E f325K • Introduction to Folklore and Folklife
2:30 PM-4:00 PM
We use the word folklore in two senses: first, to identify a kind of subject matter--traditional, stylized, artful human products like games, proverbs, fairy tales, nicknames, jokes, and so forth that people employ(ed) in the course of everyday socializing (especially people who live[ed] in small-scale communities or belong[ed] to tightly-knit groups) and that they've usually learned from other people rather than from institutional sources, like the media or the school curriculum--and second, to denote the field of study specializing in that kind of subject matter. In other words, just as linguistics is the study of language, and English is the study of (anglophone) literature, so folklore (sense #2) is the study of folklore (sense #1). The title of this course, Introduction to Folklore, refers to folklore in the second sense as much as in the first sense: it introduces you to ways in which folklorists have conceptualized, analyzed, and interpreted folklore materials over the last hundred years or so. Consequently, the main body of the course is organized according to what folklorists, in their studies, have tried to find out about their subject matter--or, put another way, the kinds of research questions they've asked and tried to answer (thus "doing folklore" in sense #2) about the data of folklore (sense #1). Hence the perhaps-slightly-unfamiliar section headings in the syllabus below: genetics (denoting questions about how folklore materials are born, how transmitted and changed over time, how related to similar-but-different materials, and so on); syntactics (questions about their consistent, recurring, traditional shapes, designs, forms, structures); semantics (folklore materials are human productions, socially shared: what messages are they communicating?); and pragmatics (questions about motives, reasons, purposes, effects: what do people hope to achieve by playing games, telling stories, and so on?).
Please note that faithful class attendance is required. I take attendance first thing each day, and more than three absences for the semester will adversely affect your grade. You cannot pass the course with more than five absences. You should also be a thorough, accurate taker of class notes, since there is no textbook of the conventional sort and the information on which you'll be examined is available only in lectures. Finally, you should also be a competent writer, since all tests and exams require essay answers that are grammatical, coherent, concrete, and convincing. There are two in-term tests, each counting for 25% of your course grade, and one end-of-term final exam, counting for 50%.
Course packet available at Speedway Publishing, Dobie Mall (E 325K)