112th Annual Conference - Riverside Convention Center, California
Friday, October 31 - Sunday, November 2, 2014

This page is about the 2014 conference. For 2015 conference info, go to PAMLA 2015.

Liberating Cinderella: Re-visioning Fairy Tales for Children with Transgressive Feminist Ideology

Sarah McLain, Simmons College

Tracing the foundation of re-visioning feminist fairy tales, this paper performs a cultural analysis of Levine's Ella Enchanted in order to illustrate the subtle ongoing ideological shift that second wave feminism infused into the larger cultural narrative of fairy tales.


In the 1970s, feminists raised awareness about the socializing nature of fairy tales, but few have examined the transgressive potential of the ongoing cultural shift in fairy tale narratives. By influencing the narratives that socialize children, feminist re-visionary fairy tales have the latent ability to affect ideology and effect change in the way we view gender. In particular, fairy tales for children and young adults demonstrate the possibilty of alternative feminist narratives, a subversive practice designed to transform ideology.  My paper unites Adrienne Rich’s definition of “re-vision” with Jack Zipes’ argument that fairy tales liberate children from dominant ideology and Roberta Seelinger Trites’ methodology of outlining feminist children’s novels in order to demonstrate the radical possibilities. Rich defines re-vision as "the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new critical direction.” In this paper, I establish a framework for feminist fairy tales for children before applying it to Ella Enchanted as an imperfect example of children’s re-visionary fairy tales. The heroine, Ella, exists in a state of perpetual, active transgression against her curse of obedience. The novel must maintain the narrative structure of Cinderella in order to signal and ground the fairy tale, yet Levine’s story challenges dominant ideology of passivity in fairy tales. Even though fairy tales are among the most accessible pieces of literature for children, second-wave feminism and Rich’s concept of re-vision have permeated the larger cultural conversation for adults as well. Current cultural re-visionary works on every level adapt and adopt constantly shifting ideology, using it to both disrupt and comfort consumers, much like fairy tales hold their magic spell through that same conflict, challenging the ideology of gender, race, class, and other systems of oppression.        

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