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Maria Tatar

Maria Tatar

Areas of Interest


Honorary Award

Honorary Doctor of Arts


Vice Chancellor, it is my pleasure to read the citation for Professor Maria Tatar for the award of Honorary Doctor of Arts.

Maria Tatar is an American academic, author, teacher, and currently the John L Loeb Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures, and Folklore and Mythology at Harvard University. She is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s foremost scholars on folk and fairy tales and children’s literature.

Maria’s own tale can be traced back to post-war Europe. Her family emigrated from Hungary, and entered the United States as displaced persons. A promised job did not materialise for her father, and the family of six, down to their last fifty dollars in New York City, was sponsored by the congregation of a church in Highland Park, Illinois. Maria graduated from the high school there, and took her bachelors degree at Denison University. Then it was on to Princeton to study for her doctorate.

Although she had moved thousands of miles from the country of her birth, Maria remained fascinated by European culture, and studied at the University of Munich and at the Free University in Berlin. She gravitated towards the work of the Grimm Brothers, drawn by the primal nature of their storytelling, and the strange intersection of violence and beauty in the tales.

However, at Princeton in the late 60s and early 70s, fairy tales and folklore were not considered 'academic', so she focused her attention on the literary canon, writing a dissertation on German Romanticism and the turn toward psychology and interiority.

After gaining her Doctorate in 1971, Maria joined the faculty of Harvard University and was the first woman to earn tenure by rising through the ranks. Her work reached a turning point after presenting with Bruno Bettelheim on the Brothers Grimm at a symposium in New York City, and she began to focus on folklore and the literary culture of childhood. She served as Dean for the Humanities at Harvard from 2003-2006.

In a long and immensely distinguished academic career, Professor Tatar has written books about the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and childhood reading. Her works include:

  • Spellbound: Studies on Mesmerism and Literature, published in 1978
  • The Hard Facts of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales, published in 1987
  • Off With Their Heads! Fairy Tales and the Culture of Childhood, published in 1993
  • The Annotated African American Folktales
  • The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales, published in 2002, in which Maria explores how profoundly fairy tales have influenced our culture.

Maria has been the recipient of fellowships from numerous distinguished institutions, including the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

In addition to her many scholarly articles, she has written for The New York Times, The New Republic and Salon. And her work has featured on the CBS Today Show.

Our University enjoys close ties with Maria. At our 2016 Nutcracker event celebrating the 200th anniversary of E T A Hoffman’s much-loved work, she came to Cambridge to deliver an inspiring keynote contribution. Despite her busy schedule, she took the time to meet and give personal encouragement to a number of our post-graduate students.

Maria's continued engagement with Anglia Ruskin supports our growing reputation as a centre of world-leading research in all aspects of the art, literature and culture of childhood, and for the study of folklore, fairy tales and fantasy.

Maria will be an inspirational role model for our students.

We are delighted to welcome Maria Tatar to our Anglia Ruskin community.

Vice Chancellor, it is my pleasure to present Maria Tatar for the award of Doctor of Arts, honoris causa.