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The Beautiful and the Doomed: Essays on Literary Value


Miroslawa Buchholtz

The book addresses the problem of literary value in North American literature, children’s literature, film and poetry. Chapter One: The Ennob(e)led focuses on institutions which are instrumental in attributing value to literature: literary critics (e.g. D.H. Lawrence) and award givers (e.g. the Swedish Academy). It explores W.B. Yeats’s, T.S. Eliot’s, Czesław Miłosz’s and William Golding’s lives with the Nobel Prize. In Chapter Two: The Forgotten homage is paid to four authors who lost popularity, or never enjoyed it: Lorenza Stevens Berbineau, Frank Stockton, Charles Chesnutt and Conrad Aiken. Chapter Three: From Margin to Mainstream compares various Chinese, Japanese, First Nations’ and other ethnic voices in Canadian children’s literature. Chapter Four: From Mainstream to Margin juxtaposes scholarly pursuits with cinematic praxis, and cinematic praxis with political activity.


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Chapter Four: From Mainstream to Margin


4.1. Academic and Cinematic Uses of Historicizing: The Brothers Grimm (2005) Jack Zipes – one of the leading folklorists and critics of children’s literature in the United States – is an indefatigable editor and commentator on the fairy tale genre. For decades he has followed the injunction “Always historicize” and in doing so, he has rescued some of the world’s treasures of folklore from the clutches of psy- choanalysts, most notably Bruno Bettelheim. Reading, translating, and editing of fairy tales seem to come first for him, but observations that ensue from his editorial work, have often added up to a coherent historicist view of the genre. In the first part of the following essay, I review one of his books, which in spite of its ostensi- bly fragmentary quality, offers an impressive panorama of fairy tales across several centuries. Terry Gilliam must have also heard Fredric Jameson’s slogan, but his act of historicizing is playful, multilayered, and free from academic responsibility. In the second part of the following essay I view his 2005 film The Brothers Grimm as a response to long-standing traditions of reading and adapting of fairy tales, on one hand, and of narrating authors’ lives, on the other. 4.1.1. A Lesson of Jack Zipes When Dreams Came True brings together eleven introductions, afterwords, and essays which Jack Zipes published on various occasions in the 1980s and 90s. Breaking with the tradition of reading fairy tales exclusively in a psychoanalytical way, Zipes defines his project as an attempt to write...

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