Fairytale Theory and Explorations of Gender Stereotypes in Post-1970s Rapunzel Adaptations
Although Rapunzel criticism habitually concerns literary fairytales, this thesis contributes to the field a sustained examination of the feminist and patriarchal uses to which Rapunzel has been put, with close attention to the range of media, forms, and styles into which ‗Rapunzel‘ has been adapted, from 1970 onwards. It argues that each adaptation appropriates ‗Rapunzel‘ to repeat or disturb gender ideologies, and also extends or contracts the scope of the fairytale and its feminism. Underpinned by memetics, selective adaptation and fairytale theories, and Adrienne Rich‘s concept of ‗re-vision‘, individual chapters focus upon redrawing the boundaries of what makes a (feminist) Rapunzel adaptation a (feminist) Rapunzel adaptation. The thesis also examines the difficult question of why Rapunzel motifs or ‗memes‘ have persisted and whether this is due to the power of cultural ideologies or to certain universal human urges to which ‗Rapunzel‘ ostensibly appeals. As what is meant by feminism changes from the 1970s through to the present day, the selected works are considered in terms of terms of second- and third-wave feminism and postfeminism. Chapter 1 (the Introduction) establishes the approach and rationale. Chapter 2 examines the Grimm ‗Rapunzel‘ variants of 1812 and 1857 as a prelude to examining the ideological uses to which Rapunzel is put post-1970. Chapter 3 focuses on how four feminist poets subject the memes and morals of ‗Rapunzel‘ to different feminist revisions, and thereby challenge the patriarchal meanings invested by the Grimms. Chapter 4 extends this work by examining a feminist moral fable, two complex short stories, a psychological novella, and a graphic novel, in order to draw contrasts between celebratory and darker, more disturbing ‗post-fairytale‘ feminist Rapunzels. Demonstrating the many genres and media into which feminist Rapunzels have been translated, several adapters use the tale on behalf of various kinds of individualism and subjectivisation, and suggest a movement toward greater psychological complexity and interiority in their treatment of Rapunzel memes. Chapter 5 focuses on how Rapunzel memes translate to screen in the feminist reworking Rapunzel Let Down Your Hair (1978) and the postfeminist adaptations Barbie as Rapunzel (2002), Shrek the Third (2007), and Disney‘s Tangled (2010) and Into the Woods (2014). Chapter 6, the final chapter, further extends the analysis by examining Rapunzel‘s general prevalence in the cultural imagination, namely in adverts and on television. By assembling and giving fresh analyses of rare and well-known Rapunzel tales, the chapters critique the gender essentialism in fairytales and reinstate Rapunzel as key to fairytale debate. This research has led to the conclusion that post-1970s Rapunzels exemplify how fairytales appropriate or discard memes in accordance with the possibilities of genre and medium, as well as with the changing face of feminism over the last four decades.
- PhD