The following assignments are suggested by Dr. Hilary S. Crew, Adjunct Faculty, Rutgers University.
It is twenty years since Adrienne Rich wrote her seminal work Of Woman Born on motherhood and the mother daughter relationship. The representations of motherhood, mothers, and mother-daughter relationships have taken a central place in feminist studies. See, for example, the work of Nancy J. Chodorow, Marianne Hirsch, and Shari L. Thurer. Elements of plot in a number of fairy tales include the absenting of the maternal mother, the substitution of a stepmother, and/or the presence of a witch figure. (See Bruno Bettelheim and Jack Zipes for discussions of fairy tales.)
The purpose of this assignment is to examine the representation of the mother figure, (including grandmother and stepmother figures) the witch (crone) figure, and the relationships between these figures and the daughter/protagonist in traditional tales. You might, for example, focus on a particular tale looking at the differences in these representations among several illustrated versions of the tale. Examples might be Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, Rapunzel, and Red Riding Hood.
Discuss your analysis in relation to feminist theories and in relation to psychological and social explanations of the representation of mothers and the crone figure in fairy tales. In looking at versions of a tale, you may wish to consider how the visual and textual representations of mother figures and crone figures differ.
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Created January 25, 1997 and is continously revised.