Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Living Folklore

Living Folklore: Introduction to the Study of People and their Traditions

Martha C. Sims
Martine Stephens
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 312
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Living Folklore
    Book Description:

    Living Folklore is a comprehensive, straightforward introduction to folklore as it is lived, shared and practiced in contemporary settings. Drawing on examples from diverse American groups and experiences, this text gives the student a strong foundation-from the field's history and major terms to theories, interpretive approaches, and fieldwork.

    Many teachers of undergraduates find the available folklore textbooks too complex or unwieldy for an introductory level course. It is precisely this criticism that Living Folklore addresses; while comprehensive and rigorous, the book is specifically intended to meet the needs of those students who are just beginning their study of the discipline. Its real strength lies in how it combines carefully articulated foundational concepts with relevant examples and a student-oriented teaching philosophy.

    eISBN: 978-0-87421-517-5
    Subjects: Sociology, Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. IX-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. CHAPTER 1 Folklore
    (pp. 1-29)

    We know you have heard it before: “It’s just folklore.” We hear it when newscasters are announcing the report of a popular home remedy that does not really cure people (and may actually harm them). We hear it—or might even say it—when a friend is telling a story about the haunted house on the winding street in our neighborhood. People often call something “folklore” to dismiss the validity of the subject they have been discussing.

    To some people, the term “folklore” commonly suggests something is untrue, not real—it’s just a story or an old-fashioned belief. But that...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Groups
    (pp. 30-63)

    If folklore is a way of learning and a way of communicating, then there must be a group of people who need to communicate something to each other. Defining a folk group by how and what it communicates allows us to look at groups formed and maintained by informal means—those not constructed formally as groups by founders with particular rules and guidelines, but held together by the practices and expressions of their members. This is one of the tenets of folklore scholarship: that informal or unofficial shared knowledge is a defining feature of a folk group.

    The concept of...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Tradition
    (pp. 64-93)

    In the approximately 150 years since the discipline began, folklore has been based in the study of tradition. However, the concept of tradition has a much broader conceptual framework as far as folklorists are concerned. Mainstream definitions of tradition bring to mind something generations-old, passed down from an elder to a youth, who then becomes an elder and passes the tradition down to a youth, who then passes it down, and so on. Certainly much folklore is shared in this way, but “tradition” for folklorists entails a cultural understanding of a process or text that is shared within the community,...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Ritual
    (pp. 94-126)

    Groups frequently devise ceremonies or performances that enact deeply held beliefs or values. These are rituals, and they make our inner experiences of traditions visible and observable to members of the group and often to outsiders. Have you been initiated into a club or other organization in an elaborate ceremony? That’s a ritual, one that marks your status as a full-fledged member of the group, and tells the rest of the group and others that membership is important—it makes you special, different from others who don’t belong to the group. If you have ever taken part in or seen...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Performance
    (pp. 127-173)

    Think of the last time you attended a musical performance. It doesn’t matter whether you were listening to a punk band or a country singer, or attending the symphony or the opera. How were people in the audience dressed? Was there an abundance of black clothing? Cowboy hats? Did the lead singer introduce the other band members? Did the crowd sit quietly or stand and sing along? Did any of the performers say “you’re a great audience,” and did the audience cheer? Maybe you took part in a tradition associated with this kind of event or a particular performer: held...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Approaches to Interpreting Folklore
    (pp. 174-201)

    Folklorists have developed interpretive approaches to help them understand texts and performances and present their ideas to others. Many theoretical and analytical frameworks exist, and as with other aspects of the history and study of folklore, interpretive approaches may overlap and change in line with our ongoing explorations in the field. In this chapter we discuss a few of the major theories that have been applied to the analysis of folklore, all of which have influenced and continue to influence the ways we interpret texts.41

    Folklore communicates: it is an ongoing process of expressing information and beliefs within folk groups....

  11. CHAPTER 7 Fieldwork and Ethnography
    (pp. 202-224)

    As much fun as we find reading about folklore to be, nothing can compare to the opportunity to do one’s own ethnographic research, exploring a group and the creative ways in which its members communicate with each other. Ethnography is the process of studying and learning about groups of people, as well as the written description and analysis of those observations. It is through ethnographic research and the written descriptions of their findings in the field that folklorists share their ideas.

    From the early days of the discipline, folklorists have gone “into the field” to study the songs, stories, artifacts,...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Examples of Folklore Projects
    (pp. 225-272)
    Joe Ringler, Mickey Weems, Gary E. A. Saum and Kevin Eyster

    To give you an idea of how folklorists—both experienced and novice—handle writing about their fieldwork, we’ve gathered together four projects for you to read and consider. The researcher-authors have put a great deal of time and energy into their fieldwork and presentation of that work. We are excited by the variety we have to show you: these are researchers and writers with differing levels of experience, and they have approached the different types of folklore with slightly different research methodologies through different types of research. We think each of these projects presents interesting discoveries about group interaction and...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Suggestions for Activities and Projects
    (pp. 273-280)

    The best part of learning about folklore is getting involved in a project and discovering firsthand what folklore is and how it works. The following suggested activities cover introductions to topics, methods, library research and fieldwork, and can easily be built into longer, in-depth writing and research projects throughout the course. There are five categories of activities here:

    Group and Classroom Activities

    Personal Reflection

    Library Research

    Fieldwork Projects

    Integrated Projects (these combine reflection, library research and fieldwork)

    Some of the activities within the different categories are similar to each other, but they are presented with different approaches or goals in...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 281-285)
  15. References
    (pp. 286-292)
  16. Index
    (pp. 293-296)