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Bloody Mary in the Mirror

Essays in Psychoanalytic Folkloristics

Alan Dundes

Publication Year: 2002

Bloody Mary in the Mirror mixes Sigmund Freud with vampires and The Little Mermaid to see what new light psychoanalysis can bring to folklore techniques and forms.

Ever since Freud published his analysis of Jewish jokes in 1905 and his disciple Otto Rank followed with his groundbreaking The Myth of the Birth of the Hero in 1909, the psychoanalytic study of folklore has been an acknowledged part of applied psychoanalysis.

However, psychoanalysts, handicapped by their limited knowledge of folklore techniques, have tended to confine their efforts to the Bible, to classical mythology, and to the Grimm fairy tales. Most folklorists have been slow to consider psychoanalysis as a method of interpreting folklore.

One notable exception is folklorist Alan Dundes. In the seven fascinating essays of Bloody Mary in the Mirror, psychoanalytic theory illuminates such folklore genres as legend (in the vampire tale), folktale (in the ancient Egyptian tale of two brothers), custom (in fraternity hazing and ritual fasting), and games (in the modern Greek game of "Long Donkey"). One of two essays Dundes co-authored with his daughter Lauren Dundes, professor of sociology at Western Maryland College, successfully probes the content of Disney's The Little Mermaid, yielding new insights into this popular reworking of a Hans Christian Andersen favorite.

Among folk rituals investigated is the girl's game of "Bloody Mary." Elementary or middle school-age girls huddle in a darkened bathroom awaiting the appearance in the mirror of a frightening apparition. The plausible analysis of this well-known--if somewhat puzzling--American rite is one of many surprising and enlightening finds in this book.

All of the essays in this remarkable volume create new takes on old traditions. Bloody Mary in the Mirror is an expedition into psychoanalytic folklore techniques and constitutes a giant step towards realizing the potential Freud's work promises for folklore studies.

Alan Dundes is professor of anthropology and folklore at the University of California, Berkeley. Among many others, his books include Interpreting Folklore (1980) and From Game to War and Other Psychoanalytic Essays on Folklore (1997). He edited Mother Wit from the Laughing Barrel: Readings in the Interpretation of Afro-American Folklore (1991), which was published by University Press of Mississippi.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-xviii

Folkloristics is the study of folklore, much as linguistics is the study of language. The discipline of folkloristics may be said to have begun with the writings of Herder, who coined the term "Volkslied" [folksong] in 1773, and the celebrated publications of the brothers Grimm, whose famous...

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pp. xix-xx

I would like to thank, first of all, my daughter, Professor Lauren Dundes, a member of the sociology department of Western Maryland College, who was the senior coauthor of two of the essays included in this volume. The inspiration for the essay on Disney's "The Little Mermaid...

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1. The Psychoanalytic Study of Religious Custom and Belief: Ritual Fasting, Self-Mutilation, and the Deus Otiosus

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pp. 3-15

One of the possible approaches to the study of religious custom and belief utilizes the principles of psychoanalysis. There is an abundant literature devoted to the psychoanalytic consideration of religion (cf. Saffady 1976; Wallace 1990). Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi's annotated bibliography...

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2. The Vampire as Bloodthirsty Revenant: A Psychoanalytic Post Mortem

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pp. 16-32

In accordance with a pronounced penchant for the ritual number three, Western folklorists are prone to divide cultural materials into a tripartite classificatory scheme: elite culture, mass or popular culture, and folklore. Sometimes these admittedly somewhat arbitrary categories are mutually...

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3. Projective Inversion in the Ancient Egyptian "Tale of Two Brothers"

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pp. 33-54

In 1852, the text of an ancient Egyptian folktale, written on papyrus, known as the "Tale of Two Brothers" was first revealed to the scholarly community. This tale has been called, rightly or wrongly, "The Oldest Fairy Tale in the World" (Hollis 1990). However, it is certainly not the...

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4. The Trident and the Fork: Disney's "The Little Mermaid" as a Male Construction of an Electral Fantasy (with Lauren Dundes)

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pp. 55-75

Most of the tales written by Hans Christian Andersen were not taken from oral tradition. Although he occasionally borrowed motifs from such tradition, the greater portion of his so-called fairy tales were strictly literary creations. The distinguished Danish folklorist Bengt Holbek...

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5. Bloody Mary in the Mirror: A Ritual Reflection of Pre-Pubescent Anxiety

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pp. 76-94

One of the most disheartening aspects of folkloristics, the scientific study of folklore, is the persistent lack of analysis or interpretation. It is not just popularizers who churn out anthology after anthology of "texts only" without attention to context or possible meaning(s) of such texts, but...

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6. The Elephant Walk and Other Amazing Hazing: Male Fraternity Initiation through Infantilization and Feminization (with Lauren Dundes)

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pp. 95-121

The history of hazing is long and filled with cruel practices (Cams 1909, Nuwer 1999:92-115). Hazing is somewhat analogous to what was known in England as "fagging" (Thwing 1878-79:331, Hutchinson 1896), but fagging is more a matter of personal servitude whereas "hazing is a test of...

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7. The Greek Game of Makria Yaidoura [Long Donkey]: An Adolescent Articulation of a Mediterranean Model of Masculinity

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pp. 122-136

In the December 29,1883, issue of the Athenaeum, J. Theodore Bent reported "Some Games played by modern Greeks/' a brief note that was reprinted the very next year in the Folk-Lore Journal One of the games he observed on the island of Samos was called "How many?" He described...

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pp. 137

Several years ago, the editors of Who's Who in America invited those individuals profiled in that volume to submit a personal closing statement under the rubric of "Thoughts on My Life." The statement was supposed to be a succinct autobiographical summary of the "principles, goals, ideals...


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pp. 139-141

E-ISBN-13: 9781621031512
E-ISBN-10: 1578064619
Print-ISBN-13: 9781578064618

Page Count: 141
Publication Year: 2002