English and Modern Languages


Master of Arts (MA)


Carl C Curtis

Primary Subject Area

Literature, Classical; Literature, English


Beauty and the Beast, C. S. Lewis, Cupid and Psyche, Fairytale, Myth, Till We Have Faces


In the last fifty years or so, the study of myth and meaning has changed into the study of fairytales, and into world of non-meaning. But because myths are classified with fairytales, their depth and somber meaning are clouded with the various happy endings of fairytales. Myths, then, are stripped and analyzed the same way as fairytales, for critics do not perceive a distinction; therefore, when discussing modern fairytale criticism the conclusions are invariably applied to myths as well. Fairytales and myth suffer greatly from the modern views; both are lost in a world of criticism set on satisfying its own agenda. Literary criticism has stolen meaning out of words with deconstruction. Feminism rewrites the fairytales to liberate the women trapped in happily-ever-afters. Marxism blames the princes for being rich, turning any struggle into a social-economic statement. Such criticism and analysis leave out so much of what makes a fairytale a tale worth telling and a myth worth believing. It is as Tolkien said: fairy-stories (fairytales and myth) are more than just "information" and criticism as of late has looked only for the information and lost the wonder of the story that is being told. Because of the new definitions and their focus on Marxism, feminism, and psycho-analysis, and the older definitions that focus on meaning, function, and ritual, critics are confused as to where a work of literature such as Till We Have Faces should fit in. Is it a fairytale; is it a myth? Are the two mutually exclusive? Modern critics have argued that myth is a sub-category to the fairytale genre. While, studying the older critics is it obvious that myth is the greater literary form. In an attempt to come to terms with the new criticism and understand the old terms, the following case study has been developed.