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Unit information: The Fairy Tale in English in 2020/21

Unit name The Fairy Tale in English
Unit code ENGL20028
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Bex Lyons
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The unit will survey the fairy tale in English from the 17th to the 21st century. We will survey the first translations of fairy tales into English by the Grimms, Perrault and Hans Christian Andersen – and explore the context of the huge popularity of these tales. We will go on to investigate their early reception and influence, including on novels and tales written in English, before moving on to 20th and 21st century rewritings. We will also spend some time on film adaptations and book illustrations. Detailed consideration will be given to a range of critical approaches including psychoanalytical and feminist readings, and the classification of fairy tale plots. Close readings, comparing the language and emphasis of different versions of the same story, will also be central to the unit.

Students will be given the opportunity to submit a draft or outline of their final, summative essay of up to 1,500 words and to receive feedback on this.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will be able to demonstrate:

(1) a detailed knowledge of the fairy tale as an oral and literary form;

(2) a critical understanding of the reception of the fairy tale in English, from early translations to literary fairy tales to novels and films;

(3) an understanding of major critical approaches including structuralism, psychoanalysis, feminist and Marxist approaches;

(4) an ability to analyse and compare fairy tale texts;

(5) skills in academic writing, argumentation, and evaluation of evidence from primary texts and critical literature, as appropriate at level I.

Teaching details

Teaching will involve asynchronous and synchronous elements, including group discussion, research and writing activities, and peer dialogue. Students are expected to engage with the reading and participate fully with the weekly tasks and topics. Learning will be further supported through the opportunity for individual consultation.

Assessment Details

  • 1 x 3000 word essay (100%) [ILOs 1-5]

Reading and References

Peter and Iona Opie, The Classic Fairy Tales (Oxford University Press, 1980)

Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber (Penguin, 1981)

Helen Oyeyemi, Boy, Snow, Bird (Picador, 2014)

Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment: the Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales (Thames and Hudson, 1976)

Marina Warner, From the Beast to the Blonde: on Fairy Tales and their Tellers (Vintage, 1995)