(9/21/01 7:12:29 am)
| Definition of "folklorist"?|
Hi Everyone! I'm not exactly new to the board...I've been lurking for awhile now; thank you for the feast!...and have finally decided to post what I hope is a discussion-starter (gulp).
I would like to learn more about the academic study of folklore and fairy tales, being a complete amateur myself. I have heard the word "folklorist" applied to people who go out in the field and collect tales from the oral tradition...also to those who collect literary works and retell them.
Can anyone expand on his or her idea of what a "folklorist" does?
(9/21/01 3:13:38 pm)
| Technical definition vs. my own ...|
What a fascinating question! Well, according to my two volume encyclopedia - aptly titled, _Folklore_ -, folklore is a "term coined by Briton William John Thoms who, in 1846, proposed that that the Anglo-Saxon compound 'folklore' be used instead of the Latinate 'popular antiquities' todescribe 'the manners, customs, observances, superstitions, ballads, proverbs,' and other materials 'of olden times'," and, further, that "today, both the formal study of folklore (folkloristics) and the informal interest in it are linked with a nostalgia for the past and uneasiness with modernity." While that may be true up to a certain point, I think that many members of this board would indicate a need for a broader definition; folklorists also include in their number those who are determined to amalgamate antiquity and modernity, proving both the continuing relevance of olden tales, and the continuing timeless quality of humanity (a difficult task at times in a society which sometimes seems determined to anachronize anything past the decade mark). I think that folklorists are those who love lore, utilize it, explore it, and add to it, in whatever way suits their skills best, whether formally or casually. I may be being too broad-minded here; if anyone thinks that I should narrow my definition ... I'd love to hear why. I think that this will be a very interesting discussion. Nuh?
(9/22/01 7:44:25 am)
As one who teaches a folklore class let me tell you what I do and then perhaps you can create your own definition of a folklorist. My students read a number of
folktales from an anthology by Joanna Cole and I discuss the change from the oral to the literary traditions (Basile, D'Aulnoy,Perrault, Grimms etc); what conventions are typical in folk tales; I discuss the process of collecting, classifying and analyzing folkways.
I give slide lectures on gravestones, folk architecture and painting, on urban legends, folk religion and family folkways. Have students read Zora Hurston's "Mules and Men" and a bunch of essays in Brunvand's "The Study of American Folklore";so this course deals with folk literature and folkways and includes some relatively recent examples of the latter. The definition that I give my students at the beginning of the semester is that folklore "consists of the informally transmitted traditions of a group."
(9/23/01 8:21:18 am)
Helen and Paul,
Your ideas about what a folklorist does are excellent, and have really expanded my thinking on the topic.
Helen, thanks for the background on the term itself -- I had not read that before -- and also the idea that folklore is an active, modern study; not always reaching back into the past.
Paul...I wish I could take your class! Is the syllabus and reading schedule on line, perchance? From your post I realized I hadn't thought about types of folklore that don't revolve around stories...but of course many types don't. Morris dancing and the images of the Green Man scuplted into so many European churches come to mind.
Thanks again -- you've both really expanded my thinking on this!