E 325L • Anglo-American Folksong
2:00 PM-3:00 PM
This course introduces students to the poetic rather than musical side of traditional British and Anglo-North American folksongsthat 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 Singing in the context of day-to-day home and community life was common until fairly recently, when it was superseded for the most part by professionally produced, packaged, and disseminated songs meant for consumption and profit rather than for use.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 disapprovalthese 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.
(1) a 4-5 page prospectus for a research paper; (2) a revision of that prospectus in accordance with instructor's comments on content, grammar, and writing style of the first version; (3) an 8-10 page research paper.
One three-hour final exam 30%
Regular class attendance is mandatory.