In the middle of end-of-semester grading frenzy, I’ll be taking a break from the stacks of student essays and portfolios to talk to science folks about fairy tales. (Yeah, I know this sounds a bit insane.)

Science?, you might ask. But you study fairy tales, you might protest. All true.

I’ll be giving a public talk called “The Science and Magic of Fairy-Tale Birth” for Science on Tap, a monthly gathering of science discussion sponsored by the Academy of Natural Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the Chemical Heritage Foundation, the Mutter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, and the Wagner Free Institute of Science.

Here’s what I’ll be discussing:

The Science and Magic of Fairy Tale Birth

Many fairy tales begin with a king and a queen who desperately want to have a child. The range of remedies suggested in early modern fairy tales suggest uncertainty and anxiety about women’s bodies, where children come from, and how to prevent pregnancies from going horribly wrong. For example, fairy tales are filled with monstrous births that happen as the result an imprudent wish, unfortunate cravings, or failing to follow directions. This talk will consider how early modern European fairy tale writers and collectors combined the scientific and magical thinking of their times to address anxieties about infertility, pregnancy, sex selection, and anomalous births.

Science on Tap begins at 6 p.m. on the second Monday of the month at National Mechanics, 22 South Third St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106.