The heroine with 1,001 faces

Maria Tatar, 1945-

Book - 2021

"World-renowned folklorist Maria Tatar reveals an astonishing but long buried history of heroines, taking us from Cassandra and Scheherazade to Nancy Drew and Wonder Woman. How do we explain our newfound cultural investment in empathy and social justice? For decades, Joseph Campbell had defined our cultural aspirations in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, emphasizing the value of seeking glory and earning immortality. His work became the playbook for Hollywood, with its many male-centric quest narratives. Challenging the models in Campbell's canonical work, Maria Tatar explores how heroines, rarely wielding a sword and deprived of a pen, have flown beneath the radar even as they have been bent on social missions. Using the domestic ...arts and storytelling skills, they have displayed audacity, curiosity, and care as they struggled to survive and change the reigning culture. Animating figures from Ovid's Philomela, her tongue severed yet still weaving a tale about sexual assault, to Stieg Larsson's Lisbeth Salander, a high-tech wizard seeking justice for victims of a serial killer, The Heroine with 1,001 Faces creates a luminous arc that takes us from ancient times to the present"--

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 398.2082/Tatar Checked In
New York, NY : Liveright Publishing Corporation [2021]
Main Author
Maria Tatar, 1945- (author)
First edition
Physical Description
xxvii, 329 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • Introduction
  • 1. "Sing, O Muse"
  • The Hero's Journey and the Heroine's Mission
  • 2. Silence and Speech
  • From Myth to #MeToo
  • 3. Resistance and Revelation
  • Storytelling and the Unsung Heroines of Fairy Tales
  • 4. Wonder Girls
  • Curious Writers and Caring Detectives
  • 5. Detective Work
  • From Nancy Drew to Wonder Woman
  • 6. To Double Duty Bound
  • Tricksters and Other Girls on Fire
  • Epilogue
  • Lift-Off
  • Notes
  • Index
Review by Booklist Review

For decades, storytellers have regarded Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces as a touchstone for comparative mythology. Prolific writer and scholar Tatar began her career steeped in Campbell's influence. In the years since then, she has amassed ample evidence that Campbell's magnum opus, while profound in its explanation of the hero's archetype, is boldly lacking inclusion of the feminine heroes who have defined courage for centuries. In this vast and impressive book, Tatar gives a new generation of storytellers a guide to writing brave, dynamic characters by presenting them with the boldest, most undeterred femmes of literature. She uses a wide breadth of examples, from Eve, Pandora, Circe, Jane Eyre, and Jo March to contemporaries like Carrie Bradshaw and Starr Carter of Angie Thomas' The Hate U Give. Tatar also highlights the importance of mythology in the work of specific writers like Margaret Atwood, Angela Carter, Toni Morrison, and Anne Sexton. Impeccably researched and firmly rooted in a post-#MeToo mindset, this work is canonical for a new literary world.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Tatar (Enchanted Hunters), a professor of folklore and mythology, reshapes archetypes of the heroine in this rewarding if scattershot literary history. Expanding on the work of Joseph Campbell, Tatar defines a version of heroism that "is driven... by attentive care, an affect that is triggered by openness to the world." Ranging from Greek mythology to contemporary literature, she structures her case by theme: "Resistance and Revelation" considers women who refuse to "remain silent," such as Jane Eyre and Janie Crawford; "Wonder Girls" highlights characters who used the power of writing, among them Carrie Bradshaw and Anne of Green Gables, and were confronted with "challenges that remove them from the domestic arena"; and "Detective Work" features such sleuths as Nancy Drew and Dorothy L. Sayers's Miss Climpson. What motivates each heroine, Tatar argues, is a pervasive sense of curiosity, which allows them to forge their own paths. The overarching conversational tone and modern-day relevance give the book color, but the pace is uneven: while the arguments are well supported with plenty of examples pulled from all corners of literature, Tatar jumps between subjects in an enthusiastic flurry that can be difficult to follow. Literature buffs who can deal with the sometimes-dizzying effect will find much to consider. (Sept.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Stories secure women's voices against fragmentation, slander, and disbelief and can disrupt and change prevailing discourse, argues folklorist Tatar (Harvard Univ.; The Hard Facts of the Grimms' Fairy Tales). Her feminist literary analysis surveys the craft and traditions that enable stories' longevity, and ties them to contemporary efforts to amplify voices through modern narratives and the Me Too movement. More than a rebuttal to Joseph Campbell's seminal text The Hero with A Thousand Faces, Tatar's book offers the infinite experiences of women; its title recalls Scheherazade's 1001, a number for endless enumeration and feminine resilience. Engaging with the works of Margaret Atwood, Angela Carter, Toni Morrison, Anne Sexton, and many others, Tatar explores the historical and textual difficulties of having a voice. She offers a condensed study in the language of those marginalized by gender and colonialism; although they've been devaluated as gossip and limited to the domestic sphere, women's stories persist. Tatar brings to the surface the overlooked tales of women who endure, spanning Greek myth and box office franchises. Illustrations of fairytales offer insight into their evolution throughout the centuries. VERDICT A necessary and compelling read for scholars, activists, and storytellers interested in inclusive revisions to the hero's canon.--Asa Drake, Marion Cty. P.L., FL

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

From Penelope and Pandora to Katniss Everdeen and Lisbeth Salander, the "hero's journey" gets a much-needed makeover. In her latest, Tatar--the Harvard professor of folklore and mythology and Germanic languages and literature who has annotated collections of classic fairy tales, Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, among others--begins by pointing out that all of the faces of heroism discussed in Joseph Campbell's influential book, The Hero With a Thousand Faces (1949), are male. To correct this requires a revision of the concept of heroism itself, rooted in numerous foundational texts. Starting with Greek mythology and Scheherezade and moving through the centuries all the way to the Game of Thrones series and The Queen's Gambit, Tatar incisively explores women's reinvention of heroism to embrace empathy, compassion, and care, often to pursue social justice. Among the many high points in this engaging study: an analysis of Little Women and Anne of Green Gables as autofiction, Jurassic Park as a reimagining of "Hansel and Gretel," Harriet the Spy as an antiheroine, and a deep dive into the backstory of Wonder Woman. Receiving their own chapters are female sleuths such as Nancy Drew, Miss Marple, and the less well known characters of Kate Fansler, an academic, and Blanche White, who is Black. The book really takes off when it gets to contemporary culture, particularly in a section that identifies a female version of the "trickster" archetype in Everdeen and Salander. Of this lineage, among the shared interesting traits not traditionally associated with women characters is a prodigious appetite. "Like Gretel, Pippi Longstocking, and Lisbeth Salander before her," writes Tatar, "Katniss gorges on rich food yet her hunger never ceases." The text is illustrated with many reproductions of paintings and other artwork--including a postcardworthy panel from the original Wonder Woman--that add much to the text. As Wonder Woman might say, Suffering Sappho! This book is fascinating, fun, and consistently enlightening. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.