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SCAND 232 A: Hans Christian Andersen And The Fairy Tale Tradition

Meeting Time: 
MTWTh 11:30am - 12:20pm
GWN 201
Photo of Marianne Stecher
Marianne Stecher-Hansen

Syllabus Description:

The Child, the Fairy Tale, and Hans Christian Andersen

This quarter’s course will focus on the Child as a figure, an audience, and a “trope” in the literary fairy tale. Is the Child the subject of the fairy tale? How is the Child imagined as the intended audience of the fairy tale? Does the fairy tale seek to appeal to the emotional or experiential world of the Child? Is the Child employed as a poetic metaphor or symbol, which serves as a vehicle for other meanings in the text?

We will begin with a study of some of the classic or internationally known fairy tales, such as “The Little Red Riding Hood,” “Hansel and Gretel,” “Snow White,” “Cinderella” and “Donkey Skin.” We will consider the function of the figure of the Child in these texts and the various critical and theoretical approaches that have been used to analyze fairy tales as an important aspect of culture and literature. The origins and authorship of the folk fairy tale will be investigated, especially the relationship between the variants of these tales attributed to Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm. What are the origins of the literary fairy tale? Were fairy tales written for children as an audience or readership – or about children as objects of entertainment? Why are poor and helpless girls and boys often the subjects of fairy tales? How are the relationships between parents and children depicted in fairy tales? How do Hans Christian Andersen’s tales develop and reinvent the idea of the child and the entire concept of children’s literature in the Nineteenth Century?

In the second half of the course, we will engage a closer study of the Child in relation to some of Hans Christian Andersen’s masterpiece fairy tales, such as “The Little Mermaid,” “The Snow Queen,” “The Ugly Duckling” and “The Little Match Girl.” We will study these tales in relation to the Child (as Subject, as Audience, and as Symbol) and also in relation to literary and cultural history, social contexts, and the author’s life story. Finally, we will explore artwork and some film adaptations of these fairy tales.

Required texts:  available for purchase at the U-Bookstore (in textbooks)

  1. Hans Christian Andersen, Fairy Tales, trans. Tiina Nunnally (Viking, 2004). ISBN: 0 4 30.3952 0 (pbk.)

  2. Maria Tatar, ed., The Classic Fairy Tales. Norton Critical Edition (Norton, 1999).  ISBN: 0-393-97277-1 (pbk.)

    Additional required course readings will be posted as pdf-files on the weekly course "Modules."

Student Learning Objectives:

  1. To gain knowledge of literary fairy tales in various cultural, historical, and literary contexts, including the specific context of H.C. Andersen’s famous tales.

  2. To introduce various critical approaches to reading fairy tales and literary texts.

  3. To improve skills for interpreting and writing about literary texts and films.

  4. To introduce approaches to analyzing film adaptations and illustrations of fairy tales.

Lectures and Assigned Reading:

It is important to read the assigned texts in advance of class in order to be prepared for class. Following class each day, most lecture outlines will be posted on Canvas under the course "Modules" and "Files."


Grades will be based on two in-class exams (including objective and essay questions) and two short essays (3 – 4  pages, each). Participation in class discussions.

20% Essay #1
20% Essay #2
20% Midterm quiz
10% Regular participation in class discussions and lectures.
30% Final quiz, including in-class essay.

Writing Assignments:

Although SCAND 232 is not a W course, the course will emphasize student writing, both in two assigned short essays and in-class exams.

Please see UW policy on plagarism:

Students are urged to make use of one of the campus writing centers for tutoring, if needed. For example: the Odegaard Writing and Research Center (OWRC) offers students at UW Seattle free, one-to-one, 45-minute
tutoring sessions for any writing or research project, as well as for personal projects such as applications or cover letters and resumes. The tutors  are trained to collaborate at any stage of the writing and research process, from brainstorming and identifying sources to making final revisions and tying up loose ends. For more information, or to schedule an appointment (more than 500 available per week!), please see the website ( or visit the center in person on the first floor of Odegaard Undergraduate Library!

Catalog Description: 
Influence of Hans Christian Andersen and the fairy tale on modern Scandinavian tales and stories. Investigates the significance of the fairy tale in the modern world, with attention to writers such as Isak Dinesen, Knut Hamsun, Villy Sorensen, William Heinesen.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
October 5, 2016 - 9:23pm