Professor Teaches Research Writing with Fairy Tales


This semester, Professor Cragin Day sparks student interest with her fairy tale-focused English 120 class. Empire State Building, NEW YORK– Next to standard literary studies of Shakespeare and Robert Frost, a syllabus of fairy tales has caught students' attention.

Professor Chris Cragin Day is debuting the topic for a King's College Writing II class.

“I wasn’t trained in classical literature,” Cragin Day said. “My background is in theater and storytelling. The opportunity to teach this class allows me to use my strengths.”

Cragin Day says she got the idea from a friend who wrote for Marvel Comics. Comics are all about the supernatural and man’s attempt to discover it.

“Since then, I’ve been exploring this idea. I see everything through a different lens," Cragin Day said. "Human instinct is to reach for the divine. I am passionate about that.”

Most students are excited about the topic.

“I’ve always wanted to be a princess like the ones in the fairy tales,” Amanda Haney (’15) said.

But Professor Cragin Day sees something far deeper in her topic choice.

Though fairy tales are generally not associated with Christianity, many acknowledge a god and the supernatural in their universal themes.

“Snow White is a classic example. It very closely resembles the story of Adam and Eve,” she said. "In both stories, the apple is a central image that causes death. Only an outside person or force can save the characters and bring life back into the narrative."

“You can learn so many good, moral lessons from a fairy tale,” Brandon Santulli (’15) agreed.

Other students note the influence fairy tales can have on the mind.

"I love the idea of studying fairy tales and exploring the psychology behind them," Chris Josselyn ('15) said. "You can see how these stories have affected children as well as adults."

But English 120 is not just about a topic. The goal of the class is to teach students how to write research papers.

She hopes that students will enjoy the research process more by choosing a thesis they enjoy. Students will read two books and write periodical reading responses on them.

Cragin Day is using several books about fairy tales in addition to the tales themselves. Once Upon a Time on the Nature of Fairy Tales by Max Luthi talks about the form and plot of the fairy tales and the rules by which they are governed. The Uses of Enhancement: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales by Bruno Bettelheim explains why fairy tales are important in childhood development.

Cragin Day believes that fairy tales teach children the roles of death and evil in society. When good wins in the stories, they show that evil can be overcome. They teach us, as Cragin Day puts it, "that death can be met with honor."