Megan Wilson

Megan Wilson

Fairy Tales, Horror, and Uncanny Protagonists of the 19th Century

Authors

Megan Wilson, Dr. Neil Weijer, Dr. Kenneth Kidd

Mentor

Dr. Neil Weijer

College

University Libraries

Abstract

Nearly everyone is familiar with fairy tale stories. In the minds of so many, tales such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty evoke a time full of laughter, play, and adventures to far-off places only one’s imagination could conjure up. The mysterious, magical figures inhabiting earlier versions, however, are ambiguous to the point of being eerie. They both entrance and possibly frighten their audiences. My research investigates the overlap between 19th century fairy tales and the emerging genre of horror, looking specifically at Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, and Henry James’ novel The Turn of the Screw. I am interested in the protagonists, often women and children, because they play very similar roles now thought to be much different. Characters such as Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella represent what is understood as the uncanny because they lie somewhere between a child and an adult. Early illustrations often depicted these characters as children or young women, and yet their experiences in the story reflect those of someone else entirely. So, what are they? In fairy tales and horror, the child figure is ultimately a replication of the adult’s subconscious fears. They are less of a person and more of a “thing” in the eyes of the wicked stepmother and of the governess in The Turn of the Screw, which gives way for more supernatural or inhuman elements to enter the narrative. Although the adult may be why the uncanny exists in these genres, children are the embodiment of it.

Poster

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Research Pitch

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