We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Living Folklore

An Introduction to the Study of People and Their Traditions

Martha Sims and Martine Stephens

Publication Year: 2011

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 and interpretive approaches. This revised edition incorporates new examples, research, and theory along with added discussion of digital and online folklore.

Published by: Utah State University Press

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (35.1 KB)
pp. ix-xi

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...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (40.9 KB)
pp. xii-xvi

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 they create for colds and hangovers, in rumors about government conspiracies circulated through e-mail, in family recipes, in stories about el chupacabra or cry baby bridges—and much more. For us, folklore is a way of understanding people and the wide range of creative ways we express who we are and what we value and believe...

read more

1. Folklore

pdf iconDownload PDF (231.8 KB)
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...

read more

2. Groups

pdf iconDownload PDF (228.6 KB)
pp. 30-68

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. Defining 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...

read more

3. Tradition

pdf iconDownload PDF (279.0 KB)
pp. 69-97

In the approximately 150 years since the discipline began, folklore has been based on the study of tradition. To folklorists the concept of tradition has a much broader conceptual framework than the conventional idea of tradition. Mainstream definitions bring to mind something generations old, passed down from an elder to a youth, who then becomes an elder and passes the tradition down to a youth, who then passes it down...

read more

4. Ritual

pdf iconDownload PDF (257.9 KB)
pp. 98-129

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 member of the group and tells the rest of the group as well as outsiders...

read more

5. Performance

pdf iconDownload PDF (362.1 KB)
pp. 130-179

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? Did any of the performers say “you’re a great audience,” and did the audience cheer?...

read more

6. Approaches to Interpreting Folklore

pdf iconDownload PDF (126.3 KB)
pp. 180-205

As we have emphasized, folklore communicates: it is an ongoing process of expressing information and beliefs within folk groups. As folklorists, we examine the verbal, customary, and material texts of folk groups to discover why and how they are important to the people sharing them. In the earlier days of the discipline, scholars began to seek deeper ways to interpret, rather than simply collect and describe, folklore. Our understanding of groups, tradition, ritual, performance, and the whole broad concept...

read more

7. Fieldwork and Ethnography

pdf iconDownload PDF (144.2 KB)
pp. 206-231

As much fun as we find 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 ethnographic research and the written descriptions...

read more

8. Examples of Folklore Projects

pdf iconDownload PDF (384.3 KB)
pp. 232-299

To give you an idea of how folklorists—both experienced and novice— handle writing about their fieldwork, we’ve gathered together six projects for you to read and consider. The researcher-authors have put a great deal of time and energy into their work and its presentation. We are excited by the variety we have to show you: these are researchers and writers with varying levels of experience, and they have approached their work with different research methodologies...

read more

9. Suggestions for Activities and Projects

pdf iconDownload PDF (60.5 KB)
pp. 300-308

The best part of learning about folklore is getting involved in a project and discovering firsthand what folklore is and how it works. The following suggested activities cover introductions to topics, methods, library research, and fieldwork and can easily be built into longer, in-depth writing and research projects...


pdf iconDownload PDF (45.1 KB)
pp. 309-313


pdf iconDownload PDF (76.2 KB)
pp. 314-321


pdf iconDownload PDF (175.3 KB)
pp. 322-326

E-ISBN-13: 9780874218459
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874218442

Page Count: 344
Illustrations: 36 photos
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: 2nd Edition