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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Spring 2009

E 325L • Anglo-American Folk Song

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
34330 TTh
2:00 PM-3:00 PM
Renwick, R

Course Description

This course introduces students to the poetic rather than musical side of traditional British and Anglo-North American folksongs--that is, songs that didn't particularly "belong" to anyone but that were simply part of the cultural repertory, sung by ordinary men and women in the course of everyday activities, whether work, play, ritual, or cultural transmission. Singing in the context of day-to-day home and community life was common until fairly recently, when it was superseded for the most part by professionally produced, packaged, and disseminated songs meant for consumption and profit rather than for use. Songs that accompanied labor, recreation, and celebration; songs that expressed heightened emotions in praise and lament; songs that recounted stories of outlaws, natural disasters, lovers separated by parental disapproval--these and many others like them dominated the tastes of anglophone British, American, and Canadian domestic and community singers and listeners for centuries.

In the first half of the semester we'll hear and read folksongs, trying to familiarize ourselves with their conventions of form, rhetoric, and subject matter. In the second half we'll look at examples of folksong analysis, at attempts to answer questions about the traditional histories of particular songs, about their possible meanings (that is, how consonant they are with their holders' world view, ideology, values, tastes), and about their functions as products of a performative, socially-situated behavior: singing.

Grading Policy

(1) a prospectus for a research paper (4-5 pages); (2) a first draft of the research paper (10-12 pages); (3) the final research paper (minimum of ten pages).

Regular class attendance is mandatory.

One three-hour final exam 35%
Papers 65%


Course packet


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