For the Instructor: Why You Want to Use This Book
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For the Instructor Why You Want to Use This Book A major issue in the teaching of folklore these days is that folklore programs are few and far between. Many folklorists are working not in dedicated folklore programs but in English, anthropology , history, or communications departments, and while that highlights the incredible interdisciplinarity of our field, it presents an interesting quandary to many instructors. Without a dedicated folklore program, students are likely to encounter folklore courses randomly, taking an upper-division, special-­ topic, “Folklore and Fill-in-the-Blank” (film, literature, history, etc.) course without ever having taken Introduction to Folklore. This is great on the one hand, as it helps students discover the field. On the other hand, it means that students are showing up in highly specialized folklore courses without any concept of the basics of folklore studies (or worse, with an incorrect or misguided concept of folklore studies). There are several great intro textbooks out there for folklore students, but they all share one thing in common: they’re long. As any folklorist can tell you, folklore sounds simple, but isn’t. Most introductory textbooks are way too long for students to consume and comprehend in the mere week or two that their professors can sacrifice to getting everyone on the same page about the basics before moving on to the specific topic of the course. Other fields don’t have this problem in the same way, because other fields aren’t quite so unfamiliar to the general public as academic disciplines. Even without taking Introduction to Literature, most college students can join in a “Literature and Fill-in-theBlank ” (the West, race, identity, etc.) course without being too far out of the loop. Even if they’re not totally prepared, they at For the Instructor xiv least learned the generic distinctions between a poem and a play in high school. Try asking a college student who hasn’t taken an Introduction to Folklore class the difference between a folktale and a legend, and you’re not likely to get a correct answer. It’s simply not a subject that’s mainstream enough (though we all know it should be) to go forward without an introduction to the basics. Enter this book. It’s short, it’s simple, and, most important, it’s true to the field of academic folklore studies. Students will get a sense of the basics—the accurate basics, not the foreshortened it’snot -just-old-wives’-tales-and-quilting-but-that’s-all-we-have-timefor basics—without having to read an entire lengthy textbook. For the sake of brevity, you’re not going to find a whole lot of drawn-out or exotic case studies here—that’s not the point of this book. What this book does offer is relatable, illustrative scenarios, ones that will make students feel closer to the field rather than farther away from it. And that’s not to say that there’s no room for any extended examples to grow out of this book; bringing students’ own experiences in as concrete case studies should be quite easy. In fact, this is one of the greatest things about folklore studies: students show up knowing some folklore, even if they don’t yet know they know it. This is due to the unique fact that folklorists (and folklore students) are, across the board, also members of the folk. As folklorist Jay Mechling once noted, thinking like a folklorist involves “a sort of ‘double consciousness’ about everyday life”1 — participating in it normally and yet simultaneously stepping back to observe it critically. Very few other fields of study allow for this dual level of engagement, especially in the humanities.2 How many Shakespeare classes can say that 100 percent of incoming students show up already knowing (not to mention ready to perform) at least two or three Shakespeare plays inside and out? None.3 Folklore has the advantage,4 as all students have at least some folklore in their lives and so can immediately begin applying cool analyses and theories to stuff they already know about. I find that this leads to a higher engagement in folklore classes than in almost any other course that deals with the analysis of culture or literature—the analysis is the fun and challenging stuff, and folklore students are able to jump right in. For the Instructor xv In addition to the preponderance of highly specific special-topics classes and a glaring lack...