Intro to Fairy Tales: Syllabus Assignment

Although this week’s readings are on the topic of grading, I’ve decided to instead record some thoughts on the syllabus I plan to create as our final project in the practicum.  (This is largely due to the fact that I’ll be grading papers all weekend and I’m trying to deny that this is indeed how I will be spending the next several days…So on to happier thoughts!)

That I’m planning a course on the topic of fairy tales is probably not surprising to those of you who know me.  They are my main research interest, the topic of my dissertation, the topic of most of my term papers as a graduate student, as well as a topic I’ve managed to insert in some manner into each of the classes I have taught here at Wayne State.  But more than just being a subject *I* find interesting, fairy tales are texts that most students get excited about (or at least do not hate with a vile contempt that causes them to glare at me with evil eyes).  From talking with my students, Disney still reigns supreme for child entertainment, and students are often amazed when they are exposed to non-Disney versions of the fairy tales they experienced as children.  From talking to other fairy-tale scholars, my experience of student interest is not a fluke, and CMLLC’s Introduction to Fairy Tale courses are reportedly quick to fill to capacity.  The new IC course Intro to Children’s Literature is also becoming a favorite with registering students.  So as far as a topic goes, fairy tales seem ideal for both me AND the students I hope to teach.

Although I’ve considered creating a course syllabus under the designation Intro to Children’s Literature, I have decided to instead go with the more generic Intro to Fiction and Writing (ENG 2120).  This is in large part due to my desire to use a newly released text, Marvelous Transformations:  An Anthology of Fairy Tales and Contemporary Critical Perspectives, edited by Christine A. Jones and Jennifer Schacker.  This anthology was created expressly for teaching fairy tales, and it therefore follows the history of the fairy tale, including a selection of tales beginning in Ancient Egypt until present-day contemporary tales.  It also includes an introduction on “How to Read a Fairy Tale,” as well as essays on various critical approaches, including genre, ideology, authorship, reception, and translation.  Supplemented with a more novel-length text (I’m currently trying to get a copy of Fabien Vehlmann’s graphic novel Beautiful Darkness for evaluation), other favorite fairy tales (many of which are available via Sur La Lune), and possibly a literature and writing handbook and a few secondary source articles, it seems like this text really brings the course together without undue cost for students.  But because Marvelous Transformations includes fairy tales for both adults and children, it will not work for an Intro to Children’s Literature course.  And my heart is currently very much set on this text (I’m actually a bit obsessed, in case my whole sales/marketing spiel hasn’t made that obvious yet).  As a final note, this anthology also seems quite ideal for Wayne State’s Gen. Ed. in English curriculum, given the continuation of Genre from ENG 1020 to this anthology.

Moving away from the wonders of Marvelous Transformations, I plan to re-use variations of the assignments I used last Fall when I taught ENG 2120: Intro to Fiction and Writing with the theme of the femme fatale.  I’ll be revising the assignment descriptions and weights, but the sequence, I think, was successful.


  1. Character Analysis (short diagnostic essay assigned the first week of class and due the next week)
  2. Close Reading
  3. Literary Analysis/Compare & Contrast (students are free to choose one or the other)
  4. Annotated Bibliography 
  5. Literary Research Paper (revision of Lit. Analysis/Compare & Contrast with addition of research to meet graded revision requirement)
  6. Short Presentation (students suggested last fall that I change the presentation to a revision of the Character Analysis from Week 1; I like this suggestion as it again becomes a graded revision)
  7. Weekly Responses (used as low-stakes writing that allowed students to share their personal opinions about the texts (I liked/am enjoying/am bored/etc.), especially in the beginning of class; used more and more as the semester continues as a way for students to begin building their projects (thesis statements, outlines, Works Cited, etc.) and receive feedback from me)



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