representations of girlhood in Francesca Lia Block's "Wolf"
This paper is part of a larger project that focuses on representations of gender and sexuality in American children’s and young adult literature. In this presentation, I analyze the discursive construction of feminine adolescence in Francesca Lia Block’s collection of contemporary fairy tales for young adults, The Rose and the Beast. Block’s collection challenges familiar fairy tale variants, which are often used as reading materials in American public school settings. More specifically, Block’s tales engage with traumatic issues such as father-daughter incest and rape that have been systematically edited out of the Anglo-American fairy tale canon. Using poststructural feminist and literary theories, I point out how Block reinserts this violent and sexual material into her tale “Wolf,” a variant of “Little Red Riding Hood.” Block crafts an alternative storyline that exposes how traditional versions of “Little Red Riding Hood” position the girl as innocent victim and as a sexually enticing figure, a representation that suggests the heroine is responsible for the wolf’s advances. The paper concludes with a discussion of how classroom teachers might focus on the discourses of femininity within traditional fairy tale variants and how Block works within and against those discourses to produce storylines that exceed contemporary scripts for thinking about girlhood, gender and sexuality.
Elizabeth Marshall (United States)
College of Education, Department of Curriculum and Instruction
University of Maryland
Dr. Elizabeth Marshall is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she teaches courses in children's and adolescent literature. Her current scholarship centers on representations of gender and sexuality in literature for young readers. In addition to her work in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Dr. Marshall is an affiliate professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland.
(30 min. Conference Paper, English)