Revisiting the fairy land: Anne Sexton’s transformation of the Grimms’ female characters


Anne Sexton’s vivid and scandalous literary heritage has always been arousing controversy mostly due to its confessional character. It is, however, underestimated that one of the sources of her poetic inspirations was a broadly defined European culture and tradition, including the Grimms’ fairy tales. This article strives to inquire how Sexton revisits narratives of canonical tales with special regard to female protagonists. An apparent discrepancy will be shown between the two versions in terms of poetic imagery, character construction, and the reality in which they are firmly anchored. The morals drawn from the poems markedly diverge from the original versions, for it is with pessimism and disillusionment that Sexton transforms the naïve and sentimental images. The applied adaptation, hence, serves here to articulate the conflict between the traditional, male-centered set of values and a feminist perspective. The poems’ structures, literary figures, cultural references, features of genre, and other elements will be examined and analyzed to compare the retold stories with their archetypes and to provide a detailed interpretation in the light of the addressed problems.


fairy tales; feminism; female protagonist; adaptation; postmodern poetry

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Published : 2015-09-30

Korzeniewska-Nowakowska, P. (2015) “Revisiting the fairy land: Anne Sexton’s transformation of the Grimms’ female characters”, Crossroads. A Journal of English Studies, (10), pp. 15-21. doi: 10.15290/cr.2015.10.3.02.

Paulina Korzeniewska-Nowakowska 
University of Zielona Góra, Poland  Poland