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Marrow of Human Experience, The

Essays on Folklore by William A. Wilson

edited by William A. Wilson and Jill Terry Rudy

Publication Year: 2006

Composed over several decades, the essays here are remarkably fresh and relevant. They offer instruction for the student just beginning the study of folklore as well as repeated value for the many established scholars who continue to wrestle with issues that Wilson has addressed. As his work has long offered insight on critical matters—nationalism, genre, belief, the relationship of folklore to other disciplines in the humanities and arts, the currency of legend, the significance of humor as a cultural expression, and so forth—so his recent writing, in its reflexive approach to narrative and storytelling, illuminates today’s paradigms. Its notable autobiographical dimension, long an element of Wilson’s work, employs family and local lore to draw conclusions of more universal significance. Another way to think of it is that newer folklorists are catching up with Wilson and what he has been about for some time.

As a body, Wilson’s essays develop related topics and connected themes. This collection organizes them in three coherent parts. The first examines the importance of folklore—what it is and its value in various contexts. Part two, drawing especially on the experience of Finland, considers the role of folklore in national identity, including both how it helps define and sustain identity and the less savory ways it may be used for the sake of nationalistic ideology. Part three, based in large part on Wilson’s extensive work in Mormon folklore, which is the most important in that area since that of Austin and Alta Fife, looks at religious cultural expressions and outsider perceptions of them and, again, at how identity is shaped, by religious belief, experience, and participation; by the stories about them; and by the many other expressive parts of life encountered daily in a culture.

Each essay is introduced by a well-known folklorist who discusses the influence of Wilson’s scholarship. These include Richard Bauman, Margaret Brady, Simon Bronner, Elliott Oring, Henry Glassie, David Hufford, Michael Owen Jones, and Beverly Stoeltje.

Published by: Utah State University Press


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pp. v

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pp. vi

The editor would like to acknowledge the Brigham Young University English Department for the semesters of research assistance that Diane Call provided this project and for the encouragement of endearing colleagues. Many thanks to Diane herself for her organizational skill and her persistence. ...

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pp. 1-6

I often misplace certain William A. “Bert” Wilson articles and then find them in unexpected locations. When researching Mormon folklore, I may need “On Being Human” and finally find the article in a folder marked “Definitions of Folklore” or “Folklore and the Humanities.” The article might be tucked in the folder ...

The Importance of Folklore

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The Deeper Necessity: Folklore and the Humanities

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pp. 9-22

In his address at Los Angeles, Bert Wilson offers a grand message of hope. The style is plain and direct, the spirit soars. If folklorists would take as their goal the discovery of our common humanity, topical interests would coalesce, academic disciplines would unify, invidious distinctions among people would fade away. ...

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Building Bridges: Folklore in the Academy

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pp. 23-31

In an effort to address the perennial questions of where a person with a PhD in folklore could fi nd an academic position and how to succeed in the profession, I proposed that the Folklore Institute at Indiana University host a symposium in 1995 entitled, “Folklore in the Academy: The Relevance of Folklore to Language ...

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Arts and Cultural Policy

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pp. 32-43

Early in his career, Bert Wilson questioned the value of public folklore, which in America is mostly situated in the nonprofit arts sector. He then, and still today, worried about the political purposes to which folklore could be put. When I interviewed Bert in May 2003, I learned that it did not take long ...

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“Something There Is That Doesn’t Love a Wall”

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pp. 44-61

When Bert Wilson in 1991 delivered this talk, “‘Something There Is That Doesn’t Love a Wall,’” the Folklore Society of Utah was holding its annual meeting in conjunction with that of the Utah State Historical Society, an arrangement that had then continued for twenty years. Bert had been the driving force ...

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The Folk Speak: Everyday Life in Pioneer Oral Narratives

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pp. 62-80

One of my first introductions to folklore studies was attending the Fife Folklore Conference at Utah State University (USU) as an impressionable undergraduate student. I had been told by one of my professors at Brigham Young University (BYU) that I needed to introduce myself to Bert Wilson, ...

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Documenting Folklore

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pp. 81-104

A series of serendipitous events led me to Bert Wilson’s Introduction to Folklore class in fall semester 1977, and by the end of the semester I wanted to be a folklorist. I succeeded and became the first permanent archivist in the BYU Folklore Archives, since renamed the William A. Wilson Folklore Archives. ...

Folklore and National Identity

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Herder, Folklore, and Romantic Nationalism

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pp. 107-123

When I studied folklore at Indiana University in the early 1960s, Johann Gottfried Herder did not figure at all in the curriculum on the intellectual history of folklore. Constrained by the ideologies of disciplinarity, my teachers dated the history of the field to the nineteenth-century founders of the systematic, ...

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Sibelius, the Kalevala, and Karelianism

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pp. 124-141

In this engaging article, William Wilson provides an overview of the social and artistic movement of late nineteenth-century Finland known as Karelianism. The term Karelia (Finnish Karjala) designates both a portion of eastern Finland and a broad expanse of territory east of the border. The eastern region was never part of ...

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Folklore, Nationalism, and the Challenge of the Future

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pp. 142-149

Whether on Finnish nationalism or Mormon popular expressions, William A. “Bert” Wilson has moved as gracefully as any folklorist between the romantic and the critical motivational poles of folklore study. On the one hand, folklorists participate in a celebration of disempowered voices, marginalized peoples, ...

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Finns in a New World: A Folkloristic Perspective

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pp. 150-166

Rephrased as a question, the title of this address could easily have been announced as “How do Americans form identities?” While Wilson is dealing in this paper particularly with the contemporary situation of Americans of Finnish ancestry, his analysis of the connection of cultural expressions to feelings of ethnic ...

Folklore, Religion, and Who We Are

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The Concept of the West and Other Hindrances to the Study of Mormon Folklore

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pp. 169-181

Throughout Bert Wilson’s essays, articles, and talks, there runs a constant emphasis on the importance of the individual regardless of geography or religion. This clearly reveals a deep understanding of his own religious ethos and the universal nature of religion as a cultural force, regardless of where it is situated. ...

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The Study of Mormon Folklore: An Uncertain Mirror for Truth

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pp. 182-200

Although my associations with Bert Wilson have a timeless quality, I know that our friendship was greatly deepened by the opportunity for long talks as we participated in the Fife Folklore Conference at Utah State University in 1979. Bert, his scholarly work, and our long conversations that summer are a part of who I am ...

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On Being Human: The Folklore of Mormon Missionaries

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pp. 201-220

Only a week before I received the invitation to write this introduction, two faculty members who are team-teaching an introductory class about world arts and cultures queried me. Their course concerns concepts and perspectives in the intercultural, interdisciplinary study of art, aesthetics, and performance. ...

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The Seriousness of Mormon Humor

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pp. 221-235

My first foray into humor studies occurred when I tried to make sense of the humorous repertoire of a particular group that—not unlike the Mormons—was shaped by dramatic historical events and possessed a distinct ideology. In that and subsequent studies, I came to understand that while humor served ...

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Freeways, Parking Lots, and Ice Cream Stands: Three Nephites in Contemporary Mormon Culture

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pp. 236-252

Part of Bert Wilson’s appeal as a human being, scholar, and friend lies in his character as a no-nonsense homo religiosus; Bert is down-to-earth, objective, and not given to unbridled fantasy. It is his very reasonableness in writing about religious folklore that makes him trustworthy for the outsider and a fair representative ...

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“Teach Me All That I Must Do”: The Practice of Mormon Religion

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pp. 253-260

I first discovered “‘Teach Me All That I Must Do’” not at the 1998 AFS meeting in Portland where it was initially presented, but rather sitting in Bert Wilson’s home office.1 As a folklore graduate student at Brigham Young University, I was writing my thesis on reflexivity and the insider voice in Mormon folklore scholarship. ...

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Personal Narratives: The Family Novel

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pp. 261-282

The first time I ever heard Bert Wilson tell one of his mother’s stories about growing up in Riddyville, Idaho, was around a campfire up Logan Canyon at the beginning of an early Fife Folklore Conference. As the flames illuminated his face in the chill June twilight, Bert’s voice carried us back to another time and place ...

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A Daughter’s Biography of William A. Wilson

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pp. 283-292

In 1951 my father, William Albert (Bert) Wilson, enrolled at Brigham Young University (BYU) and began an academic life that would consume his energies for the next forty-five years. He interrupted his studies once, in 1953, to serve a two-and-a-half-year mission in Finland for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ...

William A. Wilson’s Published Works

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pp. 293-298

Works Cited

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pp. 299-310

Contributors of Introductions to Essays

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pp. 311-314


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pp. 315-321

E-ISBN-13: 9780874215458
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874216530

Publication Year: 2006