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Tracing the illustrated fairy tale


Through illustration a second reading of a fairy tale is created, that tells the story of the tale as well as the evolution and reception of the genre. This second story too deserves to be unravelled and told. However, so far, only a handful of studies have addressed the subject and they concentrate most often on a limited number of illustrations or even a single image. Quantitative methods combined with a detailed analysis of both the (translated) text and the illustrations of fairy tales can offer a broader perspective which helps to put the individual texts and illustrations into context and sometimes allows to revaluate them.

The fairy tales by the French author and proto-feminist Marie-Catherine D’Aulnoy were often republished both in France and abroad. Tables in which the French as well as the English and Dutch editions are brought together are the starting point in my analysis of the various textual and visual interpretations of D’Aulnoy’s tales. These tables will allow the reader to trace the editorial history of her tales from the moment the French salonnière launched the new literary genre in 1690 until the end of the eighteenth century. Furthermore, the tables provide information on the presence and form (frontispieces or vignettes, woodcuts or copperplates) of the illustrations in each edition. Besides being a measure for D’Aulnoy’s popularity or for the interest in illustration, the tables help to map the evolution of the fairy tale genre and its reception in France and the neighbouring countries.

By means of two examples, I will attempt to demonstrate the value of quantitative methods for the analysis of the editorial history as well as the text and the illustrations of fairy tales.

SvD, October 2009

  • Conferences > NEWW November meetings > 2009 > Hoogenboezem

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