Intertextuality and critical reading: the interest of parody (Little Red Riding Hood) (LS-EU-510)

This course is intended for students between 11 and 15 years old. It allows them to work on the interpretation of texts and to make them understand two notions: intertextuality and parody. 

Some literary works never stop to question us. This is why they are constantly being rewritten, reinterpreted. The fact that texts and their author never cease to dialogue with each other regardless of temporal and geographical boundaries will be at the heart of the reflection: this is what is called intertextuality

The focus will be on a literary genre, fairy tale, and how, beneath its apparent ease, lies a much more complex set of meanings.  We will work on Little Red Riding Hood, rewritten many times.

Among all the rewritings, I chose to work on the Perrault’s version and on the adaptation by Tex Avery.

Why Tex Avery’s adaptation?

Tex Avery’s adaptation raises two essential questions: that of interpretation and that of critical analysis. Tex Avery parodies Disney’s mawkish interpretations and chooses to highlight the disturbing and violent dimension of the original tale. Other cinematographic adaptations could be integrated into the course.

I have already proposed a Learning Scenario on intertextuality on the myth of Robinson Crusoe, which allowed us to approach several disciplines: with literature, history (colonialism), art history (orientalism), philosophy (the relationship to others). This course will focus mainly on literature, it seems simpler, but it is just as interesting for pupils, especially for pupils in the transition between childhood and adolescence.

The focus will be on a literary genre, fairy tale, and how, beneath its apparent ease, lies a much more complex set of meanings.  

The underlying meaning of the tale

We know from Bruno Bettelheim and his essay The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, that the underlying meaning of the tale often evokes a reality too harsh to be clearly evoked. Fairy tales allow the child to grasp certain realities in a more accessible way. For example, Peau d’âne depicts the ban on incest, Snow White the mother/daughter rivalry, Sleeping Beauty the loss of virginity, etc. By studying different versions of Little Red Riding Hood, students will see how, behind the story of this little girl deceived by the wolf, lies a warning against possible seducers. 

This is how the reflection on the other notion, the parody and its critical dimension, will be set up. Tex Avery’s adaptation is clearly more explicit. Tex Avery challenges Walt Disney’s smooth and simplistic interpretation of this tale by parodying it to better reveal its cruel underlying dimension. 

The interest of these rewritings is precisely to be able to offer another perspective: just as Michel Tournier reversed roles by posing Vendredi as the initiating hero, Tex Avery paints the portrait of a young girl who, far from being subjected to the law of the wolf, imposes another balance of power on her… 

Would you like to know more about this learning scenario? You can download it below:

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CC BY 4.0The featured image used to illustrate this article has been found on Europeana and has been provided by The British Library.

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