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The Folklore Muse

Poetry, Fiction, and Other Reflections by Folklorists

Frank de Caro

Publication Year: 2008

Folklore—the inherently creative expression, transmission, and performance of cultural traditions—has always provided a deep well of material for writers, musicians, and artists of all sorts. Folklorists usually employ descriptive and analytical prose, but they, like scholars in other social sciences, have increasingly sought new, creative and reflexive modes of discourse. Many folklorists are also creative writers, some well known as such, and the folk traditions they research often provide shape and substance to their work. This collection of creative writing grounded in folklore and its study brings together some of the best examples of such writing.

Contributors to this collection include Teresa Bergen, John Burrison, Norma E. Cantu, Frank de Caro, Holly Everett, Danusha Goska, Neil R. Grobman, Carrie Hertz, Edward Hirsch, Laurel Horton, Rosan Augusta Jordan, Paul Jordan-Smith, Elaine J. Lawless, Cynthia Levee, Jens Lund, Mary Magoulick, Bernard McCarthy, Joanne B. Mulcahy, Kirin Narayan, Ted Olson, Daniel Peretti, Leslie Prosterman, Jo Radner, Susan Stewart, Jeannie Banks Thomas, Jeff Todd Titon, Libby Tucker, Margaret Yocom, and Steve Zeitlin.

Published by: Utah State University Press


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pp. vii-

Th e editor would like to express his many thanks to the contributors to this volume. Th is proposed book came to their attention mostly through a notice in the American Folklore Society’s on-line newsletter, and the enthusiastic response to that notice from the contributors was very encouraging. It ultimately resulted in this rather novel...

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The Folklorist’s Endeavor: An Introduction

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pp. 1-5

Folklorists perform signal service to American culture, although seldom are they celebrated for doing so. Finding, recording, and presenting traditions that might otherwise remain known only to a subculture or a small region; making verbal art less ephemeral in the historical and social record; trying to understand the vernacular contexts...

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Being or Becoming a Folklorist

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pp. 6-53

Folklorists may have many individual accounts of how they wandered into their uncommon profession: a college course, a chance accident, an early or late interest in certain kinds of cultural experiences, a suddenly discovered love for certain kinds of traditional expression. A few years ago, a collection...

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Fieldwork, Folk Communities, Informants

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pp. 54-90

Ethnography and intensive fieldwork live at the heart of what folklorists do. Going “into the field”—observing traditions, listening to people, recording their songs and stories and riddles and personal accounts and descriptions—is what provides the cultural understandings that folklorists use in their work. Folklorists come to know communities...

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pp. 91-123

Historically, when folklorists recorded an “informant” singing a song, recounting a story, or even speaking a proverb or telling a riddle, they rendered it as a “text”: a block of words that could be written and printed. Sometimes the singer or teller or speaker was largely forgotten; sometimes ...

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The Powers of Narrative

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pp. 124-138

Although folklore is hardly the only field intensely interested in narrative, folklorists do concern themselves with particularly fundamental forms of storytelling: the oral, the traditional, the stories that have persisted over time and space for long, long periods of time. They are particularly well situated to observe the power that narrative has to shape social meanings and convey cultural agendas, to see how very important...

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Legend and Myth

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pp. 139-170

Legends and myths, especially those well known from classical literature or art, have had fantastically wide appeal to writers, including modern writers. One need only think of Joyce’s Ulysses or Auden’s “Th \e Shield of Achilles” or even ...

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Material Traditions, Material Things

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pp. 171-183

Although folklorists long gave their attention mostly to verbal traditions, they have also been involved in the examination of material culture. They look at folk art and folk artifacts and at the processes of making and using folk objects, at the whole of folklife. Folk architecture has been of great interest, but so too have quilt making...

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Children’s Lore and Language

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pp. 184-202

Although children obviously belong to larger cultural groups, folklorists have long recognized that kids are also their own folk group with their own lore. William Wells Newell saw that in the 19th century...

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Ritual and Custom

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pp. 203-218

Defining the term “ritual” can be problematic for folklorists and other scholars, especially as more secular behavior comes to be included under a rubric once reserved more for the religious. And the terms “custom” or even “folk custom” can be catchalls...

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Worldview and Belief

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pp. 219-238

As conceived by anthropologists and folklorists, worldview is certainly a very broad concept: the characteristic way in which a society envisions the nature of the universe and how people and things and forces operate within it. It is made up of many...


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pp. 239-


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pp. 240- 244

E-ISBN-13: 9780874217278
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874217261

Page Count: 244
Publication Year: 2008