Date of Award

Spring 4-2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

English

First Advisor

Margaret Yoon

Abstract

Inherent to the world of men, myth, and tale, violence continually threatens to overwhelm the human social world. In his 1972 study Violence and the Sacred, René Girard proposes that only through a cycle of substitution and sacrifice can such violence be mitigated and dispelled for a time. Repackaging old fairy tales for new audiences, the neo fairy tale directly deals with this cycle of violence, substitution, and sacrifice as female characters struggle to exist beneath the weight of patriarchal power structures. A particularly feminist type of fairy tale revitalized in the 1970s, sacrifice accordingly proves a key liberating device in the neo fairy tale, albeit a device with limitations. Gore, rape, murder, and self-harm: the world of the neo fairy tale proves unduly brutal, wrestling with the depths of violence both physical and psychological—violence particularly aimed at women. Yet the neo fairy tale is a tool as well, a tool by which authors propose a new world order outside of Girard’s cycle of violence, substitution, and sacrifice. Ultimately a liberating form, the neo fairy embraces the sacrificial cycle and uses it as a way to cope as well as a means to propose something beyond the existing power structures of humankind. Using Angela Carter’s 1979 The Bloody Chamber and Emma Donoghue’s 1997 Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins, this project seeks to prove that no matter how violent, the neo fairy tale nonetheless posit hope, an end to and liberation from human violence. Carter and Donoghue push readers to consider a new reality that rises from the ashes of the gendered worlds they burn. These authors wrestle with different forms of masculine power and present different types of violence and sacrifice, but both ultimately lead to a strongly feminist conclusion: a liberation and empowerment for all womankind.

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