ENGL 1310 The Modern Fairy Tale

Instructor Contact:

Stephanie Couey

Email: stephanie.couey@colorado.edu

About the Course:

In this course, we will read some of the original (as far as we know) written versions of well-known fairy tales, and will examine their origins and historical contexts. We will then transition to engaging with modern retellings of the same tales, and will investigate their ongoing cultural and social significances and impacts. We will also probe the personal impacts that such tales have had over our own lives and understandings of the world.

Some themes and topics you can expect to engage with at length include but are not limited to: human-animal relationships; magic, witchcraft, spells, and charms; enchanted objects; nature and the environment; bodily transformation; coming of age; marriage and virginity; consent; romantic love; familial love and conflict; wealth, class, and society; “good” and “evil”; and lessons in morality.

To assist in our inquires and to learn to critically read fairy tales, we will engage with scholarly texts across fields of literary history, gender and sexuality studies, critical race theory, ethnic studies, disability studies, and media studies that consider how “classic” fairy tales and their modern renderings can uphold and/or resist oppressive representations and belief systems.

As a class, we will continuously ask: What do the tales that pervade contemporary fiction and poetry – as well as movies, pop songs, music videos, theme parks, and so on – reveal about significant moments in history? About our own historical and cultural moments? How might they influence how we see and interact with our surroundings? How do they shape our principles, desires, fears, and beliefs? Fairy tales are (arguably) always with us, but what are the costs and benefits of their magic on the “real” world, and on ourselves?

Course Prerequisites: none

Proctoring (if applicable): This course requires proctored examinations. Exams are proctored which will require planning on your part. Proctors are individuals who administer the exam process following the guidelines provided by University of Colorado Boulder to ensure academic integrity. Some proctoring options require the student to pay a fee.


By the end of the course you should be able to:

1.) Define “fairy tale” and name the characteristics of the genre.

2.) Identify modern retellings of “classic” fairy tales.

3.) Demonstrate comprehension of the historical and social circumstances in which each fairy tale was produced.

4.) Apply a vocabulary of the literary forms, devices, themes, and archetypes that characterize fairy tales across space and time.

5.) Identify archetypes, themes, characters, plots, and significant passages in selected works.

6.) Compare different iterations of the same fairy tale.

7.) Analyze literary and scholarly texts and media using the process of close reading.

8.) Critique major scholarship on fairy tales.

9.) Formulate an interpretive thesis.

10.) Defend your interpretive thesis with analysis of textual evidence.

11.) Develop rhetorical and visual presentation skills.

12.) Create an original creative final project in the form of your choice OR compose a final paper.

Required Texts may include:

  • Norton Second Critical Edition of The Classic Fairy Tales, edited by Maria Tatar, 2017.
  • My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales, edited by Kate Bernheimer   with Carmen Giménez Smith, 2010.
  • The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold by Francesca Lia Block, 2001.
  • PDFs of additional readings provided

Grading (out of 100 percentage points):

Assignment Grade Percentages
Syllabus Quiz & Getting-to-Know-You-Survey   5%
Zoom Conference with Instructor  5%
Perusall Readings (7 sets; 3 percentage points each) 21%
Discussion Posts (8 posts; 3 percentage points each) 24%
Presentation 15%
Presentation Participation 5%
Final Project OR Paper Proposal 5%
Final Project: Creative Project, Proposal & Reflection Paper OR Final Paper 20%



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Monday – Friday
8:00am to 5:00pm


We are located at the corner of University Avenue and 15th Street in a white brick building.


1505 University Avenue
University of Colorado Boulder
178 UCB
Boulder, Colorado