In Defence of Charles Perrault: Beyond the Feminist Perspective of Jack (David) Zipes & his Associates

Analysis of the construction of the theoretical body on children’s literary can divulge the institutionalization of political agenda as culture. This, I argue, influences the way in which we read, interpret, translate and transmit children’s literature. More important, however, theory building is a political battle, which despite its claim to renew and revolutionize “meaning,” remains faithful to the status quo in social relations.

Jack Zipes, one of the most influential theorists on children’s literary theory in North America, began his career by critiquing Western European fairy tales from an American feminist perspective. In his critique of Charles Perrault, I find parallels between the two writers and my own examination of Zipes’ analysis of Perrault’s tales demonstrates that contemporary theory on children’s literature is being built on problematic readings threatened by its own political agenda. 

The importance of this work lies in the fact that there is a strong link between literary theory and how audience “reads” the cultural heritage we attempt to transmit to future generations. The globalization project of the US has left its mark on the way contemporary theorists and literary philosophers read children’s literature. This project ignores the complexity and the nuances that the thousands of years of folk traditions had taught authors such as Perrault. Despite Perrault’s problems with regard to his own “monarchistic project”, his work is diluted in folk ambiguities, and Zipes’ reading denies Perrault this complexity and hence denies our children alternatives.

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