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

Spring 2006

E 325L • Anglo-American Folksong

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
33490 MWF
2:00 PM-3:00 PM
PAR 201

Course Description

The word folksongs, as used in this course, denotes songs commonly heard, learned, and sung by ordinary men, women, and children in the course of daily activities like work, play, ritual, or social interaction. In much of English-speaking Britain and North America, the informal, unpracticed, amateur singing of songs in the contexts of courtship, child-rearing, making a living, celebrating convivial occasions, and other kinds of face-to-face communal activities was common up to the later years of the nineteenth century. By then, increasingly, folksongs were being superseded by professionally produced, packaged, and disseminated "pop" songs that were listened to avidly but seldom entered the repertoires of ordinary people for performance and participation on everyday occasions.

Beginning in the later eighteenth century in Britain, in the early twentieth in the U.S. and Canada, folksong collectors as they were called visited the homes, worksites, and community meeting places-pubs, for example-of mostly laboring people to record the songs they actually sung in daily life. It is these collections of song (made at first with paper and pencil, later with sound-recording machines) that constitute the data folksong scholars study today. Just like the song collectors, we too will be especially interested in a sub-set of Anglo-American folksongs, ballads, our name for songs that tell stories. We will look in depth at English-speaking Scottish, Irish, English, Canadian, and American ballads from oral tradition (another way of saying folksongs), examining them, not as music, but as social "literature" (as a generically stylized way of telling-a-story-in-sung-verse) and as social behavior (as meaningful, functional, shared discourse).

Grading Policy

(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) a 10-12 page research paper. 65%

One three-hour final exam 35%

Regular class attendance is mandatory.


Course Packet


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