Academic journal article Western Folklore

The Storied Time of Folklore

Academic journal article Western Folklore

The Storied Time of Folklore

Article excerpt

Time is intrinsic to Folklore.1 As a subject, Folklore emerged in the context of modernity and explicitly referenced a conscious understanding of time's passage-the master narrative of temporal progress. Folklore posited an alternate and conservative response to what was, nonetheless, acknowledged as modernity's inevitable rupture with the past (Anttonen 2004). Folklore's role in the formation of national narratives, and the consequent shaping of national subjects further locates it firmly within the discourses of modernity and the nationalist project. As object, Folklore's temporality defined not only the material collected and preserved, but from whom, as well as the manner in which it was re-presented. Folklore's retrieval into the present served as a palliative to time's inexorable progress, its pending disappearance rendering it automatically distressed.

If time is intrinsic to Folklore and constitutive of its raison d'être, it is, nonetheless, consistently under-theorized and taken for granted as absolute and homogeneous:2 a time that is in irreversible, linear succession from time-not-yet to time-no-longer (Nadal 2011). This dominant Aristotelian logic (Physics book 4, part 12) has conventionalized a common-sense presumption that "time is immanent to, hence coextensive with the world" (Fabian 1983:11-12). But while Folklore itself, emerging out of modernity, has adhered to this conventional notion of time, those very forces brought about by the "Shock of the New" (Hughes 1991) and against which folklore was seen as an antidote destabilized any secure notion of time such that the temporalizing of time itself has been described as modernism's central problem (Scott 2006: 183), preoccupying the likes of Einstein, Heidegger, and Henri Bergson. In 1889 Bergson challenged the concept/convention of linear time as "real time." Rather, for him, chronology was an illusion made possible through the spatialization of time: "succession cannot be symbolized as a line without introducing the idea of space" (1910 [1889]: 103). Chronological time was a symbolic representation-the tracks of time in space-rendered a visible and measurable but nonetheless "spurious" concept (89). Bergson contrasts measurable, linear time with his real time or "duration"-that pure consciousness of the lived moment, a temporality that is qualitative, not quantitative and not spatialized. Heidegger (2010 [1927]) follows Bergson in his critique of the convention of "clock time," and here it is important to examine the role of technology-the clock-to synchronize time, to enable the creation of uniform, standardized global time in the service of industry and imperialism. In conventionalizing chronological time, clock time becomes work time becomes "real time," exemplifying what Elizabeth Freeman refers to as chrononormativity-"a mode of implantation, a technique by which institutional forces come to seem like somatic facts . . . forms of temporal experience that seem natural to those whom they privilege" (2010: 3). Folklore's uncritical acceptance of time's succession into its own story-that folklore is a bridge between past and present-not only reasserts a commonsense temporality whose own linearity is, itself, a fiction, but it naturalizes this notion of "real time," thereby reinscribing the logic and discipline of industrial capitalism.

A particular relationship to time thus ideologically underpins the field as it informs its object. This is particularly true of "folk narrative"~Folklore's privileged object, positioned at the intersection of nostalgia and industrial modes of production. This article investigates folk narratives thematically and experientially as potential sites of alternate temporalities1, which resist containment within a homogeneous chronology. In addition, Alan Dundes' work on folk narrative is revisited and reinterpreted in terms of how alternate temporalities are experienced through traditional forms.

FOLKLORE'S TEMPORALITY

In Folklore's own disciplinary narrative, modernity forced an abrupt break with the past and a consequent sudden tear in the social fabric, and Folklore's "11th hour" salvage operation (Kirshenblatt-Gimblett 1998: 300) was thus premised on the precipitous obliteration of the traditions of the past that were falling in the face of inevitable progress. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.