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Folklore Theory in Postwar Germany

Folklore Theory in Postwar Germany

Sadhana Naithani
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 128
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  • Book Info
    Folklore Theory in Postwar Germany
    Book Description:

    Can the study of folklore survive brutal wars and nationalized misappropriations? Does folklore make sense in an age of fearsome technology? These are two of several questions this book addresses with specific and profound reference to the history of folklore studies in Germany. There in the early nineteenth century in the ideological context of romantic nationalism, the works of the Brothers Grimm pioneered the discipline. The sublimation of folklore studies with the nation's political history reached a peak in the 1930s under the Nazi regime. This book takes a full look at what happened to folklore after the end of World War II and the defeat of the Nazis. A special focus on Lutz Röhrich (1923-2006), whose work spans the decades from 1955 to 2006, makes this book a unique window into a monumental reclamation.

    In 1945 Röhrich returned from the warfront at the age of twenty-three, a wounded amputee. Resuming his education, he published his seminalMärchen und Wirklichkeit (Folktale and Reality)in 1956. Naithani argues that through this and a huge body of scholarship on folktale, folksong, proverbs, and riddles over the next decades, Röhrich transformed folklore scholarship by critically challenging the legacies of Romanticism and Nazism in German folklore work. Sadhana Naithani's book is the first full-length treatment of this extraordinary German scholar written in English.

    eISBN: 978-1-62674-026-6
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. Acknowledgment
    (pp. IX-2)
  4. Introduction: Does Folklore Matter?
    (pp. 3-8)

    It is fashionable today to deny the existence of the folktale and the fairy tale on the following grounds:

    1. That there are no more folk communities, which have dominant oral cultures wherein folktales and fairy tales are narrated.

    2. That the print culture and commercialization of the folktale has wiped away the real folktales.

    3. That folktale was never anything but the narratives of the elite and literate cultures that were handed down to the oral culture of the lower social orders.

    The denial of the existence of the folktale is not just the denial of a genre of...

  5. Part I. Parallel to History

    • Chapter 1 Mega Legacies: German Folklore Studies in Historical Perspective
      (pp. 11-30)

      The legacy of Romanticism is inseparable from the very idea of folklore studies as that is where the roots of the discipline lay. Folklore has been studied under the discipline of Volkskunde in Germany. The study of folklore, however, had not been initiated as Volkskunde, but as part of German philological studies called Germanistik. The Brothers Grimm, the world famous collectors and narrators of German folk and fairy tales, are seen as the initiators of both the disciplines—Germanistik and Volkskunde (Mieder 1973, 34), particularly Jacob Grimm is seen as the “Gründungsvater” (founding father) (Brunner 2000, 11). The discipline was...

  6. Part II. Lutz Röhrich:: The Advocate for Folklore

    • Chapter 2 Triangles of Analysis
      (pp. 33-60)

      In the 1940s when Lutz Röhrich started his study of German folktales and in the 1950s when he published his first work,Folktales and Reality, the subjects of his interest—the folktale, and the academic discipline of its study,die Volkskunde—both stood tarnished. Helge Gerndt says that at the end of World War II the discipline of Volkskunde was largely destroyed (Gerndt 2002, 163). The folktale was charged with being an unrealistic narrative genre that promoted flights of fantasy into its own unreal world thereby causing escape from engagement with social reality and creating an unrealistic hope in the...

    • Chapter 3 Circles of Interpretation
      (pp. 61-81)

      The relationship between folktale and reality is realized in the mind of the interpreter. The expression of this interpretation influences the way folktale is perceived henceforth. This is an eternal process, like a circle. No two people receive a narrative in the same way, but not every listener makes his or her interpretation public. Making interpretations public is a job of specific people—researchers, folktale collectors, ethnographers, anthropologists, politicians, and social activists. The folktale is defenseless against all these, as it has no identified author (readowner). So, the discourse on folktale must constantly move in a circle of folktale,...

    • Chapter 4 Folksong for History from Below
      (pp. 82-106)

      The wide spectrum of Röhrich’s research interests, sociopolitical concerns, and methodological shifts become significantly visible when we examine his writings over a long period of time.Gesammelte Shriften zur Volkslied- und Volksballadenforschung (Collected Writings on Folksong and Folk-Ballads Research),published 2002 contains sixteen articles on subjects as varied asHeimatsliederandAuswandererlieder(Homeland-Songs and Emigrants’ Songs) from analyzing representations of the divine and the devil to those of women, from loose printed sheets to radio campaigns, and from ancient motives to politically contested physical territories. In this referential list we can notice the coexistence of old and new categories. These...

  7. Part III. Continuity of Folklore

    • Chapter 5 Röhrich beyond German Borders
      (pp. 109-124)

      Knowledge, as it is said, has no boundaries. I read Lutz Röhrich from two perspectives: one, within the context of German folkloristics; and two, as an Indian folklorist. In this chapter I show the relevance of Röhrich beyond German context at two levels: one, his relevance to the contemporary scholarship on European and American folk and fairy tales and literary fairy tales; two, the relevance and significance of his ideas for the study of contemporary South Asian folklore studies.

      To fulfill my first task, I discuss a recent work by another great scholar of German and European folktale and fairy...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 125-132)
  9. Works Cited
    (pp. 133-136)
  10. Index
    (pp. 137-142)