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Instructor Class Description

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Marianne T Stecher
SCAND 232
Seattle Campus

Hans Christian Andersen and the Fairy Tale Tradition

Influence of Hans Christian Andersen and the fairy tale on modern Scandinavian tales and stories. Investigates the significance of the fairy tale in the modern world, with attention to writers such as Isak Dinesen, Knut Hamsun, Villy Sorensen, William Heinesen.

Class description

This course concerns fairy tales and how we find meaning in them. We begin with a study of a few of the classic or most widely known tales in Western culture, such as The Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, and Cinderella. These texts will be studied closely in order to demonstrate various ways that scholars have interpreted and given meaning to fairy tales. We will discuss the several possible approaches to dissecting and offering a diagnosis of a fairy tale. Origins and authorship of the genre (literary fairy tales) will be investigated, especially the relationship between the variants of tales attributed to Charles Perrault and the Grimm Brothers. With these tools, we then move to a close study of some of Hans Christian Andersen’s greatest masterpieces, such as The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen, The Ugly Duckling, and others. We will study his tales in the context of Romantic aesthetics, literary themes, social issues, as well as in the framework of Andersen’s own life, in order to discover how these texts reflect specific cultural, literary historical and personal circumstances as well as universal concerns.

Student learning goals

A knowledge and understanding of the fairy tale in a broad cultural, historical and literary context.

An introduction to various critical approaches to reading fairy tales and opportunities to exercise skills for interpreting and writing about literary texts.

An understanding of the distinctions between biography and literary autobiography, as exemplified in works by and about Hans Christian Andersen.

A knowledge of modern and recent adaptations of fairy tales in various genres and media.

A knowledge of some of the major currents of nineteenth-century European and Scandinavian culture, literature and social history.

General method of instruction

The primary method of instruction consists of lectures (structured by powerpoint presentations and lecture outlines) and required reading assignments. The course will occasionally make use of directed small-group discussion, and a few films. Assigned reading is required in advanced of each lecture.

Recommended preparation

Course is open to all undergraduates with an interest in culture, literature, history, and criticism. There are no specific entrance requirements; however, students with some previous training in reading and interpreting texts might have greater success in the course. There are two required texts: These editions are required: 1. Hans Christian Andersen, FAIRY TALES (trans. Tiina Nunnally). Penguin Books. 2. The CLASSIC FAIRY TALES, ed. by Maria Tatar. Norton Critical Edition.

Class assignments and grading

A critical essay is assigned (there will be a choice of topics). In addition, there are two exams (midterm and Final exam), which consist of objective questions as well as short essay questions. The assignments are designed to evaluate students' ability to think and write critically about the literary texts and secondary reading as well as to evaluate their knowledge of the subject matter.

Grades are based on the following: In-class examinations, which include writing an in-class essay and objective questions (Midterm 30% and Final 30%);critical essay (30%): Class participation 10%.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Marianne T Stecher
Date: 09/25/2013