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November 30, 2007, 7:00 PM

Transformations: How Fairy Tales Cast Their Spell

Participants: Anne Cattaneo, Mark Lamos, Donna Jo Napoli, Roger Rahtz, Maria Tatar, Jack Zipes (moderator)

In a recent article in Time, entitled "The End of Fairy Tales?" James Poniewozik refers to Shrek and other recent fairy-tale films and writes, "This is a new world of fairy tales: parodied, ironized, meta-fictionalized, politically adjusted and pop-culture saturated. . . . What these stories are reacting against is not so much fairy tales in general as the specific, saccharine Disney kind, which sanitized the far darker originals." This may, indeed, be true, as a reaction to Disney, but the new forms are really not new. Fairy tales have been transformed in diverse ways and have been transforming themselves ever since they originated in an oral tradition. What is fascinating about the fairy tale genre is precisely its transformative quality and capacity to capture our imaginations. However, it is not clear why we are so addicted to fairy tales and why we continually return to them, change them, and use them in such innovative ways in the theater, opera, cinema, school, at home and, of course, on the Internet. Fairy tales touch our lives from birth to death. As a genre they were never developed or cultivated for children until late in their development, and adults are largely the writers and creators of fairy tales in practically every country in the world. The tales continue to speak to us and call out, it seems, for transformation. This panel will set out to discover the sources of this tradition and how it infuses and is infused by imaginative processes, including indigenous myth, religion, art, dream-life and morality.

Anne Cattaneo is the Dramaturg of the Lincoln Center Theater and creator and head of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors' Lab. A three term past President of Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, she is the recipient of LMDA's first Lessing Award for lifetime achievement in dramaturgy.

Mark Lamos is director of the Lincoln Center's production of Cymbeline. He has directed numerous productions on Broadway and at Lincoln Center, as well as at Off-Broadway venues such as Playwrights Horizons, Signature, and the New York Shakespeare Festival. He was the Artistic Director of Hartford Stage from 1980 to 1997, receving a Tony Award for the theater's body of work. Regionally he has directed at the Kennedy Center, Williamstown, La Jolla Playhouse, the Old Globe, the McCarter, and the Guthrie, among others, as well as Canada's Stratford Festival and Moscow's Pushkin Theater. As a director of Opera, he has overseen productions at the Met, New York City Opera, Glimmerglass, Chicago Lyric, and L'Opera du Montreal, among many others.

Donna Jo Napoli is both a linguist and a writer of children's fiction. She writes picture books, young adult novels, historical fiction, contemporary humorous tales, gothic horror, and, of particular interest to this roundtable, she works on fairytales, myths, and religious stories. She is Professor of Linguistics at Swarthmore College. She holds degrees in mathematics (BA, Harvard) and Romance linguistics (PhD, Harvard), and did her postdoctorate work in linguistics at MIT.

Roger Rahtz has a private practice in child, adolescent, and adult psychiatry and psychoanalysis. He is President of the New York Psychoanalytic Society and Institute and Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at New York University Medical Center. In addition, he is Associate Director of the Parent Child Center at the New York Psychoanalytic Society and an attending psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital.

Maria Tatar is the John L. Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Harvard University. She served as Dean for the Humanities at Harvard, and currently teaches courses there on German culture and on folklore and children's literature. Her most recent books include The Classic Fairy Tales, The Annotated Brothers Grimm, and The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen. She is currently working on Enchanted Hunters: The Transformative Power of Children's Literature and The Annotated Peter Pan.

Jack Zipes (moderator) is professor of German at the University of Minnesota. In addition to his scholarly work, he is an active storyteller in public schools and has worked with children's theaters in Europe and the United States. Some of his major publications include Breaking the Magic Spell: Radical Theories of Folk and Fairy Tales, Fairy Tales and the Art of Subversion, and Why Fairy Tales Stick: The Evolution and Relevance of a Genre. He has also translated The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm and edited The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales and The Great Fairy Tale Tradition. He served as the General Editor of the Norton Anthology of Children's Literature and Editor-in-Chief of The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children's Literature.


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