Preface
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Preface The field of folklore studies has had a fascinating and complicated history, growing out of and blending several different established areas of study. It is also, for all its seeming simplicity, a very complicated field to sum up and explain; the fact that definitions for folklore are still being created and debated well over 100 years after the term was coined proves this. On a related note, the field has also long been suffering from a prolonged and depressing identity crisis, one that each new generation of scholars has inherited and must come to terms with, and one that is, unfortunately, often foisted upon students. The reality is that folklore, as a field of study, is cool. Students know this, they can sense it, and when they find themselves in a class reading a textbook that right from the get-go tries to account for all the difficulty in definition, all the ambiguity of placement in the academy, all the questions of naming and whatnot, they’re disappointed . The field needs a textbook that lets folklore be both fun and complicated. Folklore Rules doesn’t deny the academic rigor of the field; it simply shows new students that there is something both coherent and, yes, cool, to be studied here. Once students buy into that, chewing over the complexities actually becomes fun. The field also needs a textbook that’s relatively short; it’s not always feasible to take an entire semester introducing new students to the field of folklore studies. Many folklorists are not employed in departments that offer generalized folklore courses; when they teach folklore-related classes, they are often special-topics courses that throw unsuspecting and unprepared students into a field that is new to them but to which there is no time to offer a full Preface x introduction. Even at schools with a folklore program there are not always prerequisites for upper-division folklore courses, so there’s no way to ensure that students are familiar with the field in general before launching into a focused special-topics course. A concise text that introduces students to the field of folklore studies without overwhelming them with case studies or with the complexity of the field’s history will allow students to become familiar with the field quickly but accurately, thus gaining a better understanding of how the topic they’re studying in class is contextualized in the larger field of study. It is a common complaint among graduate students, many of whom do not have undergraduate backgrounds in folklore, that while they become experts on their thesis topics, they don’t have a basic understanding of the breadth of the field. This textbook hopes to ameliorate that situation as well, providing an enjoyable and concise introduction to the basics of folklore studies. ...


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