Our Living Traditions: An Introduction to American Folklore

Our Living Traditions: An Introduction to American Folklore

Our Living Traditions: An Introduction to American Folklore

Our Living Traditions: An Introduction to American Folklore

Excerpt

In my wittier moments, I like to describe folklore as a bastard field that anthropology begot upon English. And the Victorian vignette of the nouveau riche father who has deserted his child and the aristocratic mother who fosters an offspring she never really wanted is not an inaccurate one. It summarizes the history of folk studies in American universities quite succinctly. It is particularly appropriate to the University of Pennsylvania.

Folk studies at the University of Pennsylvania began over twenty years ago, when the late MacEdward Leach, influenced by his training as a medievalist and his friendship with anthropologist Frank Speck, began converting already established English courses into studies of the ballad and of the use of folklore by British, American, and Celtic authors. By 1962 Leach's enthusiasm, sound scholarship, and Celtic charm had created such an ardent clique within the Department of English that something had to be done to answer its particular needs. Thus, the Graduate Group in Folklore and Folklife was born. It is that Group, along with the Voice of America, which sponsored the Forum out of which this book has grown. Seven of the contributors, in addition to the editor, are part of what is sometimes referred to as "Mac's Pennsy Gang."

What has happened at Pennsylvania has also happened at other places, sometimes with equal success, more often to die a-borning. Folklore at Indiana University, once the only American institution to offer a full program in the field, has flourished under the . . .

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