This week’s fairy tales about animal spouses all dramatize the relationship between nature and civilization in narratives centered on romantic love and marriage. Despite this thematic similarity, each tale imagines the relationship in a distinct way, shaped by the person who wrote/recorded it and the larger historical and cultural context of the tale’s production. Use Robert Darnton’s essay “Peasants Tell Tales” and any ONE of the tales listed below to develop and support your arguments in answer to the following question:
● How does this tale function as a “historical document” (Darnton 366)? Analyze how this tale reflects the larger cultural values specific to the time and place in which the tale was written/recorded (if applicable, you may also discuss the concerns and perspective of the writer who wrote/recorded it). Please keep your observations rooted in the text—try not to stereotype!
● Potential topics: ○ gender norms in marriage ○ social class in marriage ○ love and desire ○ family relationships ○ virtue and vice
Your goals are to:
● Demonstrate your thorough understanding of Darnton’s argument ● Practice crafting arguments about rhetorical situation, with a focus on
social/historical/cultural context ● Practice integrating sources purposefully in your writing ● Develop some potential ideas for your RA essay
You may choose ONE of the following tales:
Tale Place Time
Straparola’s “The Pig King”
Italy 1550-155 5
Carter’s “The Tiger’s Bride”
“Urashima the Fisherman”
Japan 713 AD
“The Enchanted Frog” Spanish New Mexico
“The Swan Maiden” Sweden c. 1880s
“Chonguita” Philippines 1921
“The Dog Bride” India 1909
*You may not choose the tales by Beaumont or Grimm—we will discuss these extensively in class. Responses that focus on either of these tales will not receive credit.
● Begin by considering the rhetorical situation of your chosen tale. Refer to AGWR 181-191 for guiding questions and sample arguments that will help you get started. Your thesis should stay focused on HOW the story creates meaning using rhetorical strategies, not just what you think the moral is.
○ Rhetorical strategies you might discuss: word choice, sentence patterns, selection of plot/character details, dialogue, description, narrator’s commentary/point of view, imagery and other sensory language, etc.
○ If you’re not talking about how the writer achieves a specific purpose, or how the writer creates a specific effect in her audience, or how the writer responds/is influenced by her context, you’re not writing a true rhetorical analysis.
● Make sure to quote relevant passages from your chosen tale and be as specific as you can! Strong logical analysis can’t take place without evidence you can connect together in some way.
● You don’t have to do additional research for this response—if you want to write about Straparola’s “Pig King” but don’t know much about Renaissance Italy, that’s fine. Instead, based on the tale’s themes/message/moral and the rhetorical strategies you detect, what can you infer about the tale’s social, historical, cultural context? As a 16th-century Italian, Straparola views love,
sex, marriage, and nature vs. civilization differently than Angela Carter, an English feminist writing in the 1970s.
● Pay special attention to how you integrate Darnton—his ideas need to serve some argumentative purpose within the framework of your own main argument. Consider what his most important ideas are, in relation to what YOU want to talk about:
○ Do you want to focus on his critique of psychoanalytic approaches to fairy tales (363-367)? Or do you want to focus on his ideas about oral storytelling (368-370)? Or do you want to focus on his ideas about the importance of formal narrative structure (371-374)? Or some combination of the above?
○ Then figure out the logical connection between what he’s arguing and what you’re arguing.
○ Remember to follow the three-step method described in AGWR 63-65.
Your response should be around 500 words (about two double-spaced pages) long; discuss specific examples from your primary and secondary texts to support your main arguments. Upload your response here in a Word document.
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