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Authors of Authenticity: Translation and the Fairy Tale


This dissertation addresses the theoretical and historical relevance of translation to the canonical fairy tales in the Western tradition. It investigates the centrality of the act of narration and transmission in fairy tales, particularly the portrayal of original sources in illustrations, prefaces, and footnotes. I posit that such narratives about transmission implicate sources within the scope of fiction. I relate this phenomenon to translation theories that challenge notions of definitive originals and treat the notion of a fixed source as a misleading fiction.

I consider the concept of translation in terms of translatio, or “to carry across,” and the historical overlaps between translation and storytelling. My study focuses on the representation of mediation and acts of transmission in the collections of tales by Charles Perrault, Thomas-Simon Gueullette, the Brothers Grimm, and Hans Christian Andersen as well as interlingual and intersemiotic translations of fairy tales in the English-, French-, and German-speaking traditions. My findings show that in the histories of translation and folklore, there has been a distinct conflation of the two. With the conclusion that storytelling is a form of translation and that translation, in turn, is a form of storytelling, I demonstrate that fairy tales, like translations, evoke unattainable originals. Characterized by their mutability, fairy tales constitute a form of world literature that is in constant translation, creating new worlds rather than imitating them.

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