Volume VII, Number 2, Fall 2011

"Abundance, rather than lack: Review of Postmodern Reinterpretations of Fairy Tales. How Applying New Methods Generates New Meanings edited by Anna Kérchy" by Larisa Kocic-Zámbó

Larisa Kocic-Zámbó is a PhD Candidate of the Institute of English & American Studies, University of Szeged. E-mail:

Postmodern Reinterpretations of Fairy Tales. How Applying New Methods Generates New Meanings
Edited by Anna Kérchy
The Edwin Mellen Press, 2011.
Hardcover, illustrated, 520 pages
ISBN10: 0-7734-1519-X
ISBN13: 978-0-7734-1519-5.

One has merely to take a quick glance at websites like SurLaLune fairytales.com or Cabinet des Fées to realize the growing number of blogs, journals, discussion groups, and online forums devoted to fairy tales: not only do we witness a steady outpour of fairy tale rewritings and rereading s, but also a growing interest of academic studies for the genre and the potential it shows in the twenty-first century. Postmodern Reinterpretations of Fairy Tales. How to Applying New Methods Generates New Meanings by the Edwin Mellen Press and edited by Anna Kérchy, is one of such scholarly endeavors. Being a collection of twenty-six articles it reads pretty much as a reader, or an anthology offering “an overview of the current state of affairs regarding postmodernist fairly tale and fantasy fiction and theory” (v). Divided into six sections, the volume includes essays that explore the dynamics of interaction between contemporary reinventions of the fairy tale and fantasy and a wide range of current literary- and cultural theoretical trends, the list of which alone could spin the readers’ mind like the cyclone swooping Dorothy Gale into the magical Land of Oz.

Hence, the first section discusses the impact of the new media of digital storytelling, the cyber salon’s participatory cultural productions, and the intermedial textualities of contemporary stage design and dance performance. The second section puts emerging new genres and styles like urban fantasy, steampunk, forensic crime fiction, intermedial text/image, and mangas, all inspired by fantasy, into spotlight. For those interested in postmodern rewritings of classic fairy tales, section three is probably the most promising one, for its chapters discuss the revisiting of fairy tales by “a variety of subversive means” ranging from feminist critical and fictional reimaginings to the emerging anti-fairy tale genre (Bluebeard), , intermedial musicological takes (Beauty and the Beast), and pornographic countertexts (Carter’s Shakespearean fantasy). The fourth section tackles the representations and reconceptualizations of the body: fantasies of anatomized corporeality, monstrous skins and hybrid identities, cyborg bodies, and fairy-tale fashionista embodiments. Section five revolves around the issue of creation of fictional realities, make-believe realms, locating the faerial and the fantastic within computer games’ ludic environments, trans/post-humanist transitional sites of sci-fi fairylands, and the indefinite magical sur/realist psychopathology-fantasy borderline. The collection concludes with a section on “innovative methods of textual/semiotic analysis bridging narratology and cultural studies” (iii), tackling cutting-edge dilemmas of transmedial-, feminist-, affective- and corporeal narratology.

In the words of the editor, Anna Kérchy, and the author of the volume’s foreword, Martine Hennard Dutheil de la Rochère, the collection of essays “came to being as a result of the thought-provoking discussions and challenging open-ended questions” emerging at the Fairy Tale After Angela Carter conference (University of East Anglia, 2009) assessing the state of the fairy tale and of fairy-tale studies in the wake of Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber. It is therefore no surprise that Carter provides a major point of reference in several studies of this volume, given that a number of contributors participated at the conference. Nevertheless, reading the many divergent articles, it is obvious that the editor took Carter’s metaphor of “putting new wine in old bottles until the pressure of new wine makes the old bottle explode” quite seriously. For what do the contributors to this collection do if not pour new wine into the old bottle of fairy tales (each chapter adding to its flavor, complementing each other or, occasionally, setting off a distinct spice) so that it is ready to explode and surpass its conventional boundaries? The result is just as enchanting as Tomoko Konoike’s Wolf-girl painting on the volume’s cover. As Kérchy writes in the Preface:

Past and present, originals and rewrites, texts, intertexts and metatexts (co-)respond to each other, just like individual authors do, whether they occasionally elaborate on fellow-contributors’ ideas, or systematically re- and revision in different lights recurring key concepts and crucial theoreticians of fairy tale, fantasy and postmodern scholarship, ranging from the Freudinan “uncanny” and the Todorovian “fantastic” to the Kristevian “abject” and Walton’s “imaginative resistance”, from Jack Zipes on folklore, rewriting and the cultural industry to Cristina Bacchilega or Donald Haase on fairy tales, ideology and feminism, Marina Warner on imagination’s creative powers, and Stephen Benson on contemporary fiction, the faerial and otherness within. (xvi)

Ambitious in scope and content, the volume is more than a worthwhile reading (even in the light of its price) for all those interested in the continued development of work on fairy tales. To sum it up in one sentence, while repurposing an expression from Cristina Bacchilega’s Postmodern Fairy Tales, the collection of articles edited by Kérchy is motivated by “[a]bundance, rather than lack” (Bacchilega 2).


Works Cited

  • Bacchilega, Cristina. 1997. Postmodern Fairy Tales. Gender and Narrative Strategies. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Kérchy, Anna, ed. 2011. Postmodern Reinterpretations of Fairy Tales. How Applying New Methods Generates New Meaning. Ed. Anna Kérchy. The Edwin Mellen Press.