Denizens of a Rock

I am working on expanding an essay on repair shops for the Journal of American Folklore, and I’ve written hundreds of words and deleted hundreds of words. I think I finally have a working opening paragraph. I shared it with my partner, and her response was “I like denizens of a rock very much.”

It has been a quarter of a century since Henry Glassie observed in the pages of this journal that “tradition is the creation of the future out of the past” (1995: 395). In the consideration that follows, Glassie establishes the importance of continuity both for the human beings who make history, both in terms of actions but also representations. There can be no doubt that engaging in traditional forms of behavior is one way to defeat the one certainty available to denizens of a rock which never occupies the same space in the universe from moment to moment, change. Folklore in this model is that which we do in order to transcend such physical exigencies: meaning is produced through the interplay of change and the things we do that remain the same. Folklore studies is the study of this tension as realized in everyday interactions. The resulting definition of the vernacular is that it is found in those moments when people feel most empowered to create realities as they themselves understand them based on previous experience which is itself framed by an understanding that is permeated by the realities and experiences of others. It is the engine of culture harnessed to maximize meaning as an output.

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