Cristina Bacchilega 

Title: “Fairy-Tale Reanimation Wanted for Better Futures: Weaponizing Magic, Cultivating Wonder, Recognizing Relations”


Among the genres of the fantastic, fairy tales are distinguished by the hope they are meant to elicit through their magical transformations and happy endings. In fact, their success since the nineteenth century as children’s literature testifies to their paradoxical function as, on the one hand, pathways showing the way to a readymade adult life and, on the other, imaginative solutions to problems experienced by those who are small, vulnerable, or different. But do fairy tales still fulfill this dual role in today’s media, and more specifically in children’s and young-adult entertainment? Far from signaling the genre’s everlasting popularity, the proliferation of adaptations in the contemporary fairy-tale web may signal the need to revitalize tales in danger of losing their appeal as generators of hope. If this is the case, distinguishing what drives these efforts matters: is the philosophical and emotional power of the fairy tale what needs revitalization? or its socializing tendencies? or merely its commercial appeal? And for whom are any or all of these concerns at stake? In this talk, I will consider selected fairy-tale adaptations across media and their reanimating strategies—including weaponizing magic, cultivating wonder, and recognizing relations.


Cristina Bacchilega is a Professor at the University of Hawai‘i-Mānoa where she teaches fairy tales and their adaptations, folklore and literature, and cultural studies. She co-edits Marvels & Tales: Journal of Fairy-Tale Studies; her most recent publications are the book Fairy Tales Transformed? 21st-Century Adaptations and the Politics of Wonder and essays in Narrative Culture, Journal of the Fantastic in the Art, Routledge Companion to Fairy-Tale Cultures and Media, and The Fairy Tale World. With Anne Duggan, she co-edited the 2019 “Thinking with Stories in Times of Trouble” special issues of Journal of American Folklore, Marvels & Tales, and Narrative Culture.

Jonathan Gratch

Title: “Fantastic AI Beasts: Fantasy or Inevitable?”


From Talos of Crete to Delores of Westworld, artificial entities have served as a creative fiction to explore the consequence of superhuman ability.These “AI narratives”, besides tending toward dystopian (occasionally utopian) extremes, share many common elements –hyper-rationality, utilitarian ethics, lack of emotion and empathy –and shape both public perception and the trajectory of scientific advances. In recent years, AI has become an essential tool in industries requiring creativity, insight and even emotion. These tools augment human abilities, but as AI begins to exceed certain human abilities, it is increasingly viewed as a material and existential threat. A fantastic beast come to life. In this talk, I will discuss some of the fiction and fact of modern AI techniques with a focus of the role in shaping the creative arts (e.g., how AI is transforming the creation of the fantastic in cinema and games). I will further discuss research on the next generation of AI, which seeks to endow these algorithms with “uniquely human” skills such as emotions and creativity. I will then review psychologic work on how these capabilities, and the fantastical narratives that surround them, serve to threaten traditional views of human identity, but ultimately serve to transform what it means to be human.


Jonathan Gratch is a Research Full Professor of Computer Science and Psychology at the University of Southern California’s (USC) and Director for Virtual Human Research at USC Institute for Creative Technologies. He completed his Ph.D. in Computer Science at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign in 1995. Dr. Gratch’s research focuses on computational models of human cognitive and social processes, especially emotion, and explores these models’ role advancing psychological theory and in shaping human-machine interaction. He is the founding Editor-in-Chief of IEEE’s Transactions on Affective Computing, founding Associate Editor of Affective Science, Associate Editor of Emotion Review and the Journal of Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems, and former President of the Association for the Advancement of Affective Computing. He is an AAAI Fellow, a Cognitive Science Fellow, SIGART Autonomous Agent’s Award recipient, a Senior Member of IEEE, and member of the Academy of Management and the International Society for Research on Emotion. Dr. Gratch is the author of over 300 scientific articles.


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