Alas, Poor Ghost!
In the rational modern world, belief in the supernatural seemingly has been consigned to the worlds of entertainment and fantasy. Yet belief in other worldly phenomena, from poltergeists to telepathy, remains strong, as Gillian Bennett's research shows. Especially common is belief in continuing contact with, or the continuing presence of, dead family members. Bennett interviewed women in Manchester, England, asking them questions about ghosts and other aspects of the supernatural. (Her discussion of how her research methods and interview techniques evolved is in itself valuable.) She first published the results of the study in the well-received Traditions of Belief: Women and the Supernatural, which has been widely used in folklore and women's studies courses. "Alas, Poor Ghost!" extensively revises and expands that work. In addition to a fuller presentation and analysis of the original field research and other added material, the author, assisted by Kate Bennett, a gerontological psychologist, presents and discusses new research with a group of women in Leicester, England.
Bennett is interested in more than measuring the extent of belief in other worldly manifestations. Her work explores the relationship between narrative and belief. She anticipated that her questions would elicit from her interviewees not just yes or no replies but stories about their experiences that confirmed or denied notions of the supernatural. The more controversial the subject matter, the more likely individuals were to tell stories, especially if their answers to questions of belief were positive. These were most commonly individualized narratives of personal experience, but they contained many of the traditional motifs and other content, including belief in the supernatural, of legends. Bennett calls them memorates and discusses the cultural processes, including ideas of what is a "proper" experience of the supernatural and a "proper" telling of the story, that make them communal as well as individual. These memorates provide direct and vivid examples of what the storytellers actually believe and disbelieve. In a final section, Bennett places her work in historical context through a discussion of case studies in the history of supernatural belief.
A Shared Space
James S. Griffith
Where it divides Arizona and Sonora, the international boundary between Mexico and the United States is both a political reality, literally expressed by a fence, and, to a considerable degree, a cultural illusion. Mexican, Anglo, and Native American cultures straddle the fence; people of various ethnic backgrounds move back and forth across the artificial divide, despite increasing obstacles to free movement. On either side is found a complex cultural mix of ethnic, religious, and occupational groups. In A Shared Space James Griffith examines many of the distinctive folk expressions of this varied cultural region.
Brian Sutton-Smith, Jay Mechling, Thomas W. Johnson, and Felicia R. McMahon
A collection of original essays by scholars from a variety of fields—including American studies, folklore, anthropology, psychology, sociology, and education—Children's Folklore: A Source Book moves beyond traditional social-science views of child development. It reveals the complexity and artistry of interactions among children, challenging stereotypes of simple childhood innocence and conventional explanations of development that privilege sober and sensible adult outcomes. Instead, the play and lore of children is shown to be often disruptive, wayward, and irrational. The contributors variably con-sider and demonstrate "contextual" and "textual" ways of studying the folklore of children. Avoiding a narrow definition of the subject, they examine a variety of resources and approaches for studying, researching, and teaching it. These range from surveys of the history and literature of children's folklore to methods of field research, studies of genres of lore, and attempts to capture children's play and games.
Fairy Tale Films
Pauline Greenhill and Sidney Eve Matrix
In this, the first collection of essays to address the development of fairy tale film as a genre, Pauline Greenhill and Sidney Eve Matrix stress, "the mirror of fairy-tale film reflects not so much what its audience members actually are but how they see themselves and their potential to develop (or, likewise, to regress)." As Jack Zipes says further in the foreword, “Folk and fairy tales pervade our lives constantly through television soap operas and commercials, in comic books and cartoons, in school plays and storytelling performances, in our superstitions and prayers for miracles, and in our dreams and daydreams. The artistic re-creations of fairy-tale plots and characters in film—the parodies, the aesthetic experimentation, and the mixing of genres to engender new insights into art and life— mirror possibilities of estranging ourselves from designated roles, along with the conventional patterns of the classical tales.”
Here, scholars from film, folklore, and cultural studies move discussion beyond the well-known Disney movies to the many other filmic adaptations of fairy tales and to the widespread use of fairy tale tropes, themes, and motifs in cinema.
Folklore and the Internet: Vernacular Expression in a Digital World
Trevor J. Blank
Folklore and the Internet is a pioneering examination of the folkloric qualities of the World Wide Web, e-mail, and related digital media. It shows that folk culture, sustained by a new and evolving vernacular, has been a key, since the Internetýs beginnings, to language, practice, and interaction online. Users of many sorts continue to develop the Internet as a significant medium for generating, transmitting, documenting, and preserving folklore. In a set of new, insightful essays, contributors Trevor J. Blank, Simon J. Bronner, Robert Dobler, Russell Frank, Gregory Hansen, Robert Glenn Howard, Lynne S. McNeill, Elizabeth Tucker, and William Westerman showcase ways the Internet both shapes and is shaped by folklore.
Folklore/Cinema: Popular Film as Vernacular Culture
Sharon R. Sherman and Mikel J. Koven
Interest in the conjunctions of film and folklore is stronger and more diverse than ever. Documentaries on folk life and expression remain a vital genre, but scholars such as Sharon Sherman and Mikel Koven also are exploring how folklore elements appear in, and merge with, popular cinema. They look at how movies, a popular culture medium, can as well be both a medium and type of folklore, playing cultural roles and conveying meanings customarily found in other folkloric forms. They thus use the methodology of folklore studies to analyze films made for commercial distribution. The contributors to this book look at film and folklore convergences, showing how cinema conveys vernacular culture in traditional and popular venues. Folklore/Cinema will be of interest to scholars from many fields---folklore, film studies, popular culture, American studies, history, anthropology, and literature among them---and will help introduce students in various courses to intersections of film and culture.
Folklore in Utah: A History and Guide to Resources
Over thirty scholars examine the development of folklore studies through the lens of over one hundred years of significant activity in a state that has provided grist for the mills of many prominent folklorists. In the past the Folklore Society of Utah has examined the work of such scholars in biographical and other essays published in its newsletters. This book incorporates those essays and goes well beyond them to include many other topices, offering a thorough history of folklore studies and a guide to resources for those pursuing research in Utah now and in the future. The essays survey the development and contributions of folklore studies in Utah from 1892 to 2004 but also represent developments in both academic and public-sector folklore throughout the United States. Following a thorough historical introduction, part I profiles the first folklorists working in the state, including Hector Lee, Thomas Cheney, Austin and Alta Fife, Wayland Hand, and Lester Hubbard. Part II looks at the careers of prominent Utah folklorists Jan Harold Brunvand, Barre Toelken, and William B. Wilson, as well as the works of the next, current generation of folklorists. Part III covers studies in major folklore genres, with essays on the study of material culture, vernacular architecture, and Mormon, ethnic, Native American, and Latino folklore. Part IV examines public folklore programs including organizations, conferences, and tourism. Back matter describes academic programs at Utah institutions of higher education, summarizes the holdings of the various folklore archives in the state, and provides a complete cross-indexed bibliography of articles, books, and recordings of Utah folklore.
Simon J. Bronner
Following Tradition is an expansive examination of the history of tradition—"one of the most common as well as most contested terms in English language usage"—in Americans' thinking and discourse about culture. Tradition in use becomes problematic because of "its multiple meanings and its conceptual softness." As a term and a concept, it has been important in the development of all scholarly fields that study American culture. Folklore, history, American studies, anthropology, cultural studies, and others assign different value and meaning to tradition. It is a frequent point of reference in popular discourse concerning everything from politics to lifestyles to sports and entertainment. Politicians and social advocates appeal to it as prima facie evidence of the worth of their causes. Entertainment and other media mass produce it, or at least a facsimile of it. In a society that frequently seeks to reinvent itself, tradition as a cultural anchor to be reverenced or rejected is an essential, if elusive, concept. Simon Bronner's wide net captures the historical, rhetorical, philosophical, and psychological dimensions of tradition. As he notes, he has written a book "about an American tradition—arguing about it." His elucidation of those arguments makes fascinating and thoughtful reading. An essential text for folklorists, Following Tradition will be a valuable reference as well for historians and anthropologists; students of American studies, popular culture, and cultural studies; and anyone interested in the continuing place of tradition in American culture.
Ghost and the Japanese: Cultural Experience in Japanese Death Legends
Michiko Iwasaka and Barre Toelken
The Japanese have ambivalent attitudes toward death, deeply rooted in pre-Buddhist traditions. In this scholarly but accessible work, authors Iwasaka and Toelken show that everyday beliefs and customs--particularly death traditions--offer special insight into the living culture of Japan.
Haunting Experiences: Ghosts in Contemporary Folklore
Diane E. Goldstein, Sylvia Ann Grider, and Jeannie B. Thomas
Ghosts and the supernatural appear throughout modern culture, in any number of entertainment, commercial, and other contexts. Popular media's commodified representations of ghosts can be quite different from what people believe about them, based on tradition or direct experience. Belief and tradition and the popular or commercial nevertheless continually feed off each other. They frequently share space in how people think about the supernatural. In Haunting Experiences, three well-known folklorists broaden the discussion of ghost lore by examining it from multiple angles in various modern contexts. Diane E. Goldstein, Sylvia Ann Grider, and Jeannie Banks Thomas take ghosts seriously. They draw on contemporary scholarship that emphasizes the basis of belief in experience and the usefulness of ghost stories. And they look closely at the narrative role of such lore in matters such as socialization and gender. Together, they unravel the complex mix of mass media, commodification, and popular culture that today puts old spirits into new contexts.
Scholars in folklore and anthropology are more directly involved in various aspects of medicine—such as medical education, clinical pastoral care, and negotiation of transcultural issues—than ever before. Old models of investigation that artificially isolated "folk medicine," "complementary and alternative medicine," and "biomedicine" as mutually exclusive have proven too limited in exploring the real-life complexities of health belief systems as they observably exist and are applied by contemporary Americans. Recent research strongly suggests that individuals construct their health belief systmes from diverse sources of authority, including community and ethnic tradition, education, spiritual beliefs, personal experience, the influence of popular media, and perception of the goals and means of formal medicine. Healing Logics explores the diversity of these belief systems and how they interact—in competing, conflicting, and sometimes remarkably congruent ways. This book contains essays by leading scholars in the field and a comprehensive bibliography of folklore and medicine.
Luisa Del giudice and Gerald Porter
An international ensemble of folklore scholars looks at varied ways in which national and ethnic groups have traditionally and creatively used imagined states of existence-some idealizations, some demonizations-in the construction of identities for themselves and for others. Drawing on oral traditions, especially as represented in traditional ballads, broadsides, and tale collections, the contributors consider fertile landscapes of the mind where utopias overflow with bliss and abundance, stereotyped national and ethnic caricatures define the lives of "others," nostalgia glorifies home and occupation, and idealized and mythological animals serve as cultural icons and guideposts to harmonious social life.
Italian Canadian Luisa Del Giudice looks at the rich Italian variants of the traditional gastronomic utopia called Il Paese di Cuccagna, the Land of Cockaigne, "a mythic land of plenty where rivers run with 'milk and honey' (wine, beer, coffee, or rum), food falls like manna from heaven, work is banished, and no one ever grows old" and considers its persistence in immigrant worldview. From New Delhi, Sadhana Naithani examines the "preface-d space" that as India, colonial British authors imagined and passed on to readers in formulaic prefaces to collections of Indian folklore. Reimund Kvideland, of Norway, and Gerald Porter, an English scholar teaching in Finland, show how nineteenth-century Norwegian and English railway navvies (itinerant laborers) idealized their low-status occupations in song. In a second essay, Gerald Porter demonstrates through broadside ballad texts the role of caricatures of the Welsh, Scottish, and Irish in constructing "Englishness." Turks were among the "others" Germans demonized, as Tom Cheesman, who teaches in Wales, explains in his paper on their historical representations in German street ballads. Cozette Griffin-Kremer of France paints a sweeping picture of the landscape of the mind that written and popular traditions of Scotland, Ireland, and Wales built around bovine bodies, the human-cow partnership, and the mysteries of domestication, thereby providing conceptions of transcendence of the human condition. Finally, Vaira Freibergs, a scholar and the current president of Latvia, explains the images of longing for idealized childhood homes that married women, exiled by a patrilocal culture, expressed in Latvian folksong.
Japanese Demon Lore
Noriko T. Reider
Oni, ubiquitous supernatural figures in Japanese literature, lore, art, and religion, usually appear as demons or ogres. Characteristically threatening, monstrous creatures with ugly features and fearful habits, including cannibalism, they also can be harbingers of prosperity, beautiful and sexual, and especially in modern contexts, even cute and lovable. There has been much ambiguity in their character and identity over their long history. Usually male, their female manifestations convey distinctivly gendered social and cultural meanings.
Oni appear frequently in various arts and media, from Noh theater and picture scrolls to modern fiction and political propaganda, They remain common figures in popular Japanese anime, manga, and film and are becoming embedded in American and international popular culture through such media. Noriko Reiderýs book is the first in English devoted to oni. Reider fully examines their cultural history, multifaceted roles, and complex significance as "others" to the Japanese.
Jesus in America
Claudia Gould draws on fieldwork she conducted, as an anthropologist, in North Carolina, where she earlier spent large parts of her childhood, among a net of paternal relations. From that ethnography and from lifelong observation, she crafts stories that lay open the human heart and social complications of fundamentalist Christian belief. These stories and the compelling characters who inhabit them pull us into the complicated, variable core of religious experience among southern American Christians. Jesus in America, a perceptive work rich with cultural insight, is a singular addition to the growing genre of ethnographic fiction.
Listening for a Life
In one sense a folklorist's portrayal of a notable folk artist's life and art, Listening for a Life is equally a rethinking of the processes involved in such work, not only in how the folklorist conveys her subject but in how her subject constitutes and performs herself into being through dialogue with others: those present, those once present, those imagined and anticipated.
Drawing on Bahktinian and feminist theory, Sawin pushes forward our understanding of the interactive roles of ethnographer and subject and in the process gives us a deeper understanding of folk singer and storyteller Bessie Eldreth and her greatest art, herself.
Living With Stories
In essays about communities as varied as Alaskan Native, East Indian, Palestinian, Mexican, and African American, oral historians, folklorists, and anthropologists look at how traditional and historical oral narratives live through re-tellings, gaining meaning and significance in repeated performances, from varying contexts, through cultural and historical knowing, and due to tellers' consciousness of their audiences.
Los Dos Mundos
Mexican Americans make up the largest minority in Idaho, yet they seemingly live in a different world from the dominant Anglo population, and because of pervasive stereotypes and exclusive policies, their participation in the community's social, economic, and political life is continually impeded.
This unique ethnographic study of a small Idaho community with a large Hispanic population examines many dimensions of the impact race relations have on everyday life for rural Mexican Americans.
Laughter, contemporary theory suggests, is often aggressive in some manner and may be prompted by a sudden perception of incongruity combined with memories of past emotional experience. Given this importance of the past to our recognition of the comic, it follows that some "traditions" dispose us to ludic responses. The studies in Of Corpse: Death and Humor in Folklore and Popular Culture examine specific interactions of text (jokes, poetry, epitaphs, iconography, film drama) and social context (wakes, festivals, disasters) that shape and generate laughter. Uniquely, however, the essays here peruse a remarkable paradox-the convergence of death and humor.
Two studies here focus on joke cycles concerning disasters and celebrities, particularly as spawned or mediated through television and the Internet. One offers an exhaustive look at Internet humor that followed "September 11," and the other interprets the influence of television as especially fertile for the proliferation of humor about mass icons and disasters. Other essays examine the social leveling through laughter at festivals and calendar customs associated with Mexican Day-of-the-Dead traditions, and another highlights the role of the Haitian family of playful, erotic death spirits known as Gedes during Carnival. A chapter on The Grateful Dead shows how the folkloric name and ludic iconography of this rock band nurtured participatory, egalitarian cultural scenes of collective merriment. Another essay inspects Weekend at Bernie's, a film employing the humorous manipulation of a corpse-a time-honored folk motif also explored in chapters on the "Irish wake" and the "merry wake." In another essay, we saunter through the contemporary American cemetery, noting the instances and import of humor in gravemarker texts.
Taken together these essays provide a wide variety of interpretations for complex expressive forms that link death and humor, and that appear to unite groups through their own aesthetics of laughter. By letting down their guard together when encountering communications normally judged as unpleasant, people collectively affirm their own taste and "sense" of humor, in the face of official culture and even death itself.
Once Upon a Virus: AIDS Legends and Vernacular Risk Perception
Diane E. Goldstein
Once Upon a Virus explores how contemporary, or "urban," legends are indicators of culturally complex attitudes toward health and illness. Tracing the rich tradition of AIDS legends in relation to current scholarship on belief, Diane Goldstein shows how such stories not only articulate widespread perceptions of risk, health care, and health policy, they also influence official and scientific approaches to the disease and its management. Notions that appear in narratives of who gets AIDS, how and why, are indicators of broad issues involving health beliefs, concerns, and needs.
Out of the Ordinary
This contributed volume explores the functions of belief and supernatural experience within an array of cultures, as well as the stance of academe toward the study of belief and the supernatural. The essays in this volume call into question the idea that supernatural experience is extraordinary.
Peculiar Portrayals: Mormons on the Page, stage, and Screen
Mark T. Decker and Michael Austin
In a time when Mormons appear to have larger roles in everything from political conflict to television shows and when Mormon-related topics seem to show up more frequently in the news, eight scholars take a close look at Mormonism in popular media: film, television, theater, and books.
Some authors examine specific works, including the Tony-winning play Angels in America, the hit TV series Big Love, and the bestselling books Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith and The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint. Others consider the phenomena of Mormon cinema and Mormon fiction; the use of the Mormon missionary as a stock character in films; and the noticeably prominent presence of Mormons in reality television shows.
Proverbs are the Best Policy
Widely considered the world's greatest living proverb scholar and known as the author of, among numerous other books, the Encyclopedia of World Proverbs and the coeditor of A Dictionary of American Proverbs, Wolfgang Mieder has brought particular attention and understanding to the uses of proverbs in politics. In this new collection of eight essays, he considers the role of proverbial speech in the American political scene from the Revolutionary War to the present.
Mieder introduces this survey with an examination of what characterizes American proverbs, what are their origins, and how they have spread internationally with the expansion of America's political role. He then turns to the origins and varied historical uses of what has become the defining proverb of American democracy, "government of the people, by the people, for the people." The employment of proverbs had no brighter exponent among the nation's founding generation than Abigail Adams, who was not without influence despite the exclusion from political office of women. As they have for so much, her abundant letters provide rich sources for politically charged proverbs.
Though it is especially associated with Abraham Lincoln, "a house divided against itself cannot stand" is a biblical proverb that has proven of wide value as a political expression. Frederick Douglass's proverbial prowess paralleled that of his contemporary Lincoln, and he employed it effectively in his battle for civil rights. Given proverbs' enduring role in American politics, it is an interesting exercise to compare how United States presidents have employed them in their inaugural addresses, which have produced such gems as John F. Kennedy's "ask not" dictum. The bonds Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill formed through the World War II alliance were expressed in the proverbial language that frequently enlivened their correspondence. Having addressed these aspects of the proverb in American politics, Mieder winds up by considering the sociopolitical significance of the ambiguous proverb "good fences make good neighbors."
So They Understand
Illustrated with numerous stories collected from Alaska, the Yukon, and South Africa and further enlivened by the author's accessible style and experiences as a longtime oral historian and archivist, So They Understand is a comprehensive study of the special challenges and concerns involved in documenting, representing, preserving, and interpreting oral narratives. The title of the book comes from a quotation by Chief Peter John, the traditional chief of the Tanana Chiefs region in central Alaska: "In between the lines is something special going on in their minds, and that has got to be brought to light, so they understand just exactly what is said."
William Schneider discusses how stories work in relation to their cultures and performance settings, sorts out different types of stories-from broad genres such as personal narratives and life histories to such more specific and less-often considered types as presentations at hearings and other public gatherings-and examines a variety of critical issues, including the roles and relationships of storytellers and interviewers, accurate representation and preservation of stories and their performances, understanding and interpreting their cultural backgrounds and meanings, and intellectual property rights. Throughout, he blends a diverse selection of stories, including his own, into a text rich with pertinent examples.
William Schneider is curator of oral history and associate in anthropology at the Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he introduced oral history "jukeboxes," innovative interactive, multimedia computer files that present and cross-reference audio oral history and related photos and maps. Among other works, his publications include, as editor, Kusiq: An Eskimo Life History from the Arctic Coast of Alaska and, with Phyllis Morrow, When Our Words Return: Writing, Hearing, and Remembering Oral Traditions of Alaska and the Yukon.
The Anguish of Snails: Native American Folklore in the West
After a career of working and living with Native Americans and studying their traditions, Barre Toelken has written this sweeping study of Native American folklore in the West. Within a framework of performance theory, cultural worldview, and collaborative research, he examines Native American visual arts, dance, oral tradition (story and song), humor, and patterns of thinking and discovery to demonstrate what can be gleaned from Indian traditions by Natives and non-Natives alike. In the process he considers popular distortions of Indian beliefs, demystifies many traditions by showing how they can be comprehended within their cultural contexts, considers why some aspects of Native American life are not meant to be understood by or shared with outsiders, and emphasizes how much can be learned through sensitivity to and awareness of cultural values.
The Fierce Tribe
In this ethnography that documents the folk nature of popular culture, Mickey Weems applies interdisciplinary interpretation to a subject that demands such a breakdown of intellectual boundaries. The Circuit, an expression of gay culture, comprises large dance events—gatherings, celebrations, communions, festivals. Music and dance drive complex, shared performances—electronic house music played by professional DJs and mass ecstatic dancing that engenders communitas. Other performances, from drag queens and concerts to contests, theatrics, and the individual display of muscular bodies are part of the festivities.
Body sculpting through muscle building is strongly associated with the Circuit, and masculine aggression is both displayed and parodied. Weems, a participant-observer with a multidisciplinary background in anthropology, folklore, religious studies, cultural studies, and somatic studies, considers the cultural and ethical dimensions of what to outsiders might seem to be just wild, flamboyant parties. He compares the Circuit to other traditions of ecstatic and communal dance, and uses his grounding in African-Brazilian Candomblé and in religious studies to illuminate spiritual experiences reported by Circuit participants. And, as a U.S. Marine, he offers the nonviolent masculine arrogance of Circuiteers as an alternative to the violent forms of masculine aggression embedded in the military and much of western culture.
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