Project Guidelines: English 207
World Folktales and Literature
Dr. T. Hanlon
Folktales and Literature Course Home Page
Topic Suggestions for Projects
These are all general ideas, and you will need to develop your own specific focus. You may also propose a topic not covered on this list. As a minimum, you must study a group of short tales or poems or songs or picture books or cartoons, or a full-length novel, play, or film. If you discuss a film, you should compare it with relevant written or oral stories. If you discuss nonfiction, you must apply the ideas in it to a particular story or stories you have read.
1. Read another full-length work or several short works by an author we are studying, such as Shakespeare, Chaucer, Boccaccio, Keats, Edward Lear, Baum, Welty, Yolen, Sextons Transformations, T. S. Eliots Old Possums Book of Practical Cats, Thurbers Fables for Our Time.
2. Study a novel or full-length play or selection of poems that use folk elements; some authors who use folk traditions in their literature include Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Margaret Atwood, Thomas Hardy, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
3. Examine the use of folktale elements in an important work of fantasy or science fiction by an author such as Lewis Carroll, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, E. B. White, or Ursula K. LeGuin.
4. Report on a movie or play or opera based on folktales or on one of the books we are reading, and compare it to the written version(s); suggestions: The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, Cats, Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim, film adaptations of The Tempest, Cinderella movies or opera.
5. Read the book Like Water for Chocolate and compare it to the movie we will study in class.
6. Write your own folktale. Read or tell it to the class and analyze it in your paper or give background on your web page. Illustrate it if you wish, or focus your project on illustrating an existing folktale. Include comparison with other folktales or illustrations you have studied.
7. Compare several tales with a common theme or motif, such as confrontations with a giant, dragon, wolf or devil; transformation into an animal or tree; enchanted sleep; sibling rivalry; noodleheads; unfaithful spouses; naughty children; haunted houses; superhuman strength.
8. Read several tales about the same legendary character, such as King Arthur, Merlin, other Arthurian characters; Robin Hood, Johnny AppleseedOR folk character (human or animal), such as Jack (English and/or Appalachian, or Russian Ivan or other variants of this "everyman" character), Anansi the Spider, Brer Rabbit, Baba Yaga, Bouki, Coyote.
9. Compare several variants of the same tale; for example, I have a whole book full of variants of Little Red Riding Hood, and variants of The Sleeping Beauty and Dove Isabeau and various dragon tales and Appalachian folktales. AppLit's Annotated Folktale Index illustrates one approach to comparing different variants of the same tale.
10. Study several literary folk or fairy tales by the same author, such as Charles Perrault, Rudyard Kipling, Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hans Christian Andersen, Oscar Wilde, E. Nesbit, Carl Sandburg, Zora Neale Hurston, Frank Stockton, Angela Carter, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Italo Calvino, John Gardener, Tanith Lee, Jay Williams, Lloyd Alexander, Virginia Hamilton, Robin McKinley, Marina Warner, Jane Yolen, Julius Lester.
11. Compare tales from a particular cultural tradition, such as Jewish folktales, Southwestern tall tales, Irish fairy tales, Appalachian folktales, a Caribbean or Native American tradition.
12. Study an author of childrens books who uses folktale elements in his or her modern stories, such as Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak, Arthur Yorinks, William Steig, Roald Dahl, Beatrix Potter.
13. Read a group of satiric versions of folktales, such as Garners Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, books by Jon Scieszka, or some of the tales collected by Jack Zipes.
14. Compare illustrated versions of the same tale, such as Snow White or The Sleeping Beauty or Brer Rabbit Tales.
15. Read several folk or fairy tales illustrated by the same artist, such as Maurice Sendak, Trina Schart Hyman, Ruth Sanderson, Arthur Rackham, Dennis Nolan, Jerry Pinkney, Ed Young, Gnaddy Spirin.
16. Read a selection of criticism of folktales; suggestions: Bruno Bettelheims The Uses of Enchantment, Jane Yolens Touch Magic and other essays, Madonna Kolbenschlags Kiss Sleeping Beauty Goodbye, Steven Swann Joness The Fairy Tale: The Magic Mirror of the Imagination (on reserve), various books by Jack Zipes, Joseph Campbell, Maria Tatar, or Alison Lurie.
17. Study the way that folktales are used in a particular
field of study besides literature, such as folklore, history,
sociology, psychology/psychoanalysis, science, anthropology. Or
focus on a particular approach to using folktales, such as
bibliotherapy, feminist criticism or therapy, environmental
18. Compare/contrast two or more stories that can definitely be labeled as versions of the same tale for children and for adults, such as the Disney version of Cinderella and Tanith Lees When the Clock Strikes, or Jane Yolens retelling of The Sleeping Beauty and her The Thirteenth Fey. Books such as Truly Grim Tales and A Spindle's Thread and many others contain fascinating revisions or spin-offs of fairy tales that are not for young children.
19. Compare a group of folk songs or ballads and folktales they are related to, such as versions of Tam Lin or Dove Isabeau, or popular songs based on traditional tales.
20. Report on a method of storytelling or dramatizing folktales you have observed or participated in. Or study the work of the Jack Tale Players or a particular storyteller, such as Jack Torrence (African American from NC), Gayle Ross (Cherokee), Ray or Orville Hicks (Euro-American from NC mountains), Donald Davis (NC), etc. Material on these and many other storytellers can be found in print, audio recordings, videos and Internet sites.
21. Collect and analyze folktales from your family or another oral source you have access to. This could involve working with folklore material in the archives of the Blue Ridge Institute on our campus, where there are many files of folklore that have not been studied in detail.
22. Analyze some web sites devoted to folk literature, or teaching materials on folk literature.
If you write a formal paper on this project, it must be 3-4 typed, double-spaced pages of discussion plus a short list of references.
Required Sections of Paper or Web Page
The Author or Origin of folk literature: one paragraph
Summarize briefly, in your own words, main events of the authors life, other major works by the same author or editor, or background information you have on the origins of folk literature you are discussing. If you are presenting your own creative work, you are the author or artist you will describe here.
Summary of the work(s) you are discussing: one or two paragraphs (or copy of your creative work)
In the summary section give an objective overview of the plot, main characters, etc. in your own words, or an overview of the main ideas if you are discussing nonfiction. Include the ending of the plot in your paper, but not in your oral report. Do not include any criticism or opinions of your own in this section. If you are doing a creative project, include your own work here instead of a summary.
Analysis of the work: one to three paragraphs
Focus on any elements of the work that you think are significant, such as plot, character, language, theme, folk motifs. Obviously, you can only give a brief discussion of one or two elements that you think are most important, so you may want to focus on how one character develops or one relationship between characters; or how one theme is conveyed by the work; or certain elements of the plot, such as suspense, flashbacks, conflicts; or certain folk motifs (as you would select a restricted focus for a one-page paper). If the main purpose of your project is a form of analysis such as comparing related tales, this section may dominate the paper.
Evaluation of the work: one to three paragraphs
Would you recommend this material to others? Explain why. Be sure that every opinion or evaluative comment is backed up by evidence and that you are applying criteria appropriate for that type of literature or medium. For example, if you think the work is boring or amusing or exciting, explain what makes it so. If the work is fantastic or it is satiric and uses comic exaggeration, dont criticize it because it isnt realistic enough. Even if you decide you dont care for this type of literature or the view of the world it conveys, does it contain something of universal significance or present a view of life that is deserving of serious consideration? If the material you examined is considered childrens literature, include some comments on whether you would recommend it to children.
Creative Project: If you are including a creative work
of your own, the analysis and evaluation sections can be shorter
than indicated above. You can combine them into one Background
section or Author's Note that discusses, in at least a couple
paragraphs, your sources of inspiration, your process of
producing the work, or how you think it relates to other works of
the same type.
Give a complete citation for the primary material you are studying and the material you use as your secondary source(s) of information for the background section. If you quote directly from your sources in your paper or web page, use quotation marks accurately and give page numbers (see The Little, Brown Handbook or similar handbook).
Obviously, DO NOT PLAGIARIZE in written reports or oral reports.
If do you use ideas or information from any other sources, it is
your responsibility to give complete documentation within your
paper and on your references page. If the professor has any
questions about your use of sources or quotations, it is your
responsibility to show the professor the sources you used before
the paper can be graded. If you are working from books that are
not in your possession when the paper is graded, it would be a
good idea to keep photocopies of any pages from which you have
taken ideas or quotations used in your paper. If you use Internet
resources, be sure they are reliable and that you keep track of
the information you need to document them fully. If you have any
questions about using sources, check with the professor for
assistance before the paper is due. Refer to a handbook like The
Little, Brown Handbook if you need more information on
Sample citations for a novel (indicating reprinting of an older novel; two dates are not always required) and a reference bookusing MLA documentation style:
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. 1925. New York: Scribners, 1953.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Oxford Companion to American Literature. Ed. James D. Hart. 5th ed. New York: Oxford UP, 1983.
Other References Books for Sources of Information on Authors Lives: (available in Ferrum Library; some are also available online.)
You will need additional information for complete citations on your References page.
Contemporary Authors. Ref Z 1010.C 6
Dictionary of Literary Biography and American Authors Series, Gale Research Co. Ref PS 129 - PS 490 (exact titles and call numbers vary)
Reference Book that Indexes Folk Tales by Motifs:
(useful for finding tales with common motifs)
Stith Thompson, Motif-Index of Folk Literature, 6 vols. Ref GR72.56.T48 1989
Other folktale anthologies and analyses are found in the GR sections of the library. Also see Links to Online Texts and links on the home page for this course for other Internet resources and guidelines for using web sites for research.
Resources that Might be Useful:
Videos available in our library and/or from Dr. Hanlon:
Like Water for Chocolate (required for whole class)
The World of Joseph Campbell series (discussions of world myths and heroic quests)
The Polar Bear King (beautifully photographed live action film of a Beauty and the Beast tale)
Faerie Tale Series: Rumpelstiltskin, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Hanlon has these)
Ferrum College Jack Tales Players video
The Wizard of Oz
Tom Davenport Films: Ashpet, Mutzmag, and Willa: An American Snow White
Books in our Library:
Scieszka, Jon and Lane Smith. The Stinky Cheese Man
Dr. Seuss. The Lorax
Young, Ed. Lon Po Po: A Chinese Little Red Riding Hood
Little Red Riding Hood Stories (photocopies of several stories)
Chase, Richard. Grandfather Tales [Appalachian Folk Tales]
Cohn, Amy, ed. From Sea to Shining Sea: A Treasury of American Folklore and Folk Songs
Hamilton, Virginia. The People Could Fly [African-American folktales]
Opie, Iona and Peter. The Classic Fairy Tales [contains background and texts of famous fairy tales]
Zipes, Jack. Dont Bet on the Prince [contains important feminist essays on fairy tales, and contemporary feminist fairy tales]
Steven Swann. Jones. The Fairy Tale: The Magic Mirror of the Imagination