Drawing on nineteenth-century writings about the "fairy tale" or "popular tale," this article explores ideologies of genre—specifically, tacit assumptions regarding generic coherence, stability, and transparency. The history of the fairy tale in England was marked by semiotic, linguistic, and cultural border crossings, including seventeenth-century French literary tales adapted to various forms of English print and theater culture and the transformation of field-based collections into popular folklore books. Early delineations of the "real traditional fairy tale" attempted to regulate the boundaries of an emergent discipline and a genre undergoing some radical reevaluation. These constructions were intertwined with anxieties about a number of binary oppositions, including the domestic and the foreign, the oral and the written, male and female, adult and child, and art and commerce. Although such statements sought to contain and regulate the production and reception of the fairy tale as a popular genre, to the exclusion of literary contes de fées, they tell only a partial story. I propose that the rowdy, bawdy, and satirical stage genre of English pantomime suggests an alternate and frequently overlooked medium for the transmission of fairy tales during these formative decades in the history of folklore studies.
Journal of American Folklore – American Folklore Society
Published: Oct 18, 2007