Home » Fantasy and the human mind » Grimm’s Household Tales.

Grimm’s Household Tales.

(Credit ; Wikimedia)

The first book for my on line course with Coursera, Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World  by Eric Rabkin, was the Grimm’s brothers ” Children’s and Household Tales“.

The essays will be the same for all the reading on this course. It is a very open title which I found actually made it more difficult. The word limit also means that I really had to tighten up my normal writing style. Unlike other courses that I have taken the ‘Works cited’ have an extra space not included in the word count.

Please write an essay that aims to enrich the reading of a fellow student who is both intelligent and attentive to the readings and to the course. Each essay should be between 270 and 320 words.

Here is the essay that I submitted.


Themes of shoes and feet in “Aschenputtel.

(Credit : Wikimedai)

Popular, westernised, representations of Cinderella include a most romantic image of the kneeling Prince slipping the glass-slipper onto Cinderella’s foot. In Grimm’s story of “Aschenputtel” she puts on her own shoe. Shoes and feet can be phallic symbols[5].

Scholars think the Grimms’ story derives from Perrault’s French version, which introduced the glass slipper. This is thought to come from “Yeh-hsien”, the oldest known Cinderella tale; recorded in China around 860AD.[3]  Here the slipper was embroidered silk. In 860AD women in China had their feet bound.  Small feet were considered highly attractive and big feet undesirable[4], a theme carried forward to the modern story.

The importance of shoes and feet in “Aschenputtel”, is evident. There is mention of them on each page.  The sisters give her wooden shoes to wear whilst telling her to brush their fine shoes. Aschenputtel can’t go to the ball because she has no dress or shoes.  Status is represented by the shoes’ quality. Aschenputtel has silk then gold slippers to go the ball reinforcing the importance of shoes. The two sisters cut off parts of their feet attempting to fit into the shoe.  The prince is fooled and accepts each in turn as his bride. They are thought worthy and beautiful  purely by the size of their feet.

Some cultures consider feet as dirty being the lowest part of the body and touching the earth. The original Arabian story concerned a ring rather than a shoe. Rings are a symbol of eternity[5].  The animated version moves to the westernised shoe theme but doesn’t include the prince touching feet[2]. In these versions as in many of the Grimm’s stories the prince falls in love with an idea of beauty.

Popular versions accentuate the phallic symbolism my view is that the original intention was a tiny shoe as the oriental symbol of beauty.


Works cited:

Please note that this essay is written in British English.

Sources of information:

[1] The Grimm Brothers:  Household Stories http://openlibrary.org/books/OL14013824M/Household_stories Pages 119 to 124.

[2] The story of Cinderella in Arabic http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ox308ziFM4

[3] The Chinese author of Cinderella : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duan_Chengshi

[4] Wild Swans, Three daughters of China : byJung Chang.

[5] http://www.umich.edu/~umfandsf/symbolismproject/symbolism.html/


Peer Review 

The review process is split into three parts.

Part one FORM

Please indicate in 30-150 words your judgment of the FORM of the essay you have just read.  FORM here refers to matters of grammar, usage, and structure. Are the sentences grammatically correct?  Are the words properly used?  Is the exposition and argument laid out clearly?  An ideal response would note one aspect of Form that the writer does well and would profit by continuing and one aspect of Form that the writer would profit by improving in ways you make clear.

peer 1 → Everything is clear and understandable.
peer 2 → The essay has a good theme, as you have decided to choose one fairy tale rather than the collection as a whole. As far as grammar goes, you need to tighten up some of your sentences, especially your last sentence, which should be giving a good closing statement to your whole essay, and which in the end is a run-on sentence. This sentence really should be broken into two sentences. Also, your use of the word phallic is incorrect here. I believe you mean to suggest that feet (in particular women’s feet) can often be seen as sexual symbols.
peer 3 → You have a well stated thesis and provide examples from the reading to support the thesis. Your use of outside references also support your thesis and are appropriately noted. You should be sure that the paragraphs flow coherently. For example, your paragraph that starts with “The importance of shoes…” should be the first as it is the strongest and states your thesis the most clearly. Followed by your examples from Perrault and China.
peer 4 → Overall the form was good. The punctuation on the last sentence should be changed either to a semicolon or a period between symbolism and my.

Please grade the FORM of the essay you have just read on a scale of 1 to 3. FORM here refers to matters of grammar, usage, and structure. Are the sentences grammatically correct? Are the words properly used? Is the exposition and argument laid out clearly? An ideal response would note one aspect of Form that the writer does well and would profit by continuing and one aspect of Form that the writer would profit by improving in ways you make clear.

Since everyone can learn to write better, at least 10% but no more than 30% of the grades should be 1. Everyone should strive for perfect grammar. However, if someone writes in ways that are particularly vivid or uses particularly incisive key terms to focus the argument or in some other way is outstanding in usage or structure, that essay should be awarded a 3 but no more than 20% of the grades should be a 3 because, by definition, “outstanding” is comparatively rare. Most grades should be 2.

Score from your peers: 2


Part two CONTENT

Please indicate in 30-150 words your judgment of the CONTENT of the essay you have just read. CONTENT here refers to matters of insight, argument, and example. Does the essay show a deep understanding of some aspect of the work or of a pattern that one can see in the work? Does the argument make sense, feel persuasive, and reveal the significance of the insight or insights? Are there concrete details from the text that support the argument and that we come to understand more powerfully because of the argument? An ideal response would note one aspect of Content that the writer does well and would profit by continuing and one aspect of Content that the writer would profit by improving in ways you make clear.

peer 1 → Your thesis is great. I found your essay outstanding and entertaining to read, so I’m going to give you my first 3!
peer 2 → I like your tight theme centering on the ideal of feet as a measurement of beauty. Your research works as you compare other cultures ideas of feet as well as the different types of foot coverings. I would not go so far as to say feet are phallic symbols, but rather a sexual symbol. For instance, in Western culture for centuries women had to cover their feet as well as their ankles, and in some Arabic cultures revealing the soles of the feet was considered a sexual enticement. For the most part your theme works well, until you introduce the idea of a ring. This sentence has no relevance to your shoe/foot theme and does not work to any purpose here in your essay. You state your thesis fairly well, about tiny feet being beautiful.Your essay, which ends with the thesis statement of tiny feet being beautiful would be much stronger structurally if you also begin with saying something about the prince holding such a tiny shoe in his hand. This would tie your beginning better to your end.
peer 3 → This was a very interesting interpretation of the symbolism of feet in Aschenputtel. I didn’t notice how many times feet and shoes are mentioned in the story until reading your essay. Beauty does seem to be related to foot size in this story. Your arguments never discuss the phallic nature of feet within this story. Though feet/shoes can be a phallic symbol, you don’t give evidence from the story to support this.
peer 4 → The content was quite good, showing me a part of the Cinderella story I had not recognized.

Please grade the CONTENT of the essay you have just read on a scale of 1 to 3. CONTENT here refers to matters of insight, argument, and example. Does the essay show a deep understanding of some aspect of the work or of a pattern that one can see in the work? Does the argument make sense, feel persuasive, and reveal the significance of the insight or insights? Are there concrete details from the text that support the argument and that we come to understand more powerfully because of the argument? An ideal response would note one aspect of Content that the writer does well and would profit by continuing and one aspect of Content that the writer would profit by improving in ways you make clear.

Since everyone can learn to write better, at least 10% but no more than 30% of the grades should be 1. Most people will offer their readers a new insight and some detailed reference to the text that argues for the significance of that insight and for an appreciation of how that detail functions, so most essays will enrich our reading and earn a 2. Some essays will be astonishingly new or persuasive or useful by making the story much richer and even by helping you understand better how to read stories in general. Such essays earn a 3 in Content, but no more than 20% of the grades should be a 3 because, by definition, “outstanding” is comparatively rare. Most grades should be 2.

Score from your peers: 2


Part three COMMENTS 

Please write here any other comments which you feel might be of use to you or the writer of this essay.
peer 1 → What if shoes are also a symbol of identity?
peer 2 → You chose a very interesting theme, the idea of feet as sexual symbols. You did some very interesting research and made some good points.
peer 4 → I enjoyed the way you showed how the Cinderella story is cross-cultural. I was not aware of this. I found it especially interesting that the Arabian story used a ring instead of a shoe.

What I will take forward. 

1. I need to tighten up my sentences even further.

2.Some people don’t check out the references I need to make them more obvious. The work cited expressly talks of feet as ‘phallic symbols’ and not as sexual symbols. I am sure if I had said they were ‘sexual symbols’ another peer would have picked me up on this. Peer 3 said I showed no supporting evidence for this even though it was marked.

3. I can’t please everyone. Peer 2 thought the reference to a ring was irrelevant. Peer 4 thought it was an interesting piece of cross cultural information. I included it to show that not all the stories were about shoes.

I enjoyed this exercise and I think I have learned from my peer reviews. This type of practice must surely improve my writing style.

 

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8 Comments

  1. Poulomi says:

    Hi, since I came across your blog while following the Prof. Peter’s class, I was happy to ‘see’ you here too. I follow your blog whenever I can, and I particularly like this essay of yours. Thanks for sharing. I would love to discuss the courses in detail with you when I have some more time in my hand.

    • Louise Taylor says:

      Thank you Poulomi for visiting me and your comment. Some of the stories from the ancient Greeks remind me so much of these Grimm’s tales. The themes of things coming in threes and the youngest brother always winning out. The House of Atreus for example had a few stories like these. I love a good story no matter when it was told.

  2. raerei says:

    Wow, you put a lot of thought into your essay. More than I remember from the essays I graded.

    I hadn’t seen the connection with feet either beyond knowing what we were told about the glass slipper being a mistranslation, and the cultural aspects of how the story changes when you encounter a culture that considers feet unclean was really fascinating. Good job with at enriching the meaning of the story. I look forward to reading about Alice next week!

    • Louise Taylor says:

      Thank you.
      I thought that putting different cultural ideas in would be good but one of the peers though it was a bad move. Never mind.
      The glass slipper mistranslation is a strange one. Snopes says it is not true but children in France are raised on it being accurate.

  3. Welcome to peer review! When I took Dr. Rabkin’s class, I understand there were 36,000 students or so; in my on-going art class, also on Coursera, Dr. Divinsky stated this week that there were currently 58,553 registered participants! Even assuming a significant drop-off rate, these numbers are huge. What exactly is a peer? The odds that we are matched with reviewers that have even remotely comparable age, background, training, expectations, understanding of the evaluation criteria, etc. are low.

    Therefore, one of the lessons we learn from the process is actually one of judgment and discrimination (in the positive sense): what to pay attention to, what to discard, when to grow a thicker skin, when to accept other people’s opinion. And it’s tough! ^_^

    • Louise Taylor says:

      The peer review on this course is different to the others I have experienced. I think that is due to it being a literary course and so higher standards of literature are expected but also because of the review system. The notes encourage you to find fault with the essay, on the other hand it also encourages you to find something done well.
      I am not disappointed with this grade and I think the comments will help me to tighten up my writing. I agree with your comments about peers but I think that is life. The word peer is being used in it’s widest context. It reminded me that in British law we are entitled to be judged by 12 peers. This translates as 12 people from the Jury pool which consists of anyone on the electoral role. – pot luck.

  4. Bonjour Louise!
    Will you post your Alice Essay? I love your insights, you definitely are an intelligent reader and writer!
    Annemarie

    • Louise Taylor says:

      Hello Annemarie.
      Thank you for your kind comments. I will post my Alice essay as soon as I have the result and peer comments.

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