Academic journal article Folklore

Editorial Note

Academic journal article Folklore

Editorial Note

Article excerpt

The articles in this special edition of Folklore concern, in one way or another, the historian's attitude towards, and relationship with, folklore and folklorists. They all originated in a conference jointly hosted by The Folklore Society and the Warburg Institute in 2000 (Hopkin 2001).

In his introductory article, Peter Burke suggests that since the 1970s the two disciplines have entered into an "age of rapprochement." It is certainly true that in recent decades historians, in what might be considered some of the "cutting-edge" areas of the discipline--social history, history from below, history of popular culture, historical anthropology, microhistory, history of everyday life--have mined folklore collections for ethnographic sources. However, as David Gentilcore points out in this volume, historians have still tended to treat folklore as a "closed corpus" of texts. While they have been happy to use the material assembled by folklorists, historians have been less ready to engage with folklore theories and methodologies. The view was, and in some quarters still is (see Caroline Oates' review of Per Binde's Bodies of Vital Matter in this volume), that folklorists' analyses were tainted by a set of ideological prejudices, most of which could be traced back to the discipline's origins in German romantic nationalism. More recently, with the "cultural turn" in history, the trend has been to criticise nineteenth-century folklorists for reifying "the folk." Folklore, rather than offering insights into the world of the poor and illiterate, was a discursive construct used by elites to justify their continued authority, cultural as well as political, over subordinate classes. …

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