The Folklore Muse: Poetry, Fiction, and Other Reflections by Folklorists

By Dolby, Sandra K. | Western Folklore, Summer/Fall 2010 | Go to article overview

The Folklore Muse: Poetry, Fiction, and Other Reflections by Folklorists


Dolby, Sandra K., Western Folklore


The Folklore Muse: Poetry, Fiction, and Other Reflections by Folklorists. Edited by Frank de Caro. (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2008. Pp. vii + 244, cover illustration, acknowledgments, introduction, sectional editorial commentary, notes, list of contributors. $29.95 cloth.)

As editor of this volume, Frank de Caro has offered readers an anthology of literary pieces written by folklorists, works that, as de Caro suggests, reflect in an especially creative way "the folklorist's endeavor." In his "Introduction" he outlines some of the questions this anthology poses simply by its very existence: Do folklorists "use" folklore differently than do writers who are not folklorists? Are ethnographic and creative writing substantially different kinds of writing? Is the kind of writing these folklorists are doing more personal than would be more conventional scholarly writing? De Caro does not presume to answer such questions with this volume, but he does express the hope that the collection will stimulate readers' thinking on these and other issues.

The book grew out of a request sent out a few years ago for literary works (poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction) that the authors deemed "specifically related to their being folklorists." I remember when that call for submissions went out. I thought it a wonderful thing, primarily because it asked the authors to make that decision themselves - i.e., did they feel their literary performances clearly reflected their identity as folklorists? Quite aside from the collection's contribution as an emerging kind of professional writing, the anthology represents a perhaps inchoate set of criteria whereby folklorists recognize their fellows, their own "folk group." In this case, it seems to include insights into the creative process and a talent for revealing the value of traditions in human life - something folklorists typically do whether writing ethnographies or writing literature.

Though the authors made the decision to submit their works to the editor, it was Frank de Caro who slotted each work into a specific category and arranged the collection according to that emergent taxonomy (and wrote brief headnotes for each section). Like an earlier fine editor - Richard M. Dorson - de Caro contributed much to the discipline simply by helping us envision how these disparate works do all reflect aspects of the folklorists endeavor. In fact, it is interesting to note how closely de Caro's categories adhere to ones Dorson (1971 [1957]) would have accepted as "proof of biographical, internal, or corroborative evidence in assessing the authenticity of folklore in a work of literature.

The nine categories de Caro designated are: Being or Becoming a Folklorist; Fieldwork, Folk Communities, Informants; Performance; The Powers of Narrative; Legend and Myth; Material Traditions, Material Things; Children's Lore and Language; Ritual and Custom; Worldview and Belief. …

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