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Living Folklore

Introduction to the Study of People and their Traditions

Martha Sims and Martine Stephens

Publication Year: 2005

Living Folklore is a comprehensive, straightforward introduction to folklore as it is lived, shared and practiced in contemporary settings. Drawing on examples from diverse American groups and experiences, this text gives the student a strong foundation—from the field’s history and major terms to theories, interpretive approaches, and fieldwork.

Many teachers of undergraduates find the available folklore textbooks too complex or unwieldy for an introductory level course. It is precisely this criticism that Living Folklore addresses; while comprehensive and rigorous, the book is specifically intended to meet the needs of those students who are just beginning their study of the discipline. Its real strength lies in how it combines carefully articulated foundational concepts with relevant examples and a student-oriented teaching philosophy.

Published by: Utah State University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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Table of Contents

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pp. ix-x

They say it takes a village to raise a child—well, it takes practically a whole dang planet to write a book about folklore. This book is the result of a collaborative effort that included many more people than just the two of us, and we want to thank our friends, colleagues, families, collaborators and consultants. Pat Mullen, Amy Shuman and Dan Barnes...

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pp. xi-xiv

We study folklore because we are interested in the ways that people decorate their yards or use recycled items to create art, in how they use charms to foretell the sex of unborn children, in the cures people create for colds and hangovers, in family recipes, in stories about...

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1. Folklore

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pp. 1-29

We know you have heard it before: “It’s just folklore.” We hear it when newscasters are announcing the report of a popular home remedy that does not really cure people (and may actually harm them). We hear it—or might even say it—when a friend is telling a story about the haunted house on the winding street in our neighborhood. People often call something “folklore” to...

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2. Groups

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pp. 30-63

If folklore is a way of learning and a way of communicating, then there must be a group of people who need to communicate something to each other. Defi ning a folk group by how and what it communicates allows us to look at groups formed and maintained by informal means—those not constructed formally as groups by founders with particular rules and guidelines, but held together by the practices and expressions of their members. This is one of the...

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3. Tradition

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pp. 64-93

In the approximately 150 years since the discipline began, folklore has been based in the study of tradition. However, the concept of tradition has a much broader conceptual framework as far as folklorists are concerned. Mainstream defi nitions of tradition bring to mind something generations-old, passed down from an elder to a youth, who then becomes an elder and passes the tradition...

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4. Ritual

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pp. 94-126

Groups frequently devise ceremonies or performances that enact deeply held beliefs or values. These are rituals, and they make our inner experiences of traditions visible and observable to members of the group and often to outsiders. Have you been initiated into a club or other organization in an elaborate ceremony? That’s a ritual, one that marks your status as a full-fledged...

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5. Performance

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pp. 127-173

Think of the last time you attended a musical performance . It doesn’t matter whether you were listening to a punk band or a country singer, or attending the symphony or the opera. How were people in the audience dressed? Was there an abundance of black clothing? Cowboy hats? Did the lead singer introduce the other band members? Did the crowd sit quietly or stand and sing along?...

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6. Approaches to Interpreting Folklore

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pp. 174-201

Folklorists have developed interpretive approaches to help them understand texts and performances and present their ideas to others. Many theoretical and analytical frameworks exist, and as with other aspects of the history and study of folklore, interpretive approaches may overlap and change in line with our ongoing explorations in the fi eld. In this chapter we discuss a few of the major...

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7. Fieldwork and Ethnography

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pp. 202-224

As much fun as we fi nd reading about folklore to be, nothing can compare to the opportunity to do one’s own ethnographic research, exploring a group and the creative ways in which its members communicate with each other. Ethnography is the process of studying and learning about groups of people, as well as the written description and analysis of those observations. It is through...

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8. Examples of Folklore Projects

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pp. 225-272

To give you an idea of how folklorists—both experienced and novice— handle writing about their fi eldwork, we’ve gathered together four projects for you to read and consider. The researcher-authors have put a great deal of time and energy into their fi eldwork and presentation of that work. We are excited by the variety we have to show you: these are researchers and writers...

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9. Suggestions for Activities and Projects

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pp. 273-280

The best part of learning about folklore is getting involved in a project and discovering fi rsthand what folklore is and how it works. The following suggested activities cover introductions to topics, methods, library research and fi eldwork, and can easily be built into longer, in-depth writing and research projects throughout the course. There are fi ve categories of activities here...


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pp. 281-285


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pp. 286-292


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pp. 293-296

E-ISBN-13: 9780874215175
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874216110

Publication Year: 2005