"The most beautiful child beneath the sun": Representations of Female Beauty through the Transformations of 'Rapunzel'
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This dissertation explores the everlasting importance of beauty within the 'Rapunzel' tale. It uses three adaptations of 'Rapunzel' from three different centuries. Chapter One uses a cultural and contextual approach to develop an account of 'Rapunzel's popularity in nineteenth-century Britain. It focuses on the Victorian society’s reception of the tale, and their attraction to Rapunzel’s beauty, for instance, her long, golden hair. It explores art from the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, which regularly depicted women with almost identical features to Rapunzel, and also highlights how the beauty ideals of the time were shaped around the Grimms’ fairy tale aesthetic. Chapter Two looks at two poems from the 1970s that are written from the point of view of the witch, and Rapunzel herself. Both depict a homosexual relationship between the two women. An exploration is made into how they indicate a clear shift in the transformation of ‘Rapunzel’ for a new century, and thus, a new audience. It examines how the two poets alter the voices of the original tale, and represent a feminist perspective, transforming the tale from one originally occupied with patriarchal ideals, to one that boldly addresses matriarchal concerns. Chapter Three focuses on a 21st century adaptation of the 'Rapunzel' tale; Walt Disney’s animated feature, Tangled (2010). A close contextual study is carried out on the transformation of 'Rapunzel' from a literary fairy tale, to a visual, cinematic media. It will explore its adoption of certain Disney tropes, and its effect on a consumerist world. The reception of, and response to, the film from its young audience is discussed, particularly in regards to the ideals they retain, and the messages they discard. Overall, this dissertation discusses how the ideals pushed forward by the Grimms transcended, and have become embedded in the ideals of popular culture and society ever since.
Dissertation by Rachel Owen for the BA English & Popular Culture course, submitted May 2012.
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