Narrative As Technology
Module 3: The Uses of Fairy Tale
Teaching Instructions

LEVEL DESCRIPTORS:

First and second-year college students / AP High School English students

LEARNING OBJECTIVES:

For students at lower levels, being able to abstract -- to see a part of one story as "the same as" a part of another story with very different details; to see that stories are made up of discernible components, and that these components usually go together in familiar, basic shapes.

For students at higher levels, to see that narrative is not a passive receptor of whatever one wants to express, but an active shaper of the way we talk, think about, and perceive reality.

DISCUSSION POSSIBILITIES:

After students have completed Assignment 1 (they should bring it to class), open the Learning Narrative Structure Tool in class. Ask students to relay their Cinderella stories, and then, as a class, make that story into a captioned film using the tool (use the Rags-to-Riches category). After students have completed Assignment 2, ask them if they used any of the elements of the Cinderella story in creating their autobiographies. If so, ask, How does the Cinderella tale shape our expectations of what our lives should be? If not, find a student who used elements from the tale of the Hero, and then ask that student if he watched heroes on TV or read hero comics as a child. Ask students whether they think that such tales affect how we perceive, organize, and understand events in our lives? The secondary reading from Leeming will will be especially helpful here.

Anne Sexton's poem offers a feminist reading of the Cinderella narrative as constraining for women. The movie Pretty Woman argues the opposite, insisting on the tale's life-altering potential for women. In reading the Grimm's tale and Sexton's poem, students can easily see how the stepsister's hacking off their toes might be connected to women having plastic surgery or even eating disorders -- at any rate, somehow altering their appearances in painful ways for the sake of finding their princes. Drawing these kinds of connections helps students to see how tales work symbollically.

ASSESSMENT:

You want to see in class discussion and/or assignments that students can abstract from particular story details to story elements (and back). You will be able to tell if all learning objectives have been met if you ask students to do assignment 1 again, a second time, after completing assignment 2, perhaps in class as a short-writing assignment. You should see in the second version as compared with the first 1) a better understanding of what constitutes a story element and 2) a better example of the Cinderella tale.

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