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Edith Fowke and Carole H. Carpenter, editors. Explorations in Canadian Folklore McOelland and Stewart. 400. $14.95 paper When we think about studies in Canadian folklore, certain names come to mind: W. Roy Mackenzie, Helen Creighton, C. Marius Barbeau, Luc Lacourciere, Herbert Halpert, and of course Edith Fowke, who, with Carole Carpenter, has edited this useful collection of essays - I say useful because at present no other book deals so comprehensively with English-language folklore studies in Canada. Written anywhere from 1859 (Paul Kane's description of the Metis buffalo hunt) to 1984 (George A. Proctor's 'Fiddle Music as a Manifestation of Canadian Regionalism'), the essays are arranged in four sections: 'Early Accounts,' 'Personal Experience Accounts,' 'Surveys,' 'Analyses.' This arrangement often reveals more about the editors' blessed rage for order than about the essays themselves, many of which necessarily cross divisions. Of the pieces that the editors include,many come from out-of-print volumes, or from obscure journals, or from early issues of well-known journals. W. Roy Mackenzie's pioneer study, 'Ballad Singing in Nova Scotia' (Journal of American Folklore, 1909), is here, and so is Helen Creighton's 'Ballads from Devils Island' (Dalhousie Review, 1933). And then there's Emily Carr's haunting 'D'Sonoqua' (1941), her account ofthe wild woman of the woods, a totem she first saw while sketching in a remote village of the Northwest Coast Indians: Her arms were spliced and socketed to the trunk, and were flung wide in a circling, compelling movement. Her breasts were two eagle-heads, fiercely carved. ... The eyes were two rounds of black, set in wider rounds of white and placed in deep sockets.... it seemed that the voice of the tree itself might have burstfrom that great round cavity, with projectinglips, that was her mouth.... I never went to that village again, but the fierce wooden image often came to me, both in my waking and sleeping. I quote this passage to make a point about the prose style of most of the essays in this collection. Although they impinge in some way on anthropology, or philology, or ethnology, or musicology, or sociology, or even medicine - a lively survey offolk medicine in French Canada by Luc Lacourciere - they are unpretentious and direct. Alan M. Beuhler, for example, has contributed 'The Old-Order Mennonite Wedding and Highlights of Their Social Life' (1977), based on his own experience. The essay is a delight, partly because Beuhler's style has all the strength and simplicity of the people he writes about. And Edith Fowke's piece, 'In Defence of Paul Bunyan' (1974), is equally straightforward, citing the stories told by Joe Thibadeau of Bobcaygeon to support her contention that 'Paul Bunyan was not a fakelore invention and he is not a fake folk HUMANITIES 243 hero, despite the misuse of his tradition by popularizers.' Essays like these are not only for the folklore specialist who can identify every folktale motif by number and type, or who can recite thirteen versions of 'Lord Randal,' but for anyone who wants to understand the role of folk tradition in Canada. Sadly, though, several pieces in this collection resonate with jargon borrowed from sociology and anthropology; one essay in particular is so cluttered with Germanic freight-train words that only the initiated can understand what it all means. One paper, entitled (in part) 'A Social Interactional Analysis,' examines folklore'as a highly structured, integrated form of interpersonal behaviour.' Writing about the fascinating subject of parables told in the Toronto Jewish community, the author shows 'howa creative raconteur integrates a preformulated utterance into a specific social interaction.' Such an analysis, 'with its emphasis upon the immediate context of use, can also reveal how the social situation contextualizes the meaning of a tale and foregrounds the themes which are relevant to the narrator on a particular occasion.' Northrop Frye does not write like this. Nor would he write about the 'ethnicity factor,' the focus of another essay, whose author talks about the'dominant majority-group position'; about the 'non-Native minority-group folklore studies'; about 'residual tendencies towards cultural maintenance'; about'compensatory cultural articulation of suppressed or repressed people'; and about AngloCanadians who 'may...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 242-244
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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