Maria Tatar is the John L. Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures at Harvard University, where she teaches courses on German cultural studies, folklore, and children’s literature. Her research focuses on the visual and literary culture of Weimar Germany, on fairy tales and their postmodern reinventions, and on childhood books and their formative power.
As a Radcliffe Institute fellow, Tatar will investigate the multiple enchantments of stories for children, from fairy tales told in cozy nooks to Disney films at the cineplex. She will explore the range of affect produced when children read—wonder, curiosity, excitement, terror, and pleasure—and analyze why children reach for books in the first place. Focusing on how childhood narratives construct wondrous objects and validate magical thinking to lure children into fairy-tale and fantasy worlds, she will consider how those stories, with their spells and charms, invest language with its own magic—the power to transform us in emotional and intellectual terms.
Since receiving her PhD from Princeton University in 1971, Tatar has written five books, most recently Secrets beyond the Door: The Story of Bluebeard and His Wives (Princeton University Press, 2004). She has also edited several collections of fairy tales, among them The Annotated Brothers Grimm (W. W. Norton, 2004). She has received awards from the Bunting Institute, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. She has served as dean for the humanities at Harvard since 2003.