Bottigheimer, Ruth B. 1939-
BOTTIGHEIMER, Ruth B. 1939-
PERSONAL: Born July 14, 1939, in Salem, NJ; daughter of Louis E. (an engineer) and Edna Gabell (a homemaker) Ballenger; married Karl S. Bottigheimer (an educator), August 4, 1960; children: John Nathaniel, Hannah Louise. Education: Attended Wellesley College, 1957–59, and University of Munich, 1959–60; University of California—Berkeley, B.A. (with honors), 1961, M.A., 1964; graduate study at University of London, 1962–63; State University of New York-Stony Brook, D.A., 1981. Hobbies and other interests: Gardening.
CAREER: Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, lecturer in German, 1981–84; State University of New York—Stony Brook, assistant professor, then full professor of comparative literature, 1984–. Guest professor at Universities of Gottingen, Innsbruck, Vienna, Algarve, and Surrey.
MEMBER: International Society for Folk Narrative Research, International Society for Research in Children's Literature, Children's Literature Association, Phi Beta Kappa.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fulbright visiting fellowship to Clare Hall Cambridge; visiting fellowship to Oxford University; Best Book, Children's Literature Association, 1996, for The Bible for Children: From the Age of Gutenberg to the Present.
(Editor) Fairy Tales and Society: Illusion, Allusion, and Paradigm (essays), University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1986.
Fairy Godfather: Straparola, Venice, and the Fairy Tale Tradition, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2002.
Member of editorial board, Marvels and Tales, Children's Literature, Wayne State University Press series, "Fairy Tale Studies."
SIDELIGHTS: Ruth B. Bottigheimer is a professor of comparative literature who has a special interest in how literature and stories change over time to suit changing societal standards of morality. In her books Grimms' Bad Girls and Bold Boys: The Moral and Social Vision of the Tales and The Bible for Children: From the Age of Gutenberg to the Present she pays particular attention to how this tendency applies to children's literature. In the former book, the author explains that the Grimm Brothers did not, as many people believe, record their stories verbatim from the oral traditions of ordinary people; rather, they often reworked them, editing out much of the violence and prurient motives of adult characters while also imposing contemporary ideas of gender roles. "What she reveals," commented Roger Sale in the New Republic, "is the Grimms' gender biases, biases that became increasingly clear over the years as a highly diverse collection of 210 tales was sanitized and normalized."
In The Bible for Children: From the Age of Gutenberg to the Present, Bottigheimer similarly demonstrates how writers who adapted parts of the Bible for younger readers over the ages typically changed the original stories, which often contained scenes of violence and sexual motivation; they also, as a Publishers Weekly critic noted, changed the material to "teach far more than the Bible or biblical content." Nicholas Tucker, writing in the New York Times Book Review, praised Bottigheimer's research and scholarship, observing that "if there is a better book published about children's literature in the coming year, it will have to be a very good one." Tucker felt that the central point of the book is aptly summarized in the author's statement that Bible stories adapted for young readers "mingle sacred text with secular values." Although the Publishers Weekly contributor acknowledged that The Bible for Children is "an impressive scholarly achievement," the reviewer cautioned that it is much more suited to an academic audience than to general readers.
Bottigheimer once told CA: "I have long been interested in the short narrative in its many forms: medieval epics and tales, fairy tales, short stories, and tale collections like those of Chaucer and Boccaccio. What especially fascinates me—apart from the imaginative plots—are the different ways in which these tales both mirror the society out of which they grow and in turn become a pattern for subsequent tellings of the same tale by storytellers in following generations and centuries, even in very different societies. I work with stories in English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian, and I am beginning to sort out Dutch, Danish, and Norwegian, though I can only claim fluency in speaking German.
"Fairy tales for children in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries offer a special opportunity to see what the adult world wants to impress on its young. This varies considerably according to social, educational, and economic levels, country and century of origin, and religious belief. My work with fairy tales of various European traditions is part of my efforts to understand the relationships between culture, society, and narrative."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Choice, April, 2003.
Christian Century, October 9, 1996, Robert Coles, review of The Bible for Children: From the Age of Gutenberg to the Present, p. 937.
Christian Science Monitor, January 21, 1988.
Detroit Free Press, July 8, 1987.
Library Journal, August, 1987, Patricia Dooley, review of Grimms' Bad Girls and Bold Boys: The Moral and Social Vision of the Tales, p. 126.
Los Angeles Times, April 13, 1986.
New Republic, June 6, 1988, Roger Sale, review of Grimms' Bad Girls and Bold Boys, p. 48.
New Yorker, December 9, 2002, Adam Gopnik, "Magic Kingdom."
New York Review of Books, December 3, 1987, Janet Adam Smith, review of Grimms' Bad Girls and Bold Boys, p. 22.
New York Times, March 5, 1985.
New York Times Book Review, December 8, 1996, Nicholas Tucker, review of The Bible for Children, p. 66.
Princeton, September, 1982.
Publishers Weekly, April 22, 1996, review of The Bible for Children, p. 66.
Times Literary Supplement, November 20, 1987; February 14, 2003.