THESIS ABSTRACT 2004
Cinderella: A New Spin On An Old Tale Combining the Art of Text and Illustration with Shared Inquiry Techniques to Build Critical Thinking and Discourse Skills
Image Courtesy of the artist; Angee Lennard 2004
Proficiency in communicative skills is mandated of children growing up to be Global Citizens. I intend to examine whether fairy tales can provide training in critical thinking and subsequent discourse among youth.
“Fairy tales are unique, not merely as a form of literature, but as works of art which are fully comprehensible to the child as no other form of art is…. As works of art, fairy tales have many aspects worth exploring… our cultural heritage finds expression in fairy tales and through them is communicated to the child’s mind”
—The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales by Bruno Bettelheim, page 12
The tale of Cinderella is told in more languages and from more cultural perspectives than any other folk tale. The first written account of the legend hails from China approximately 850 A.D. entitled Yeh-hsein. Nearly two thousand years ago, the Greek historian Strabo recorded a story about an Egyptian king who searched for Rhodopis, an unknown owner of an exquisite sandal. Rhodopis is told as a tale of history rather than mythology. However, it is the earliest evidence of selecting a bride by a slipper test.
Can an archetypal fairy tale provide children with a conduit to facilitate critical discourse exploring cultural differences? I intend to commemorate Cinderella with the design of an exhibition entitled Footsteps: Tracking Cindy’s Trek. The exhibition will afford children the opportunity to discover the tale’s multiple adaptations and subsequent interpretive variations of circumstance and symbolic motifs. By employing shared inquiry methodology, teachers and students alike will be challenged to reconsider basic issues raised within the text. Shared inquiry method promotes thoughtful dialogue and open debate of complex ideas. Participants learn to question the worth of an opposing argument by exercising imagination and intellect to test, support, develop and/or modify their initial rationale. An agility to regard issues from multiple angles promotes a discipline in critical analysis. In deconstructing the Cinderella icon, Footsteps will provide a safe environment and context for participants to hone vital skills of critical analyses and debate gaining confidence in self-expression while respecting viewpoints of others.
The design of Footsteps is predicated on dialogue. A panel of children’s librarians will jury artists’ submissions of distinct adaptations of the Cinderella tale and shoes to accessorize the completed books. A video recording will highlight each artist’s resonance with the fable. Groups of children will be invited to trace the cultural journey of the legendary tale. Volunteers trained in shared inquiry techniques will read aloud books at the request of participating children and facilitate a dialogue. Finally, children will have the opportunity to respond to the artists and gallery guests by recording their observations on a canvas-covered wall. Ultimately, the cumulative written reflections of attending children will be assembled and presented to UNESCO in honor of the Decade of Literacy. Local gallery and community centers will serve as my research laboratory. The reflections of participating children will be assessed to determine whether Cinderella provided an opportunity for critical thinking and discourse.
Kate Loague has been a professional theatre practitioner since receiving her B.F.A. in 1977 (AEA, SAG, and I.A.T.S.E). Kate was the Chicago Coordinator of BookPALS, a nationwide children’s literacy initiative of the Screen Actors Guild Foundation. While at SAIC she was the educational intern for the South African exhibition, Amazwi Abesifazane: Voices of Women at the Betty Rymer Gallery.
Thesis Advisor: Nicholas Lowe Visiting Artist, Arts Administration
Thesis Reader: Marlene V. Meisels Manager of Formal Academic Programs, Lincoln Park Zoo; Principal Advisor, A Word to the Wise, Inc.
Second Reader: Amy Reichert Instructor, Arts Administration; Independent Exhibition Designer