Magic in Fairy Tales
with Maria Tatar and Christina Phillips-Mattson
Offered in partnership with the New-York Historical Society
Monday, October 15, 2018

What role has magic played in the imaginative universe of children’s literature?  We will begin by looking at the high coefficients of weirdness in fairy tales, stories set in the ordinary world but with special effects that shock and startle their audiences.  Witches, fairies, and wizards model how to do things with words with their curses, charms, and spells, but magic also enters into these narratives through multiple channels ranging from atmospherics to artifacts. How do the luminous objects in fairy tales attract the attention of the child and what effects do they have? We will turn to stories collected by the Brothers Grimm and others before entering the fantasy worlds of Wonderland, Neverland, Oz, and Narnia to discover why magic matters in childhood fictions.

This class will include a tour of the New-York Historical Society exhibition Harry Potter: A History of Magic.

Maria Tatar teaches at Harvard University in the German Department, and in the Program in Folklore and Mythology. Her many books include Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood and Off with Their Heads! Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood. She is the editor and translator of The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales, The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen, The Annotated Brothers Grimm, The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales, The Annotated Peter Pan, The Classic Fairy Tales: A Norton Critical Edition, The Grimm Reader, Annotated African American Folktales, and Beauty and the Beast: Classic Tales about Animal Brides and Animal Grooms.

Christina Phillips-Mattson received her B.A. in English, French, and Comparative Humanities at Bucknell University and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature with a focus in Children’s Literature from Harvard University. Her dissertation, Children’s Literature Grows Up: Harry Potter and the Children’s Literature Revolution, was published in 2017.