Seminar in Folklore Theory

Every other year I teach a seminar at UL Lafayette which introduces students to the history of folklore studies and to the various theories that have peopled the domain. This spring it looks like Moodle, the university’s LMS (Learning Management System) has failed the course, and so I am going to be using this post as a place to collect the links that usually. Perhaps, in the future, the university will go with an open source solution which has a lot of support from major research universites, and [it works]( *Thanks, [Jason Baird Jackson](, for catching that!*

Here is the [syllabus for the course]( — [Scribd]( is a Youtube for documents.

The syllabus is also available as part of a larger set of documents that I am folding into this one post below:

## Syllabus

### Course

English 632-001, Spring 2010
MW 14:30 – 15:45PM, HLG 321

### Instructor

John Laudun
HLG 356, 482-5493,
Mondays and Wednesdays, 9:00 – 12:00

### Course Description

This course is a survey of key concepts, problems, and perspectives in folklore theory and method, focusing on key moments, ideas, and texts in the evolution of folklore studies in order to acquire a “feel” for the foundations of the discipline. For the purposes of this course, the field is conceived fairly broadly and includes work done in adjacent fields like anthropology, sociology, psychology, linguistics, and literary studies. As much as it is possible, the readings are chronological, allowing us to follow the interactive dimensions of intellectual history, wherein one theory arises as a response to (extension of, corrective of, or refutation of) another theory. Mileage in such a chronology must vary, however, as some texts (usually those that awaited translation) are considered in the context of those texts they most influenced.

The purpose of any proseminar is to acquaint students with the core texts or theories of a particular field of inquiry. Folklore’s diverse beginnings and many interrelations make it particularly difficult to gather all such materials into a semester of study. The aim of this course, then, is to familiarize you with those texts, thinkers, and ideas that seem central in light of recent developments in the discipline and to acquaint you with other texts, thinkers, and ideas so that you may begin to see these complex webs for yourself. A proseminar assumes you have an interest in a field or discipline as a profession, not necessarily as a professional practicing within the field, but as someone interested in the history and nature of the practices of the field as it has developed over time and through various institutions. We will, then, spend the semester reading from folklore’s intellectual history and discussing the implications (those) ideas have for our understanding and uses of folklore.

Speaking of the field, we will not in this course address directly, in the sense of how-to, the topic of fieldwork, though we will on a regular occasion be concerned with methodology as it is implicated in various theories. That does not lessen the importance of fieldwork, and I encourage, but do not require, you to do some kind of fieldwork. Extended fieldwork, in the sense of lasting beyond the first interview, is an experience that no one with an interest in the field should be without. A more extensive treatment of fieldwork theories and methods is to be found in the folklore fieldwork course.

Finally, there are some methods and skills which any competent “knowledge worker” — more on the use of this term during the semester — should have in this day and age. Some of them have long been within the purview of folklore studies Specifically, folklorists have always, in some ways, engaged the collection and sorting of data that today’s databases make, in many ways, trivial. We will talk about this and other matters throughout the semester, but you should also feel free to bring such topics and concerns up as part of our ongoing conversation.

The goal of this course is to familiarize you with an intellectual history, and in some ways landscape, of a particular discipline, folklore studies, in order for you to begin to map out where your own interests lie. I hope that the materials we cover, and their attendant bibliographies and references, will begin to suggest possibilities for you, but there are always more books and journals than can be scribbled down here. Your real job is to go out and find that territory which interests you.

*Please note that in much of what follows below that what is delineated is simply a framework for a much more interesting dialogue that must take place between the seminar’s leader and the rest of the participants. During the first two weeks of the course, we will need to assess adjustments that need to be made.

### Course Requirements

In addition to the obvious requirement that everyone come to class with the reading done, with at least two to three questions or comments prepared, and the willingness to engage in a discussion, I will ask each of you to do several writing projects and a presentation. Some assignments are genres with which you are already familiar or with which you will shortly become familiar. Two of the assignments are common modes or elements in folklore study at which it will profit you to practice.

* Presentation (15%). This is a seminar. Everyone is responsible for its success, not just the instructor. As a seminar participant, each of you will be responsible for leading the class through one of the assigned set of readings for a given day.
* Journal Profile (15%). In parallel with books, the record of any discipline is to be found in its journals. They are also the places where young scholars have their best opportunity to see their ideas in print. I encourage all graduate students to join their respective disciplinary organizations, especially while student rates apply, but I also require that participants in this seminar acquaint themselves with the journals available to them as resources and outlets for their work. Over the course of the semester you will profile two journals, one folklore and one other.
* Book Review (10%). You will write one book review, following the JAF format, on a text of your choosing. Please see me if you are having any difficulty in deciding upon a book. (Book reviews are also a great way to get published.) Both the reviews and the profiles above will be compiled into a seminar publication.
* Literature Review (35%). Because of the nature of this course, I forego the most familiar of all course assignment genres, the seminar paper, and instead ask you to imagine a project, of a size and scope to be decided, and to sketch out what resources you will need. 10-15 pages.
* Participation (25%). A full quarter of your grade is based on that ever-slippery notion of “participation.” I leave it up to you to concretize it in a way that manifests the sublimity of your wit, the substance of your thought, and the grace of your presence. Nota bene: I take participation very seriously in all my classes, but most especially in seminars. (See “Course Organization” below for possibilities.)

### Course Texts

#### Required

Please only purchase the first book on the list below before coming to class for the first time.

* Bauman, Richard and Charles Briggs. 2003. _Voices of Modernity: Language Ideologies and the Politics of Inequality_. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
* Dégh, Linda. 1969. _Folktales and Society: Story-Telling in a Hungarian Peasant Community_. Tr. Emily Schossberger. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
* Lord, Albert. 1960. _The Singer of Tales_. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
* Propp, Vladimir. 1968. _Morphology of the Folktale_. Tr. Laurence Scott. Austin: University of Texas Press.

#### Recommended Surveys, Anthologies, & Classic Texts

* Bauman, Richard (ed). 1992. _Folklore, Cultural Performances, and Popular Entertainments: A Communications-Centered Handbook_. New York: Oxford University Press.
* Bronner, Simon. 1986. _American Folklore Studies: An Intellectual History_. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.
* Brunvand, Jan Harold (ed). 1996. _American Folklore: An Encyclopedia_. Ed.. New York: Garland.
* Dorson, Richard (ed). 1972. _Folklore and Folklife: An Introduction_. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
* Feintuch, Burt (ed). 1995. _Common Ground: Keywords for the Study of Expressive Culture_. Special issue of Journal of American Folklore 108(430).
* Lodge, David (ed). 1988. _Modern Criticism and Theory: A Reader_. New York: Longman.
* Toelken, Barre. 1979. _The Dynamics of Folklore_. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Zumwalt, Rosemary Lévy. 1988. _American Folklore Scholarship: A Dialogue of Dissent_. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

#### Recommended Case Studies

* Ancelet, Barry Jean. 1994. _Cajun and Creole Folktales: The French Oral Tradition of South Louisiana_. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.
* Basso, Keith. 1979. _Portraits of “The Whiteman”: Linguistic Play and Cultural Symbols among the Western Apache_. New York: Cambridge University Press.
* Glassie, Henry. 1982. _Passing the Time in Ballymenone: Culture and History of an Ulster Community_. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

## Apprenticing to a Discipline #

The contents of this list is something you will want to aim to be able to do by the time you take your comprehensive exams. You may not have the best of grasps on everything included here, but you have committed yourself to deepening your understanding as you write your dissertation.

* You know at least one major journal, if not the flagship journal, in the field, and you know and understand the wider constellation of journals that make up the field — i.e., you know the major and minor journals or the different dimensions the journals pursue.
* You have read the last five years of a/the major journal in the field.
* You can name a dozen books off the top of your head that “everybody knows.”
* You can name, again off the top of your head, another dozen important or significant books that take the field in directions you would like to pursue.
* You can cast some sort of narrative about how the field arose and/or where it has been.
* You care where the field is going and/or you can narrate places you would like to take the field.

## Schedule

Week 1 (January 13). *Seminar introduction*.

Week 2 (January 20). *”The Folktale Flies.”*

Week 3 (January 25 & 27). *Other Voices, Other Rooms*. Read Bauman and Briggs 1-162.

Week 4 (February 1 & 3). *More Voices, More Rooms*. Read Bauman and Briggs 163-321.

Week 5 (February 8 & 10).

No Week (February 15 & 17). **No class due to Mardi Gras holiday.**

Week 6 (February 22 & 24). *Voice, Rooms, Yada Yada Yada*. Read Bauman and Briggs.

Week 7 (March 1 & 3). *The American Century, Part I: Boas and His Contemporaries*.

Crane, T. F. 1888. The Diffusion of Popular Tales. *Journal of American Folklore* 1(1): 8-15.

Boas, Franz. 1888. On Certain Songs and Dances of the Kwakiutl of British Columbia. *Journal of American Folklore* 1(1): 49-64.

Fortier, Alcee. 1888. Customs and Superstitions in Louisiana. *Journal of American Folklore* 1(2): 136-140.

Fortier, Alcee. 1888. Louisianian Nursery-Tales. *Journal of American Folklore* 1(2): 140-145.

Mason, Otis. 1891. The Natural History of Folk-Lore. *Journal of American Folklore* 4(13): 97-105.

Lomax, John. 1915. Some Types of American Folk-Song. *Journal of American Folklore* 28(107): 1-17.

Week 8 (March 8 & 10). *The American Century, Part II: The Two Paths*.

Week 9 (March 15 & 17).

Week 10 (March 22 & 24). *Mid-Century Revisions and Refinements*.

No Week (March 29 & 31). **No class due to Easter Break holiday.**

*The Singer of Tales*. Read the first part.

Week 11 (April 5 & 7). *The Emergence of Performance*.

Week 12 (April 12 & 14). *Portraits of the Whiteman*.

Week 13 (April 19 & 21). *Things Every Folklorist Knows*.

Week 14 (April 26 & 28). *Folklore’s Futures.*

## Journals

Because of the interdisciplinary nature of folklore study, and often the interstitial housing of folklorists within the academy, there are a number of journals that are of interest to folklorists. The list below can only be suggestive:

### Folklore Journals/Periodicals ##

* _Folklore Fellows Communications_
* _Journal of American Folklore_
* _Journal of Folklore Research_ (formerly_Journal of the Folklore Institute_)
* _Louisiana Folklore Miscellany_*
* _Southern Folklore_ (was _Southern Folklore Quarterly_)
* _Western Folklore_

### Anthropology, Cognitive Science, Linguistics, Psychology, Semiotics ##

* American Anthropologist
* American Ethnologist
* Annual Review of Anthropology
* Critical Quarterly
* Cultural Anthropology
* Discourse Processes
* Genre
* Journal of American Culture
* Journal of American Ethnic History
* Journal of Anthropological Research
* Journal of Linguistic Anthropology
* Journal of Psycholinguistics
* Language in Society
* Oral Tradition
* Pragmatics
* Semiotica
* Text
* Text and Performance Quarterly

### Other Journals of Interest

* African American Review
* American Literary History
* Contemporary Literature
* Discourse
* Modern Fiction Studies
* Narrative
* New Literary History
* Novel
* Public Culture
* Representations
* Social Text

`*` There are a number of state and regional folklore journals. For readers specifically interested in Louisiana matters, I also recommend the adjacent historical journal _Louisiana History_.

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