Donors and Helpers: Masculinity in Contemporary Fairy Tales (April 7-10, 2011 New Brunswick, NJ)

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NeMLA (Northeast Modern Language Association) 2011 Convention
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A hallmark of contemporary fairy tales is their subversion of stereotypical gender roles: once passive princesses have been transformed into tenacious, independent heroines who seek their own identities and forge their own paths. Canonical writers such as Angela Carter and Anne Sexton created a tradition that encouraged a flood of feminist reworkings of traditional tales and a plethora of newly created tales that mirror our contemporary age's continuing power shifts for women. Yet despite such progress, Jack Zipes, the most eminent fairy tale scholar of our time, has argued that mass consumerism has "pa[id] lip service to feminism by showing how necessary it is for young and old women alike to become independent without challenging the structural embodiment of women in all the institutions that support the present socio-economic system" (Relentless Progress 129). Allowing women to embody traditional male roles in tales may, in fact, create an illusion of equality or, in more negative terms, offer some sense of retribution for many years of oppression. But this still doesn't address the root cause of issues of inequality, and in fact, it may create a new oppressed role, this time for the male. As female characters dominate powerful roles in contemporary feminist fairy tales, what roles are left for males? Do feminist fairy tales have the power and influence to strip males of their power entirely? Are male characters in fairy tales doomed to become the donors and helpers, playing the support roles that female characters once embodied? And does this role reversal create a reverse sexism that may prove to be detrimental in terms of cultural conditioning for males?

This panel explores masculinity in contemporary fairy tales through papers which support or refute the argument that the majority of feminist fairy tales subvert gender roles and place female characters into positions of power over males, in effect creating the potential for reverse sexism, which may culturally condition male behavior.

Please send inquiries and abstracts to Susan Redington Bobby at Please include with your abstract your name and affiliation, email address, AV requirements ($10 handling fee), and a short bio. Abstract deadline is Sept. 30, 2010. Conference runs April 7-10, 2011 in New Brunswick, NJ.