SCAND 230/CLIT 230 (VLPA/I&S)
Course Description, Fall Quarter 2021
Folklore Studies combines the methods and ideas of Anthropology and Literature Studies
A folklorist is interested in describing and understanding living people and their traditions. Every item of folklore (a story, song, custom, or material culture) exists in variants: As it passes from person to person, from generation to generation, from place to place, folklore adapts to new contexts.
This class will focus on traditional literature:
- Folktales (sometimes called fairy tales) have existed for thousands of years. The Brothers Grimm started the academic study of tales in 1812. Since then, many of the world's leading thinkers have been attracted to tales. We will survey two hundred years of ideas about this, the oldest and most widespread form of literature in the world. We will encounter classic tales as retold from Greek Antiquity to current American films.
- Legends are also both old and new. Stories about ghosts and the supernatural world; rumors about witches and demons among us (Slender Man!!); urban legends about alligators in city sewers... Legends are tightly bound to human beliefs and worldviews.
- Traditional poetry. Proverbs are short traditional poems that encapsulate deep, powerful advice. Longer poems, songs, may be familiar as "Happy Birthday" or as foreign as the long mythological epic poem from Finland, Kalevala, which inspired Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings".
Folklore has existed since humans began talking many thousands of years ago...
It is widespread, performed by millions of humans in all of the world's cultures.
But it is usually overlooked, trivialized, or marginalized in "serious" study of literature and culture. This course will add an alternate perspective: Because folklore is common, widespread, and long lived, it is THE KEY to understanding who human beings are!
- Learn classic examples of folklore: folktales such as “Cinderella” and “Dragonslayer” along with their variants; legends about witches, ghosts, and folk heroes; the Finnish epic “Kalevala” and Lithuanian “dainos” (songs), etc.
- Learn classic interpretations and research methods related to the above examples. How did the great folklorists, Grimm, Aarne, Thompson, Hurston, Dorson, Dégh, Wiggins, Brunvand and others analyze folklore?
- DO folklore studies: Collect traditional stories and an oral poem. Transcribe oral texts, and add the contextual information that will make them come alive for future readers of your essays.
- 25% Weekly online multiple choice/short answer quizzes (open book).
- 25% Contributions to class discussions: one assigned post and four peer review/responses to classmates' written assignments (this requirement combines two items formerly separated on the class syllabus).
- 50% Four writing assignments, revised and submitted as a portfolio.
- Henry Glassie, All Silver and No Brass. Purchase at UW Bookstore or other online booksellers. (No e-book available)
- Henry Glassie: Field Work. Documentary film by Pat Collins. Rent for $4.99 (ITunes of Projectr). (1 hr 45 min)
- Lynne S. McNeill, Folklore Rules: A Fun, Quick, and Useful Introduction to the Field of Academic Folklore Studies. Utah State University Press, 2013 [optional purchase at UW Bookstore, or e-book in the UW Library site]
- Henning Sehmsdorf, ed. Scandinavian Folk Belief and Legend [optional purchase at UW Bookstore, or e-book in the UW Library site]
- elected chapters in Alan Dundes, ed., International Folkloristics (Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999) [e-book at UW Library (Links to an external site.)]
- Other readings, available online or uploaded to this class website