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Hopefully not too far OT

Hi all. I'm actually a graduate student in English Literature and I'm in the process of writing my thesis on the persistence of the fairy tale princess as a cultural icon and how new media is changing her.

I have a questionnaire posted here: princess_thesis
that is the cornerstone of my independent research. I need as many responses as I can get before January 19th.

I'm hopeful that community members might consider responding to the questionnaire (via comments or you can email me your response - details on the community) and also sharing the link with anyone/everyone they can think of.

Fairy tales still play such an important part in cultural life and I'd love to have responses from all corners I can reach. Thank you


( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 13th, 2009 09:59 pm (UTC)
This is my thesis, I'm only an MA student, not a PhD.

Oy vey, you're not the first person to ask, but it's such a big question to answer. I'm using the ones you would expect for anything having to do with fairy tales: the entire Zipes canon, Maria Tatar, Ruth B. Bottigheimer...but I'm also using some psychology/sociology texts and several newer articles on digital media and young people from a book I just found published my MIT (so new to me I haven't read it yet). Because there is a lot of feminism stuff coming up in the questionnaire answers, I'm seriously considering incorporating some Simone de Beauvoir. Degh. Gilbert and Gubar. I'm even looking at Radway's study, at least her approach to researching readership.

Ugh. See? There's no straightforward answer to this. YOU are my real texts, those of you who respond. The position I take will be a direct response to your words. The other stuff, that's just books.
Jan. 13th, 2009 10:42 pm (UTC)

I also had questions about methodology. To reveal my own bias, I'm a former science student, and was schooled in very strict polling/sampling procedures. Briefly,
1. What are the demographic of the people filling out your surveys? Aside from the biographical data, how do you deal with the self-selected respondents...or the inherent selectivity oflj? Does this influence the scope of the conclusions that you can draw?

2.A more general question: our field is notorious for its omnivorism that draws from both methods and inquiries from other fields (some would argue--the discredited thinkers of other fields). However, how does the "scientific" methodology (social sciences, perhaps?) of polling fit within the lit crit tradition? Or put a different way, literary studies, rooted in close reading, seems to that seems to privilege perusal, at the cost of broader view. Or simply: why a survey for a literature thesis?
Jan. 13th, 2009 10:59 pm (UTC)
I was thinking the same thing. It seems that this thesis will have interesting implications from a sociological point of view. I don't know if I'll have time to answer all of the questions, but I do find it an interesting project.
Jan. 13th, 2009 11:20 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your interest. I know the questionnaire is long. :0)
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 13th, 2009 11:45 pm (UTC)
Oh, well, yeah! LOL! Sorry, didn't quite realize what I was saying. I'm using Grimm variants on Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty.
Jan. 13th, 2009 11:20 pm (UTC)
Because of things that have nothing to do with you or this community, I'm just not answering any more questions about my approach, my topic, or my methodology. I'm sorry, it's really not personal, but I can't keep fighting over what I'm doing with people who I don't even know.

In addition to drama being exhausting, I can also contaminate my data by talking in detail about my approach with potential participants.

My prospectus is approved by my department, my committee knows what I'm on about, and this is the approach. I would absolutely LOVE it if you wanted to participate. If not, no worries. Thanks for your interest.
Jan. 13th, 2009 11:26 pm (UTC)
That's a shame. Discussing some of the issues raised above would make this less off-topic.
Jan. 13th, 2009 11:31 pm (UTC)
*grins* it doesn't mean that we can't continue the discussion. Even without the OP's contributions, I'd be interested in exploring the boundaries of our discipline, particularly the borrowing of methodologies from other disciplines.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 14th, 2009 02:25 am (UTC)
sorry, I know absolutely nothing about that. I suspect that with the dominance of postcolonial studies in our discipline, (not to mention the wake of deconstruction) it would be hard to return to the era of Levi-Strauss or Frye.

What research have you done so far? any writers/critics that particularly caught your eye?
Jan. 14th, 2009 06:18 am (UTC)
I don't know about recent, but have you looked at the Russian formalists? V. Propp? I think Eagleton has some explanation of why anthropological criticism died after "Archetypes."
Jan. 20th, 2009 08:42 pm (UTC)
Well, if you're interested in sociological approaches, that's what Franco Moretti's current work is all about -- from a kind of Marxist (production/consumption) angle. (I'm not a huge fan, but it's interesting.)
Jan. 20th, 2009 08:44 pm (UTC)
Oops, sorry, I see that Shannon already brought him up below.
Jan. 13th, 2009 11:41 pm (UTC)
I'm big on using other disciplines myself. I know someone in American studies using a lot of anthropological data - interviews with soldiers from the Iraq war - and I thought that that type of stuff could certainly be used in literary work, either as supplementary data on works like Anil's Ghost or Jarhead or other writing set during or written during war, or as a source to be analyzed in and of itself.
My own work uses mostly historical and psychological sources, but I haven't yet actually done anything utilizing psychological interviewing techniques. I think it could be really interesting. There's a technique called the Listening Guide in particular which I think could be fascinating applied to literary works, especially memoirs. What disciplines do you use the most, and how?
Jan. 14th, 2009 02:23 am (UTC)
I think there's a lot of room to borrow from historiography and journalism. If deconstruction did anything, it was to open up both limit of interpretations of the sign, as well as what is considered to be text (and thus, "fair game" for literature).

In short, I'm a fan of interdisciplinary.
However, I believe that doing interdisciplinary work carries a harsher standard, to some degree: it first entails an understanding of every field involved. It's not to say that one must be an expert at, say, mathematics in order to use the methodology, but I do think one needs to understand it well above the layman's level--and of course, understand the precise idea/methodology/whatnot that is being used. I tend to be less comfortable with "borrowing" that doesn't respect--or at least acknowledge--the rules of that field. It's not to say that one can't break rules (isn't that half the fun?), but if we're going to do better than teenager, I think it's important both the rationale behind that rule and why it should be broken, in this particular case.

In the field that you brought up--trauma studies--I think the connections to psychology and history is fairly obvious (the interesting work, of course, is how you finesse the details and connections). I don't see how one can do trauma studies without drawing from historical and psychological connections.

The pressing question, for me...is what exactly do we borrow from other fields? It seems (at least in my very limited exposure) that we borrow theories, we borrow the text/case itself, and we certainly borrow evidence...but we seem less inclined to adopt the _methodology_ of other fields. It happens, of course (Freudian theory is now more closely identified with English than psychology...historiography seemed to be influencing our literary studies as well), but I'd like to argue that it occurs less frequently than the other types of "borrowing" that we seem to do on a regularly bases.
Jan. 14th, 2009 03:09 am (UTC)
I think this point is very well taken. Especially because...well, you cite Freud, and what literature uses from Freud isn't really his methodology at all, is it? It was his retrospective theoretical writings that took hold.
Trauma studies is, yes, very concerned with history and especially psychology - I think that is largely what drew me to it. The 3 disciplines were my focus before I discovered trauma, and it just seemed such a perfect way to fit everything together for me. But I think it also provides an excellent forum for all kinds of interdisciplinary work, and I hope I can draw on those in my later research, as well.
I think it's often difficult for literature to adopt the methodologies of other disciplines, because those disciplines often rely on a subject who can *respond* and without that interaction the methodology can break down. I'd be interested to see if that's actually true, though, and what methodologies can translate with more facility.
I also agree that interdisciplinarity, as it is intended to be practiced, relies on understanding different approaches and methodologies as well as different subject matter. But I think it's well worth the effort entailed in mastering multiple techniques - interdisciplinary work can really enrich each aspect of the study, in my experience, anyway.
Jan. 14th, 2009 07:19 am (UTC)
well, it says something that you actually studied all three disciplines before jumping into your current field. :)

"I think it's often difficult for literature to adopt the methodologies of other disciplines, because those disciplines often rely on a subject who can *respond* and without that interaction the methodology can break down."

This sounds fascinating. You're absolutely right that this is one of the major differences between literature and, say, psychology: we respond to text, rather than to people. (someone, somewhere, is cringing at this reductionistic statement....but if you step outside of the play of signification and il n'y pas de hors-texte, there IS a tangible difference between speaking to a living breathing human being and close-reading words).

(now how the internet--and what we're doing right now--complicates this scheme...I have no clue.)
Jan. 14th, 2009 05:13 am (UTC)
Some of these questions came up in my 200 class when we were talking about Moretti's Conjectures on World Literature series, which proposes a sociological survey method to "understand" literature in its permutations. We concluded that a) it was a very specific understanding about literature; and b) social sciences methodology generally has a different goal in mind than what you typically think of as literature's goal; namely, the former seeks to isolate variables from correlated variables and make a very particular intervention by tweaking one thing. Terms like "intervention" aren't absent from literary criticism, sure, but they're generally imported from elsewhere and have a slightly different meaning. Literature seems to me more about connections between things than isolating individual elements. But I think the bigger problem is that the whole discussion leads to a meta question: what's the purpose of literature? The purpose of sociology is to apply a scientific methodology to understand and improve human circumstances. People have been telling each other stories since--as far as anyone can tell--since there have been people, so there must be some purpose. This is the sort of circumstance where I think interdisciplinarity is good: we can import an anthropological or even sociological knowledge or awareness to understand our own field, as long as we keep in mind that the questions we're asking will be slightly different than the ones a social scientist would ask. Fundamentally, we're asking about our field.

Where I'm less comfortable with interdisciplinarity is the all too common phenomenon of the literary critic going out into the world and thinking that he or she can instantly understand the law (this is what brought us some of the easily parodied silliness of Critical Legal Theory), quantum mechanics (cf. the Sokal Hoax), or history (this is too common to require further examples). I don't like the idea of a monolithic Theory with Theorists who feel arrogantly comfortable in every academic discipline because it's all about reading and interpretation. To some extent, yes, but it's also a hell of a lot more complicated than applying critical reading skills to everything. And I think it makes people in these fields rightly suspicious of the academic bona fides of literary critics.
Jan. 14th, 2009 07:09 am (UTC)
Ideally, in my fantasied world, interdisciplinary studies would entail studying BOTH disciplines. (whether or not one can truly balance the often contradictory, at least contentious perspectives of two disciplines is a different, but entirely relevant issue). I absolutely agree that there's something sloppy and naive about a lit theorist (and admittedly, they're usually lit theorists) attempting to apply a physics concept--that he does not actually understand--to literature. Understanding another discipline isn't as simple as picking a convenient text or article to apply--one needs to understand the methodology and the foundations from the perspective of an insider (pax, Derrida). I think that sort of interdisciplinary work is necessary (and rewarding), but too few scholars (myself included) take the training for it seriously enough. I'm not claiming that we need to be professional physicists, or philosophers, or whatnot...in additional to literature scholars, but we do need to respect the difficulty of other fields.

Same goes for the terminologies: there's a case to be made for importation, but only when one understands the terms in the original context--and that's a much harder task than we usually admit to.

You brought up CLS, which I've had a love-hate relationship with. I think that CLS can, at its best, be productive, but only when it's grounded in practicality (so says this wannabe theorist). The courtroom, in the end, isn't merely about debate--there must be a verdict, even if the verdict is rarely truly fair. In that sense, if one is to bring something of literature/literary studies/theory into another disciplines, we need to play by their rules. All the theorizing in the world isn't productive (I insist on that word in this case) if it can't translate into pragmatic results. (now if someone wants me to translate my latest paper into pragmatic results, I will punch him in the nose. maybe this is why I never went into science or law after all.)

I won't touch physics. I love it, but I don't understand it enough to go NEAR it with theory. I've heard of the Sokal hoax but I don't know the full story (other than it made deconstructionists look like idiots), and I'd be curious to read up on it.

"what's the purpose of literature?"
*grins* You're not one to avoid the elephant in the room, are you? From what I've seen, our field is having an identity crisis. We claim close reading as our methodology (we--as a discipline--still agree on that much, right?), but have we determined what counts for a text? Or--as you rightly brought up...what is the purpose (telos!) of all of those, other than to give *grins* the kids of rich professors something to do? ...and Stanley Fish something to rail at?

(where does cultural studies fit in, in all of this? I have no idea, but I feel as though it can't be ignored.)

Edited at 2009-01-14 08:02 am (UTC)
Jan. 14th, 2009 10:52 pm (UTC)
Oh huh wow. At risk of repeating everyone else, your comment about not importing the methodologies of other fields is really well observed. My silly "research methods" class ended up being much less silly than I had initially thought... and we butted up against and discussed methodologies all the time.

I guess there's a traditional mystique about the "artistic creation" process that encourages us to discuss it more than one might in other fields. Most of my classmates and the MFAs who had come from more art backgrounds honestly can't think in terms of an outline. They do works based on general feelings and instincts and realize what they're doing 3/4 of the way through... in a much deeper sense than we do, I think. Obviously we do that while writing a paper to a certain extent as well, but they seem to do it much, much more. It makes it difficult to theorize because many people are extremely resistant to trying to, essentially, theorize themselves and their process by theorizing about the work. I doubt I'm making much sense (I blame many hand-ins lately), but this interdisciplinary thing is something I've been trying to work out as well.
Jan. 13th, 2009 11:36 pm (UTC)
now I'm intrigued. Contaminate date? that comes straight out of the sciences, yet the method (from my limited viewpoint) doesn't quite duplicate the rigor (or at least, the gesture towards it) that I associated with scientific sampling.

I realize that you would prefer not to respond. I'm merely expressing my own curiosity.

Good luck with the project.
Jan. 13th, 2009 11:58 pm (UTC)
Heh, dratted. I didn't read the comments before posting. It's really a shame that we can't chat with the OP about this because it's *exactly* in line with what I'm working on in my animations. I keep fighting with myself over writing to whoever controls Angela Carter's texts now to see if I could get away with adapting her revision of Red Riding Hood. I also strongly think anyone interested in fairy tales should see the whole of Revolutionary Girl Utena. It's an anime series dealing explicitly with fairy tale literary theory and just awe-strikingly brilliant.
Jan. 14th, 2009 02:26 am (UTC)
ooooh...is it along the same line as your writing sample?
Jan. 14th, 2009 09:33 pm (UTC)
Hmmmm I suppose it is, in a way. I was trying to look at space in fairy tales (like what different spaces represent... and how this changes as you grow).

Utena is a deconstruction, reconstruction, and examination of fairy tales that is also a stand-alone brilliant story. (loves)
Jan. 15th, 2009 11:27 pm (UTC)
I understand you aren't answering any more questions about your topic or approach, but I wanted to add: if you haven't read any books by Marie-Louise Von Franz, you might want to have a look. She has written brilliantly on the topic of fairy tales from an archetypal (Jungian) perspective. At least two of her works should be of note for you in your study:

- Animus and Anima in Fairy Tales
- Feminine in Fairy Tales

...among others.
Jan. 13th, 2009 11:52 pm (UTC)
I'm going to respond to your questionnaire as soon as I hand in my final projects for this term, but I have one question for you:

Have you seen Revolutionary Girl Utena?
Jan. 14th, 2009 01:04 am (UTC)
No, but I'll definitely try to find it. Thanks!
Jan. 14th, 2009 09:33 am (UTC)
utena pretty much rocks...
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )