“Case Studies in Fairy Tales” requires students to undertake a sophisticated, multimodal writing and research project that draws on both creative and academic skill sets. Students choose a classic fairy tale and research its origins, history, transformations through retellings, and context in popular culture. Then, they must write their own creative version of the tale inspired and informed by their newly acquired background knowledge, carefully analyze the place of that new version within the wider perspective, and finally create a case study website that showcases everything they’ve created and learned about the tale.

Helen Luo did exceptional work on every facet of this demanding project. Arguably, the shining centerpiece of her case study is The Fallen Sakura, her retelling of The Ballad of Fa Mulan, a stylish, carefully constructed, emotionally moving piece which showcases Helen’s talent as a creative writer. That said, the retelling might never have come to exist in its final form had it not been for the time and care that Helen put into the research she pursued in the early stages of the project. What’s more, the essay in which she contextualizes and analyzes The Fallen Sakura reveals not only the complex layers of the creative work, but also Helen’s own metacognitive perceptiveness. She quotes and close reads her own words unselfconsciously, reflecting not only on all the things her retelling does so successfully, but even on moments when her authorial intention doesn’t match up with the result. That takes insight!

Helen’s work beautifully demonstrates what I want all my students to learn from this project: to retell a fairy tale is to make a kind of argument about it—and at the same time, to write an analytical paper is to tell a kind of story.

WR 150: Case Studies in Fairy Tales