Welcome to the course guide for Suzanne Magnanini’s Once Upon a Time in Italy. My name is Bronwen Maxson, and I’m a Subject Librarian who specializes in French and Italian. Please feel free to contact me at any time with questions or to request a research consultation.
Note that you can also get research assistance at the Norlin Research Desk (level 2). Check our website for hours.
Image: "Puss in boots" (Le chat botté). Illustration by Gustave Doré of Charles Perrault's tale, wood engraving by Pannemaker. Date 1867. Public Domain.
To use this guide, I recommend moving through the tabs at the top of the guide from left to right. A research process can be messy and non-linear, so you may have to jump around or go back a few steps (or tabs). Feel free to jump around, but be sure to work through each step of the research process.
While Walt Disney’s animated fairy tales are familiar to most American children and adults, few people realize that Disney’s most beloved characters (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio) descend from an Italian fairy tale tradition that dates back to the sixteenth century. Still other characters, like Puss in Boots, have found their way into children’s literature. In order to make these tales palatable for an American public, Disney and the authors of children’s books radically altered them by removing scenes of sex and violence, censoring adult language, and erasing subversive elements that would have challenged the social and political status quo. In this class, we will trace the evolution of the fairy tale in Italy from bawdy short stories written for adult audiences during the early modern period to didactic literature written for children during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. We will read selections from the first two collections of tales published in Europe, Gianfrancesco Straparola’s The Pleasant Nights (1551-53) and Giambattista Basile’s The Tale of Tales (1634-36); Carlo Gozzi’s fairy tale plays written for the Venetian stage (1760s); and Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio (1881-83). In the final weeks of the course, we will examine both Italian and American films based on Collodi’s nineteenth-century masterpiece (Disney’s animated film; Roberto Benigni’s live-action film; Spielberg’s A.I.). Taught in English. All readings in English.