Masaryk university in brno faculty of Arts Department of English and American Studies




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MASARYK UNIVERSITY IN BRNO


Faculty of Arts

Department of English and American Studies




Myth and Fairy Tale Elements in Contemporary Adults´ Fiction: Some Aspects




Martina Schoberová




Supervisor: doc. Mgr. Milada Franková, CSc., M.A. Brno 2006


I declare that I have worked on this thesis independently,
using only the primary and secondary sources listed in the bibliography.



……………………………………………..

Author’s signature

Acknowledgement


I would like to thank my supervisor Milada Franková for her patience and guidance throughout my writing this thesis.


Contents:


I. Introduction ……………………………………………………………………………………...3

Key terms …………………………………………………………………………………………9

1. Children´s literature………………………………………………………………………….9

2. Storytelling, narrator………………………………………………………………………..10

3. Myth…………………………………………………………………………………….…..12

4. Fairy tale……………………………………………………………………………………13

5. Myth versus fairy …………………………………………………………………………..16

II. Structuralist analysis of Sea Fever……………………………………………………………18

Introduction………………………………………………………………………………….…..18

1. Propp and his morphology………………………………………………………………….19

Analysis ………………………………………………………………………………………….21

Romance as a fairy tale…………………………………………………………………………32


III. Analysis of Indigo …………………………………………………………………………….40

Introduction……………………………………………………………………………………...40

1. Postmodernist elements in Indigo…………………………………………………………..40

1:1 Temporal disorder ..…………………………………………………………….……….42

1.2. Fragmentation..…………………………………………………………………………43

1.3 Pastiche...………………………………………………………………………………..45

Analysis…………………………………………………………………………………………..46

1. Serafine……………………………………………………………………………………..46

2.Serafine, the storyteller……………………………………………………………………...48

3. Fairy godmothers…………………………………………………………………………...53

4. Sycorax……………………………………………………………………………………..56


5. Sycorax, the witch…………………………………………………………………………..57

6. Sycorax, the voice…………………………………………………………………………..59

7. Manjiku……………………………………………………………………………………..60


Myths and their retellings………………………………………………………………………61


IV. Conclusion……………………………………………………………………………………..64


BIBLIOGRAPHY………………………………………………………………………………....66







I: Introduction


This thesis will focus on the interconnection between literature for children and literature for adults. It will attempt to examine certain patterns, structures and elements characteristic of children´s literature and demonstrate how these elements are used and the way they work in adults´ fiction. Inevitably, the following questions arise: How do we define literature for children? Are there any clearcut boundaries? Can we really speak of some kind of interconnection as suggested above?

Children´s literature includes both the works that were written primarily for children and those that were originally part of adult literature. This transgression or shift from one category to another one may suggest that literature for children and literature for adults both work on a very similar basis and that one type influences the other and vice versa. It not only implies that children literature and literature for adults have a lot in common but also that children literature might sometimes be borrowing adult literature techniques and strategies and at the same time adult fiction could be employing some of the principles of children literature and that these “borrowings” seem work very well.

By the term literature for children are, in this work, for the most part meant fairy tales, as they are unarguably the core and the most dominant part of children literature. The thesis will be dealing mostly with the themes, the motifs, with certain features and elements of traditional fairy tales (or folk tales) as they seem to have a great significance and influence on literature in general.

The thesis will also concentrate on the notion of magic and myths, as myths have always been shaping human perception of the world and certain stereotypes created in mythology dominate our thinking, reading and understanding of literature even today. Moreover, myths are closely interconnected with fairy tales and some of the classical fairy tales have mythical components and elements and these, as this thesis will attempt to demonstrate, can be found in adult fiction as well.

This work will explore magic and fairy tale elements and how they work in adult fiction.


It will attempt to prove that even though fairy tales are nowadays considered a genre aimed particularly at children, they still have a great potential to appeal to modern adult readers. The following analysis will try to demonstrate some of the metamorphoses of the fairy tale structure and its various elements and the way they are incorporated in fiction for adult readership. It will also focus on the influence of myth and its elements.

The work includes a detailed analysis of two pieces of adult fiction and examines the patterns, structures and elements of children´s literature they incorporate. It aims to try to prove that both fairy tales and myths still belong to the world of adult literature, and that it is in their capability to be changed, reshaped and transformed where their ongoing power and potential lies. The following analysis will try to show the traces of ancient storytelling, mythical and fairy tale elements and the way they survive in adult fiction. To enable the subject to be studied in a greater depth, this work will consist of a detailed analysis, rather than a general overview.

The second chapter will be dealing with a piece of female romance, namely a book called Sea Fever (1990) by Anne Weale, and its connection to fairy tales. It will focus on trivial literature aimed at women and search for fairy tale patterns and elements in this area.

It will try to prove Angela Carter´s claim that the fairy tale “survives today because it has transformed itself.1 Carter says that fairy tales, as an orally transmitted narrative, have survived into the twentieth century in the form of dirty jokes, gossip and rumours.2 She also points out their links to the works of romance and other contemporary commercialised demotic forms, such as horror movies, pulp novels or soap operas.3 She stresses the continuing importance of storytelling, the ongoing significance of fairy tales and myths in our modern society. She says: “Now we have machines to do our dreaming for us. But within that ´video gadgetry´ might lie the source of continuation, even a transformation, of stotytelling and storyperformance.”4 Congruently, Susan Sellers sees the continuance of the ancient art of story telling as merely transformed into various modern forms, such as the popular magazine gossips or retelling and actualizing of the old tales.5 The structural analysis of Sea Fever will try to prove, that romances might possibly be regarded as one of the many modern transformations of fairy tales

Vladimir Yakovlevich Propp´s structuralist theory will be used and applied on the selected work of female romance (Sea Fever) to prove that the structure of a romance story strongly resembles that of a fairy tale. Although Propp´s morphology is some seventy years old and has been criticized by many, it seems to be the most appropriate method to measure and compare the two structures in question.

The next chapter will focus on Indigo (1992) by Marina Warner. It will present some of Marina Warner´s views and theories, at the same time demonstrating various fairy tale and myth components she includes in her work. Through the analysis of her novel, the continuing importance of storytelling and myth-creating will be shown, as well as the significance of the constant retelling of myths. As Susan Sellers points out, “Warner insists that any new tellings are at least as authentic as those of antiquity which themselves derive from a long tradition of borrowings and mendings, and that this tailoring is an activity we should engage in.”6 Warner further says that the openness of the myth to its new retellings enables it to be actualized and to weave new meanings to it. This way myths and fairy tales manage to survive and keep their potency. This chapter will attempt to show that it is the adaptability and variability of myths and tales that makes them relevant and meaningful even in our modern world.

This work will not deal with the genre of fantasy written for adults, though the closeness and connecting links to the children´s literature are quite obvious in this case; nor will it include the feminist interpretations and modern retellings of fairy tales, or their interpretations from psychological point of view.
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