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Parsing through Customs

Essays by a Freudian Folklorist

Alan Dundes

Publication Year: 2003

In these stimulating essays, Alan Dundes presents a history of psychoanalytic studies of folklore while also showing how folklore methodology can be used to clarify and validate psychoanalytic theory. Dundes’ work is unique in its symbolic analysis of the ordinary imagination. His data are children’s games, folktales, everyday speech, cultural metaphors for power and prestige, and rituals associated with childbirth.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

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pp. vii-xiii

There are no magic wands or vagina dentatas in real life. Folklorists, however, have persisted in treating folklore in solely literal and historical rather than symbolic and psychological terms. The emphasis has been on collection and classification, not on interpretation. Folklorists have sought to ask and answer the question ...

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pp. xv-xvi

"The Psychoanalytic Study of Folklore" appeared in Annals of Scholarship 3, no. 3 (1985): 1-42, and is reprinted by permission of the editor of that journal. An earlier version of this paper was originally presented at a special meeting of the Southern California Psychoanalytic Society on 24 September 1983, honoring Dr. Samuel Eisenstein. ...

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1. The Psychoanalytic Study of Folklore

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pp. 3-46

The principal raison d'~tre for psychoanalysis is medical in nature. Through usually extended periods of therapy, the mental health of neurotic and sometimes psychotic individuals can be improved. Psychoanalysis has produced a subset of the category of psychiatrists. Some psychiatrists are psychoanalytic in orientation, but many are not. If one can believe a standard piece of ...

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2. Heads or Tails: A Psychoanalytic Study of Potlatch

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pp. 47-81

One of the best-known examples of ritual behavior is the institution labeled, rightly or wrongly, potlatch. The term allegedly derives either from Chinook jargon meaning "to give" or from a Nootkan word pa-chitle, meaning the same thing (Goldman 1975, n.5; Clutesi 1986:9-10). It has been observed somewhat facetiously that this is perhaps the only point of agreement among ...

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3. The Strategy of Turkish Boys' Verbal Dueling Rhymes (with Jerry W. Leach and Bora Ozkok)

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pp. 82-117

The underlying strategy of specific traditional verbal encounters has not received much attention from anthropologists and folklorists. Anthropologists speak at length of joking or teasing relationships in general, but rarely do they describe in detail actual verbal duels or provide anything remotely resembling explication de texte. ...

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4. The Piropo and the Dual Image of Women in the Spanish-Speaking World (with Marcelo M. Suarez-Orozco)

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pp. 118-144

Many of the major folklore genres have been studied extensively, such as myths, proverbs, and riddles, while others have been rarely considered and remain virtually unknown to folklorists. One such genre is the piropo, which is widespread in the Mediterranean world, and extremely popular in Spain (Machado y Alvarez ...

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5. Couvade in Genesis

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pp. 145-166

In the early second century B.C., Apollonius of Rhodes wrote in The Argonautica "Soon after leaving them [the Chalybes] behind, the Argonauts rounded the headland of Genetaean Zeus and sailed in safety past the country of the Tibareni. Here, when a woman is in childbirth, it is the husband who takes to his bed. ...

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6. The Symbolic Equivalence of Allomotifs in the Rabbit-Herd (AT 570)

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pp. 167-177

One of the perennial difficulties in the study of symbolism concerns the empirical verification of purported symbolic equations. It is one thing to assert that a nose may be a phallic symbol; it is quite another to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, that is, demonstrate it to the satisfaction of individuals not necessarily favorably disposed towards psychoanalytic theory. ...

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7. The American Game of "Smear the Queer" and the Homosexual Component of Male Competitive Sport and Warfare

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pp. 178-194

One of the principal methodological difficulties in applying psychoanalytic theory to anthropological data concerns validation. How does one know that a prospective insight gained from interpreting an element of a particular culture psychoanalytically is valid? Far too often, readers are simply asked to accept on faith ...


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pp. 197-210


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pp. 211-216

E-ISBN-13: 9780299112639
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299112646

Publication Year: 2003