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Reviewed by:
  • Encyclopedia of Women's Folklore and Folklife ed. by Liz Locke, Theresa A.Vaughan, and Pauline Greenhill
  • Linda Pershing
Encyclopedia of Women's Folklore and Folklife. 2 vols. Ed. Liz Locke, Theresa A. Vaughan, and Pauline Greenhill. (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2009. Pp. xvii + 777, list of entries, guide to related topics, preface, overview essays, selected bibliography/websites, index, contributors.)

Edited by folklore scholars Liz Locke, Theresa A. Vaughan, and Pauline Greenhill, this impressive, two-volume encyclopedia makes a historic contribution to folklore studies, cultural anthropology, and women's and gender studies. With over 260 carefully researched entries, it spans a massive terrain of topics, from abortion to Yellow Woman/Irriaku stories. Special features include four excellent overview essays surveying the present state of scholarship on women's folklore and folklife around the world: "Women's Folklore" (by Pauline Greenhill, Diane Tye, and Norma E. Cantú), "Folklore about Women" (by Pauline Greenhill), "Folklore of Subversion" (by Jessica Senehi), and "Women Folklorists" (by Norma E. Cantú, Pauline Greenhill, Diane Tye, and Rachelle H. Saltzman). Arranged alphabetically, the essays and entries explore a wide range of topics related to women's folklore and folklife. The encyclopedia is clearly organized and easily accessible; at the front of each volume there is an alphabetical list of entries and a guide to related topics, which organizes entries in broad categories (such as "Folklore as a Profession" or "Material Culture"), designed to help readers find interconnected terms. Each item includes a bibliography of useful sources. The "Selected Bibliography/Web Sites" section at the end of Volume 2 identifies essential print and electronic resources relevant to the study of women's folklore and folklife in general.

The overview essays discuss how this work emerged in the 1970s and developed a rich history in the following four decades. The encyclopedia brings together the many perspectives and contributions of scholars who have documented and theorized about folklore by women and folklore about women, and developed insightful feminist analyses of folklore. The preface provides the guiding principles that shape the encyclopedia, including a brief recognition of changing notions of the "folk" ("for the most part, they are us," p. xix) and acknowledgment that, while there is some attention in these volumes to folklore in societies around the world, much of the research and focus is on North America. Several of the authors, including coeditor Pauline Greenhill, are Canadian and bring much-needed expertise on Canadian folklore to the choice of entries and their analysis. In addition to many diverse topics, there are fifteen articles focusing on particular regions of the world (e.g., the Middle East and Central Asia). These provide useful contextual information to assist the reader in better understanding folkloric behavior in specific cultures and locations.

Written by more than 130 contributors, many of whom are the top scholars and experts in their fields, the entries vary in length and depth. As expected in any encyclopedia, the entries are simultaneously concise and informative, emphasizing the key concepts, identifying themes and schools of thought, and offering examples. The editors acknowledge that there were many more topics and issues they would like to have covered, if some of the circumstances surrounding this enormous project had been different. The encyclopedia represents many years of dedicated work; it is expansive and insightful, addressing earlier scholarship and pointing to new directions. Headers on each page make entries easy to spot. There are important general entries, such as "Folk Art" and "Folk Tale," that aptly summarize the topic or genre, identify the trends in scholarship to date, and then apply them to the study of women and to feminist scholarship. Many of the topics that one might anticipate in such a collection, such as "Foodways," "La Llorona," or "Midwife" are included, as well as more contemporary entries, such as "Barbie," "Diet Culture," "Transgender Folklore," and "Violence against Women." A few factors would strengthen the encyclopedia even further: the index isn't complete, there is an entry for "Folklife" but not "Folklore," and multiple entries were written by the editors (no doubt because of the difficulty of securing contributions from so many different authors). [End Page 224]

The "unabashedly feminist" (p. xix) tone...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1535-1882
Print ISSN
0021-8715
Pages
pp. 224-225
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-12
Open Access
No
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