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Beyond the Rational: Fairy Tale Logic & What It Tells Us About Narrative Structure and the Nature of Reality

Many of us know the broad outlines of the most famous fairy tales, but few readers have lingered on the often startling details. For instance, many fairy tales begin with a serious existential crisis—there is a famine in land and people are going hungry; a child has been banished from his home by a cruel and sadistic step-parent; a little boy runs away from home and finds himself alone in a dark forest; a hungry wolf is on the prowl, roaming the outskirts of an isolated village in search of its next victim; a wild man lives in the woods and murders innocent people for no apparent reason. Along the way, there are blindings, burnings, drownings, amputations and sexual misconduct.

Fairy tales posit, from page one, that all people, often from a very young age, are faced with serious rather than trivial problems and that the true hero is someone who establishes a worthy goal and battles past these seemingly insurmountable obstacles to create a better life.

A number of important craft lessons will become readily apparent to even the most casual reader: the writer must, as soon as possible, establish a serious crisis for the protagonist. The writer is then obligated to “test” the protagonist by creating a series of increasingly difficult, and above all, interesting obstacles. Indeed, it is the manner in which an individual deals with adversity that makes the narrative a “story” at all.

This craft talk will draw on the work of Marie-Louise von Franz, Maria Tartar, Lewis Hyde, Erich Neumann, Mircea Eliade, Vladmir Propp, Robert Bly, Joseph Campbell, and others.

Instructor: After working as a boilermaker in the steel mills in Ohio, Kevin P. Keating became a professor of English and began teaching at John Carroll University, Baldwin Wallace University, and Cleveland State University. His essays and stories have appeared in over fifty literary journals. His first novel The Natural Order of Things was a finalist for the 2012 Los Angeles Times First Fiction Award. His second novel The Captive Condition was launched at the 2015 San Diego Comic Con. He is the recipient of the Cleveland Arts Prize and a Creative Workforce Fellowship.

Details: Beyond the Rational: Fairy Tale Logic & What It Teaches Us About Narrative Structure and the Nature of Reality takes place Thursday September 30 from 7-9pm remotely through Zoom. 

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