Preface
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xii Preface 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. We wrote this book to share our enthusiasm for folklore.We want to give you a sense of the liveliness and immediacy of folklore in our everyday lives as well as at times of celebration and ceremony. Folklore covers so much territory that we couldn’t possibly be specific about every kind of folklore or every type of analysis. We do, however, try to present an overview of most issues and approaches in the field, supported with many different types of examples to give a taste of the wide variety of topics folklorists study. As American folklorists who teach in American universities , we rely primarily on examples drawn from the United States—in all its diversity and complexity. We consider diverse groups from multiple cultures—from groups connected by ethnicity, region, age, gender, and occupation to smaller groups such as families, friends, classmates, and coworkers. The breadth of American culture and cultural experience allows us to talk about such activities as midwestern Thanksgiving traditions, Latina quincea- ñeras, African American fraternity and sorority step shows, and Apache coming-of-age rituals. Our focus on groups includes discussion of Star Trek fans, Boy Scouts, suburban adolescents, slumber party guests, record store Preface xiii employees, and many others. Each example gives us a window into particular groups and their expressive communication. Many of the examples in this book will probably be familiar to you, but we hope you will find unfamiliar examples here, too. When you do come across something new, we encourage you to talk with your instructor and classmates and do a little research to learn more. Natural curiosity about what goes on around us and who is doing what is part of what makes folklorists folklorists. And as individuals with unique backgrounds, we each have experiences and cultural knowledge we can share with others, so we encourage you to share examples from your own background with others in your class. We think you’ll have fun learning about the varieties of creative ways people express their beliefs, values, and traditions and looking at works of art, listening to jokes and stories, and tasting great new foods.And beyond that, you may find unexpected connections that help you understand yourself—and other people—better. Because this is, after all, a textbook that is meant to introduce a complex academic subject, we look at definitions of important terms and present a brief overview of the history of folklore study to provide a basic foundation for the more complex discussions later. We frequently introduce a concept early in a chapter and then continue to weave in references to that idea, allowing the definitions and your understanding of those concepts to develop throughout the major chapters. This way, we hope you get a feel for the basics of an idea and can then build on those basics as you read and study further. It’s also important to gain understanding of the people and theories that have influenced the study of folklore. We introduce you in this book to some of the important architects of folklore study and refer frequently to their major works and theories. For each of the primary concepts we discuss, we present overviews of key debates, conflicts, turning points, and critiques and consider scholarly points of view that build on and extend from the foundations—or, in some cases, move away from these foundations in completely different directions . We also delve into some important theoretical issues, not necessarily to solve any of those questions or to merely provide our own assessment of them, but to introduce the issues relevant to the current study of folklore and help you think critically about those issues on your own. Folklore isn’t all theory,though.Once you learn about the field,you will have the opportunity to investigate some folklore yourself. The practice of folklore requires fieldwork and writing about your own research and observations. We devote...


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