Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: A Reader

Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: A Reader

Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: A Reader

Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: A Reader


The reader's essays complement those included in the introduction, extending the discussion in diverse directions, alerting the reader to new problems, and introducing alternating perspectives.


Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: A Reader is designed to accompany Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: An Introduction. The thirty-four essays included here are organized according to the chapter headings of that introductory volume. This common organization is meant to simplify the articulation of the essays in the two books.

Although the volumes are designed to be used together, they also can be used separately. The essays in this reader have been chosen to reflect a broad range of ideas, issues, and perspectives in contemporary folklore studies. They are more than replications or illustrations of the discussion in the introduction. They extend the discussion in diverse directions, alert the reader to new problems, and introduce alternative perspectives. For example, the three essays that appear in the "Occupational Folklore" section of this volume broach the functional theory of magic, introduce performance perspectives, and highlight the romantic and commercial forces that condition public display. These, however, are not the ideas and issues central to the chapter "Occupational Folklore" in the introductory volume.

Many of the essays in this volume focus on American folklore and this emphasis is deliberate. Analyses and interpretations of cultural phenomena with which students have some familiarity are the most likely to provoke critical response, since students can draw upon their own experience for counterexamples. Furthermore, it is familiar, commonplace experience that is the genuine measure of our theoretical achievement. If the theories of folklorists and anthropologists yield no compelling insights into our own everyday behaviors, they are unlikely to provide a framework for understanding the practices of others.

I do not mean to suggest that the study of other cultures holds little value or that it must necessarily await our own self-knowledge. The study of the self and the study of others are one and the same process. We come to see ourselves only through our reflections and refractions in others. The study of folklore can never be commensurate with the study of a single society. Indeed, essays concerning folk traditions in other cultures have been included in this volume to register the imperative to look beyond our own social and cultural boundaries. Whether we are making any headway in understanding the human condition, however, will first be registered through insights into our own behavior and belief.

Each essay in this volume is preceded by a brief headnote. Neither summaries, analyses, nor critiques, the headnotes frame key questions or issues to orient the reader and promote recall. References cited in the headnotes direct the reader to related discussion and are keyed to the "References Cited" section in the back of the book.

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