Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Postmodern: Folklore and Contemporary Literary Theory
Part of being an academic entails reading ponderous and complex scholarly arguments - sometimes this process is enlightening and worthwhile, and sometimes it is merely being a party to an author's "I-am-more-erudite-than-thou" complex. This last description may call to mind some writers loosely associated with postmodern movements in literary theory like Jacques Derrida. Indeed, some of the writing by these contemporary theorists is byzantine, baffling, and even bizarre - and that's when you can understand it. Several folklorists have viewed deconstructive philosophies, in particular, suspiciously if not with hostility. My focus is not to refute these critiques of, or complaints about theory, nor is it to assert that postmodern theories are without problem. The purpose of this article is an initial elucidation of places where some "literary" theories and folkloristic theories intersect, the ways they can be useful to each other, and some critiques of such theorizing. I should note that, although I focus on this theory particularly in terms of its literary implications (hence the second part of this essay's title), the postmodern theories that I am discussing are truly interdisciplinary - they draw on and are used in many fields.
“Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Postmodern: Folklore and Contemporary Literary Theory.” Southern Folklore 51.2(1994):107-20.