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Disability, Deformity, and Disease in the Grimms' Fairy Tales

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Although dozens of disabled characters appear in the Grimms' Children's and Household Tales, the issue of disability in their collection has remained largely unexplored by scholars. In Disability, Deformity, and Disease in the Grimms' Fairy Tales, author Ann Schmiesing analyzes various representations of disability in the tales and also shows how the Grimms' editing (or " Although dozens of disabled characters appear in the Grimms' Children's and Household Tales, the issue of disability in their collection has remained largely unexplored by scholars. In Disability, Deformity, and Disease in the Grimms' Fairy Tales, author Ann Schmiesing analyzes various representations of disability in the tales and also shows how the Grimms' editing (or "prostheticizing") of their tales over seven editions significantly influenced portrayals of disability and related manifestations of physical difference, both in many individual tales and in the collection overall. Schmiesing begins by exploring instabilities in the Grimms' conception of the fairy tale as a healthy and robust genre that has nevertheless been damaged and needs to be restored to its organic state. In chapter 2, she extends this argument by examining tales such as "The Three Army Surgeons" and "Brother Lustig" that problematize, against the backdrop of war, characters' efforts to restore wholeness to the impaired or diseased body. She goes on in chapter 3 to study the gendering of disability in the Grimms' tales with particular emphasis on the Grimms' editing of "The Maiden Without Hands" and "The Frog King or Iron Henry." In chapter 4, Schmiesing considers contradictions in portrayals of characters such as Hans My Hedgehog and the Donkey as both cripple and "supercripple"-a figure who miraculously "overcomes" his disability and triumphs despite social stigma. Schmiesing examines in chapter 5 tales in which no magical erasure of disability occurs, but in which protagonists are depicted figuratively "overcoming" disability by means of other personal abilities or traits. The Grimms described the fairy tale using metaphors of able-bodiedness and wholeness and espoused a Romantic view of their editorial process as organic restoration. Disability, Deformity, and Disease in the Grimms' Fairy Tales shows, however, the extent to which the Grimms' personal experience of disability and illness impacted the tales and reveals the many disability-related amendments that exist within them. Readers interested in fairy-tales studies and disability studies will appreciate this careful reading of the Grimms' tales.


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Although dozens of disabled characters appear in the Grimms' Children's and Household Tales, the issue of disability in their collection has remained largely unexplored by scholars. In Disability, Deformity, and Disease in the Grimms' Fairy Tales, author Ann Schmiesing analyzes various representations of disability in the tales and also shows how the Grimms' editing (or " Although dozens of disabled characters appear in the Grimms' Children's and Household Tales, the issue of disability in their collection has remained largely unexplored by scholars. In Disability, Deformity, and Disease in the Grimms' Fairy Tales, author Ann Schmiesing analyzes various representations of disability in the tales and also shows how the Grimms' editing (or "prostheticizing") of their tales over seven editions significantly influenced portrayals of disability and related manifestations of physical difference, both in many individual tales and in the collection overall. Schmiesing begins by exploring instabilities in the Grimms' conception of the fairy tale as a healthy and robust genre that has nevertheless been damaged and needs to be restored to its organic state. In chapter 2, she extends this argument by examining tales such as "The Three Army Surgeons" and "Brother Lustig" that problematize, against the backdrop of war, characters' efforts to restore wholeness to the impaired or diseased body. She goes on in chapter 3 to study the gendering of disability in the Grimms' tales with particular emphasis on the Grimms' editing of "The Maiden Without Hands" and "The Frog King or Iron Henry." In chapter 4, Schmiesing considers contradictions in portrayals of characters such as Hans My Hedgehog and the Donkey as both cripple and "supercripple"-a figure who miraculously "overcomes" his disability and triumphs despite social stigma. Schmiesing examines in chapter 5 tales in which no magical erasure of disability occurs, but in which protagonists are depicted figuratively "overcoming" disability by means of other personal abilities or traits. The Grimms described the fairy tale using metaphors of able-bodiedness and wholeness and espoused a Romantic view of their editorial process as organic restoration. Disability, Deformity, and Disease in the Grimms' Fairy Tales shows, however, the extent to which the Grimms' personal experience of disability and illness impacted the tales and reveals the many disability-related amendments that exist within them. Readers interested in fairy-tales studies and disability studies will appreciate this careful reading of the Grimms' tales.

41 review for Disability, Deformity, and Disease in the Grimms' Fairy Tales

  1. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Phelps

    This book was well-researched and not difficult to read. Though Schmiesing opts for a more formal voice, this allows her to authoritatively strike a path for future intersections of disability and fairy tale studies. Schmiesing draws extensively from both disability and fairy tale scholars, making a clear and compelling argument for the importance of seeing disabilities in the Grimms' tales from a social rather than symbolic perspective. Schmiesing also recognizes the variety of approaches to di This book was well-researched and not difficult to read. Though Schmiesing opts for a more formal voice, this allows her to authoritatively strike a path for future intersections of disability and fairy tale studies. Schmiesing draws extensively from both disability and fairy tale scholars, making a clear and compelling argument for the importance of seeing disabilities in the Grimms' tales from a social rather than symbolic perspective. Schmiesing also recognizes the variety of approaches to disabilities within the field of disability studies, acknowledging both the social and medical perspectives and striking for analyses that recognize both views. I am impressed by this book and look forward to reading more books that intersect these two areas of study as they gain popularity.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kay Daniels

    So thorough! Really interesting perspective, well backed up narrative, and applicable across the field of Disability Studies, LOVED!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    I didn't always agree with Schmiesing's thoughts, and I often had questions. But it was a great introduction to disability studies, and even when I wasn't agreeing with her, I was still interested in the argument. I was surprised that there was no reference to Eve in the discussion on "The Maiden without Hands." I understand that her thesis has nothing to do with Biblical references in the tales, but it seemed to me that at least a passing acknowledgment should have been there, since she was pun I didn't always agree with Schmiesing's thoughts, and I often had questions. But it was a great introduction to disability studies, and even when I wasn't agreeing with her, I was still interested in the argument. I was surprised that there was no reference to Eve in the discussion on "The Maiden without Hands." I understand that her thesis has nothing to do with Biblical references in the tales, but it seemed to me that at least a passing acknowledgment should have been there, since she was punished for eating an apple. But that was my one major hang-up. Generally very informative and interesting.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    398.20943 S3549 2014

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    Sara

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