Campus Location

Abilene Campus

Date of Award

Spring 5-13-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Communication

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Committee Chair

Lauren Lemley, PhD

Second Committee Member

Lynette Sharp Penya, PhD

Third Committee Member

Kristina Davis, PhD

Abstract

Fairy tales hold the power to influence societies and to challenge societal injustices, and the story of Cinderella exemplifies both of these roles. In this study, I conduct a rhetorical analysis of four different versions of the Cinderella narrative: Charles Perrault’s “Cendrillon,” the Brothers Grimm’s “Ascenputtel,” Anne Sexton’s "Cinderella,” and Disney’s Cinderella (2015). I examine Perrault’s “Cendrillon” and the Grimms’ “Aschenputtel” using constitutive rhetoric. This theory operates around the basic premise that rhetoric holds the power to aid in the shaping of societies. While analyzing “Cendrillon” and “Aschenputtel,” I specifically look for themes of classism and nationalism, respectively. I then examine Sexton’s “Cinderella” and Disney’s Cinderella (2015) using feminist standpoint theory as my theoretical lens. Within this analysis, I particularly analyze how the two rhetors offer more nuanced views towards gender roles and stereotypes within their respective texts. Within “Cendrillon,” I found that Perrault places value on position, possessions, and peacekeeping, and within “Aschenputtel,” the Brothers Grimm seem to emphasize hostility towards the outsider, the need for order, and the potential for self-determination. While examining the two more recent Cinderella tales, I found that Sexton offers more nuanced views towards gender through her deconstruction of the Cinderella narrative and through her portrayals of both Cinderella and the Prince. Disney accordingly provides a feminist standpoint through Ella and Kit’s equality and through the portrayal of Ella’s stepsisters. Ultimately, I found that the tales of Perrault and the Brothers Grimm potentially had profound effects on their respective societies, and that the tales of Sexton and Disney offer valuable critiques of social hierarchies and the effects of those hierarchies.

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