Introduction to Folklore

ENGL 332-001, MWF 11:00 AM - 11:50 AM, HLG 321

Pr. John Laudun, HLG 356, Tuesdays 9-12 & by appointment,


This iteration of the Introduction to Folklore course is focused on folk narrative. Participants in the course will encounter diverse definitions of and theories about narrative, examine various forms of narrative (with a focus on traditional genres of folklore), collect and document instances of folk narrative, and produce an analytical research report on those materials.


Participants in this course will learn how to read scholarly and scientific definitions and analyses of human nature with a special emphasis on narrative and then apply those definitions or reproduce such analyses in their own thinking and writing. Writing is a significant component of any communication, be it scientific or professional, and participants in this course will be required to assume those voices necessary to accomplishing a particular task. In addition, as a course in folklore studies participants will also create documentation containing both metadata and data in appropriate markup, which may or may not include things like XML.


As an upper-division course, this course assumes all participants are already familiar with accessing and using scholarly and scientific materials in both print and on-line forms. If not, then your first course of action is to schedule a library tour and/or take a tutorial. (See Resources for links.) It also assumes you are familiar with the University’s Code of Conduct, and you are familiar with being an adult. This class is conducted as if we are are all professionals engaged in a mutually rewarding endeavor to which all of us contribute in order to succeed. That means coming prepared, not being distracted, and being engaged with not only the course materials but also each other.

Running counter to the in loco parentis impulse of many other dimensions of the university, this course has a limited set of tasks with a grading framework that attempts to be as clear, and simple, as possible. For this semester, the overall schedule of graded assignments are:

Assignment Value
Informal Assignments & Pop Quizzes 10% of overall grade and 10 points each with the possibility may displace exams in importance (and percentages)
Participation 20% of overall grade
Exams 20% of overall grade
Text Collection (This documentation be complete and recordings turned in and logged.) 25% of overall grade
Research Report 25% of overall grade

From the table, you can see that two most important outputs are the text collection and the research report. For the purposes of scheduling, it should be noted that the text collection is due at the beginning of April and the research report on the last day of classes. (This latter deadline is quite strict for reasons external to the course.)


A considerable amount of reading for this course are scholarly materials, mostly as PDFs, available either in on-line databases, like JSTOR, or through the course’s Moodle site. Many of the materials in the latter instance are already uploaded, and so if there is a moment in the course where an item is listed on the schedule but does not appear in the Resources section of the course’s Moodle page, please contact me. (Do not assume because you cannot find something that you are not responsible for it.)

Please note that the list of books to be purchased is currently a work in progress. Do not buy any book until this list is announced as final.


In addition to the texts we encounter in class, there are other resources both in folklore studies and in narratology that may be useful to those either in need of a bit more discussion or seeking to expand their understanding.

JSTOR offers a variety of tutorials: some are simply slides or texts that you can read on your own and others are interactive tutorials hosted on their own Moodle setup. (Registration is required, but once you are registered, you’ll discover a number of short videos as well as interactive exercises. If you allocate 20 minutes per session for a few days, you’ll learn something.)

In case you are unclear, there is a difference between primary and secondary sources in many fields, though the distinction can be blurry in disciplines, like folklore studies and cultural anthropology, that create their own source materials.

Emergency Evacuation Procedures

A map of this floor is posted near the elevator marking the evacuation route and “Designated Rescue Area.” Students who need assistance should identify themselves to the instructor.

Contact Information

Do not hesitate. Immediately look around where you are sitting and get the name and number of two responsible looking people. Not the cute one — because getting his or her number that way would be just creepy, but someone who has at least your level of maturity, if not higher. Write that information below so that when you do have to miss class, then you can contact them about what you missed.




  1. Course Introduction
  2. Folklore Theory Basics: Competence and Performance (Text and Context). Read: Burke 1941.

Some Fine Print

Much of the information to be gleaned from the formal instruction in this course is in the lectures I give, the discussions we have, and the documentaries we view. That means that attendance is foundational to a student’s success in this course. What happens in any given class of this course cannot be found anywhere else. If you must miss a class, please contact one of the people whose names you entered in this syllabus for notes on what you missed.

Why is attendance important? Because there is no, at least not yet, good guide to Louisiana folklore, and because folklore itself is dynamic and because I tailor materials to each course in an effort to make this stuff as relevant to you, as actual people, as it is humanly possible to do, a lot of the course material is available only as lectures and class discussions. You need to be there to get it, and you need to take notes. On both lectures and discussions. I do not provide my lecture notes. The principle reason is pedagogical: a number of studies have shown that we learn best when we make notes for ourselves. (It’s less important that we consult notes later, than it is we take them in the first place.) The marginal reason is that my notes do not necessarily make sense to anyone but myself—one word, for me, can reference an entire network or outline of ideas and facts that I wish to convey.

Additionally, it cannot be emphasized enough that this is a class in folk culture, which is typically learned, practically by definition, outside the sphere of formal instruction. This course is designed to provide, within the walls of the classroom, students with a basic grounding in the theory of folklore studies, the principle dynamics of most folk cultures, the history that informs Louisiana’s folk cultural matrix, and particular examples drawn from particular Louisiana folk cultures. All of this will be foundational to your understanding and appreciation of either the folk cultures with which you grew up and/or in which you now find yourself immersed. No understanding will be complete without any experience of folk culture itself. A number of the activities in this class require students to interact with practitioners of a Louisiana folk culture. For most, this is typically family and friends, but it could be mean, for some, having to interview individuals you know less well. Please be sensible in doing this.

Because all experience unfolds across time, often a significant amount of time, students must be prepared to spend time outside of class, interacting with others in a thoughtful way that respects not only others but that this experience is a part of their own education. A lack of seriousness and a lack of respect for all involved — instructor, one’s self, fellow students, folk practitioners — represents a failure to grasp the root ideas and issues of folklore studies and of this course. Students displaying a lack of respect will find themselves in conference with the instructor and then the dean of students.

Part of taking yourself, your learning, and this course seriously is that you agree to all the rules and guidelines on academic honesty laid out in the Student Bulletin. Plagiarism and cheating in this course will result, at the very least, in failure of the assignment; it can also mean failing the course immediately and, potentially, expulsion from the university. If in doubt about what to do or how to handle material not your own in your work, please see me. Helping you to figure that stuff out is part of my job.

That said, part of our effort to have the best possible classroom experience is leaving other things outside: pagers, cell phones, food, drinks, materials for other classes, etc. Please turn off any and all of these devices before entering the classroom. If yours go off, you will be excused from class. You are, however, permitted to use a laptop computer for taking notes — do not abuse your time, my time, or UWIN surfing the web (again, you will be excused from class immediately) as well as an audio recorder. Please do note that I regularly incorporate a variety of copyrighted material within my lectures that may or may not be indicated in the course of a lecture, and that any remaining materials are copyrighted by me. By granting you permission to record lectures, I do so with the understanding that the recordings will only be for your use and only your use in the pursuit of your education. You may not share copyrighted materials with others.

By the same token, I take your intellectual productivity and property equally seriously. Students who generate quality documentation of a person, place, event, or behavior are regularly encouraged to submit their materials to the Archives of Cajun and Creole Folklore. I may also ask a student for permission to retain a copy of your materials for use in future classes. I try to return materials in an orderly fashion, but time sometimes works against such efforts. Any and all materials belonging to you that are left in my possession at the end of the semester will probably be disposed in the first few weeks of the following semester unless you indicate otherwise — I simply don’t have room to store all student materials forever in my tiny office.