Since childhood, Courtney Lee Weida, EdD, associate professor and director of graduate art education in Adelphi’s Ruth S. Ammon School of Education, has found the princess archetype “both captivating and problematic.”

Dr. Weida partnered with her sister, Jaime Chris Weida, PhD, assistant professor of English at Borough of Manhattan Community College (The City University of New York), and Carlee Bradbury, PhD, professor of art history at Radford University, to write “Poetics of the Fairy Tale Princess: Products, Problems, & Possibilities,” published in 2019 in the Canadian Review of Art Education. The paper traces princess media across literature, film and visual culture, attempting to unearth its “troubles and treasures.”

Traditional princess narratives are ripe for reinterpretation, they found. “Our focus on Sleeping Beauty, who is often theorized as very passive and imperiled, led us to some unexpected associations with the spindle, evoking women weavers and artists from mythology,” Dr. Weida said. “Even Aurora’s slumber can be reconsidered as a respite from the expectations of marriage and motherhood, a creative ‘heroine’s journey’ to the origins of self, and a strange form of immortality or even time travel.”

Contemporary princesses are also subject to their own remixing—the #GiveElsaAGirlfriend Twitter hashtag, for instance, reflects a growing LGBTQ+ social movement surrounding Elsa from Frozen, while Linnèa Johansson’s guerrilla art coloring book Super Strong Princesses depicts princesses as activists and superheroes. “The very tradition of telling fairy tales relates to educating and entertaining young people across cultures,” Dr. Weida explained, “representing histories and ideas that families and educators can reclaim and revise creatively.”

Weida, C.L., Carlee Bradbury, and Jaime Chris Weida. “Poetics of the Fairy Tale Princess: Products, Problems, & Possibilities.” Canadian Review of Art Education, vol. 46, no. 2, 2019, pp. 17-32.

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