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Eight Words for the Study of Expressive Culture

Eight Words for the Study of Expressive Culture

Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Eight Words for the Study of Expressive Culture
    Book Description:

    Group. Art. Text. Genre. Performance. Context. Tradition. Identity. _x000B_No matter where we are--in academic institutions, in cultural agencies, at home, or in a casual conversation--these are words we use when we talk about creative expression in its cultural contexts. Eight Words for the Study of Expressive Culture is a thoughtful, interdisciplinary examination of the keywords that are integral to the formulation of ideas about the diversity of human creativity, presented as a set of essays by leading folklorists. _x000B_Many of us use these eight words every day. We think with them. We teach with them. Much of contemporary scholarship rests on their meanings and implications. They form a significant part of a set of conversations extending through centuries of thought about creativity, meaning, beauty, local knowledge, values, and community. Their natural habitats range across scholarly disciplines from anthropology and folklore to literary and cultural studies and provide the framework for other fields of practice and performance as well. _x000B_Eight Words for the Study of Expressive Culture is a much-needed study of keywords that are frequently used but not easily explained. Anchored by Burt Feintuchs cogent introduction, the book features essays by Dorothy Noyes, Gerald L. Pocius, Jeff Todd Titon, Trudier Harris, Deborah A. Kapchan, Mary Hufford, Henry Glassie, and Roger D. Abrahams.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09117-9
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Eight Words
    (pp. 1-6)

    Group, art, text, genre, performance, context, tradition, identity. No matter where we are—in academic institutions, in cultural agencies, surrendering to the lure of the local—these are words we use when we talk about creative expression in its social contexts. We think with them. We teach with them. Much scholarship rests on them. They form a significant part of a set of conversations extending through centuries of thought about creativity, meaning, beauty, local knowledge, values, and community. If words have natural habitats, the environments for these range across scholarly disciplines and other fields of practice. On their own and...

  5. 1 Group
    (pp. 7-41)

    Ideas about group are the most powerful and the most dangerous in folklore studies. Our influence as a discipline has often come from arguing for small groups against big groups. Against imperialism, we argue for the nation-state; denying the homogeneity of the nation-state, we argue for the ethnic group or the social class; at last, wary of the dangers of essentialism at any level, we turn to the face-to-face community.

    It is less comfortable to recall that we have also argued for big groups against small groups: for the historical and racial unity of a nation against the diversity within...

  6. 2 Art
    (pp. 42-68)

    Perhaps of all the words that surround us in our daily life, art is one of the most contentious, most controversial. In part, this is because art—like the term folklore—has a popular as well as academic parlance. While abstract concepts such as ʺtextʺ or ʺidentityʺ rarely enter common discourse, our daily lives frequently encounter popular notions of ʺartʺ: our cities are filled with establishments that sell ʺart,ʺ we take ʺart appreciationʺ courses, we buy the products of ʺrecording artists.ʺ We become disparaging when our governments fund certain varieties of ʺartʺ over others, and we lump different artworks together...

  7. 3 Text
    (pp. 69-98)

    Like the word folklore, the word text is something folklorists can control only partially. I prefer to think of any object of interpretation as a text. But just as the general public has its own understanding of folklore, no matter how academic folklorists may define it, many constituencies are involved in constructing definitions of text. In this essay I review what I consider to be the more important meanings of text, and then I consider the special contributions that folklorists can make to an understanding of text. Although text is an exceedingly important concept for folklorists, the folklore text by...

  8. 4 Genre
    (pp. 99-120)

    The word genre, derived from French and Latin, means ʺkindʺ or ʺgenus.ʺ Genus in turn means ʺa class,ʺ ʺkind,ʺ or ʺsort,ʺ with the accompanying expansion in logical usage of being a class of like objects or ideas having several subordinate classes or species. Genre is thus an umbrella concept that allows many disparate, and often related, concepts to be conveniently divided and subdivided. The word has some specialized usage, as in ʺgenre painting,ʺ which realistically depicts subjects or scenes from everyday life. In its usual context of classification, however, genre can be as expansive or confined as disciplinary usages demand....

  9. 5 Performance
    (pp. 121-145)

    To perform is a transitive verb. Grammatically, this means that the verb perform takes a direct object, relating one element or property to another. One performs something, a theater piece (a drama, a comedy, a farce, a tragedy), a musical score, a ritual, a critique, a sales spiel. And this piece, this work, is performed by someone—an actor, a man, a woman, an herbalist, a hermaphrodite, a queen, a slave. Relating subject to object, to perform is also to facilitate transition. There is an agentive quality to performance, a force, a playing out of identities and histories. ʺEverything in...

  10. 6 Context
    (pp. 146-175)

    Context has not drifted far from its Latin root, contexere, ʺto weave together, interweave, join together, compose,ʺ meanings whose spirit is retained in vernacular terms such as ʺspinning yarns,ʺ ʺweaving lies,ʺ and ʺfabricating tales.ʺ Context contains the word text, which stems from texere, ʺto weave.ʺ Like textile weavings, texts are coherent, detachable, importable items with careers of appearance in different contexts. We tend to think of the text as the fixed component and of contexts as the variable settings into which the text can be placed. The relationship between context and text is far more complex than such a nested...

  11. 7 Tradition
    (pp. 176-197)

    Accept, to begin, that tradition is the creation of the future out of the past. A continuous process situated in the nothingness of the present, linking the vanished with the unknown, tradition is stopped, parceled, and codified by thinkers who fix upon this aspect or that, in accord with their needs or preoccupations, and leave us with a scatter of apparently contradictory yet cogent definitions. More important, I believe, than erecting and polishing a new definition, which would but stand as a monument to the worries of our unmemorable era, is developing an understanding of the concept in the breadth...

  12. 8 Identity
    (pp. 198-222)

    Identity has become the encompassing term for cultural, social, and spiritual wholeness. It also emerges in discussions of territorial integrity, often as a rhetorical ploy in struggles for establishing and maintaining domain. As such, it references many of the most central fictions of our time. Such fictions invite questions, not of their truth value but of their usefulness. Identity invokes a conception of individual and social life that has become ubiquitous but that causes more confusion and confrontation than it designates meaningful social states of being.

    The term presumes the uniqueness of each named whole (Köstlin 1997) even as it...

  13. Contributors
    (pp. 223-226)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 227-237)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 238-238)