History and Theory of Folklore Studies

Theories, Concepts & Ideas

Age of Exploration

1400 - 1699

EUROPE-- beginnings of the concept of cultural difference; a dichotomy of civilized/savage starts; romanticizing & "other"ing; travel literature starts (considered very early ethnographic works)


1500 - 1699

Writers talked about folk poetry; divide between what is considered FOLK (low art) v. LITERATURE (high art); folk traditions became parts of personal works

Salon Culture

1600 - 1700

France-- Fairy Tales as a literary genre: took from oral traditions and wide variety of narratives, writings for other 'elite' audiences
European tale influences: Panchatantra (India), Arabian Nights (Middle East), Aesop's Fables (Ancient Greece) -- motifs

The Enligtenment

1600 - 1799

Progress through science and exploration; must "prove" through experimentation; truth through discovery; Descartes (Cartesian philosophy); early ethnology (comparative cultural studies) -- emphasis on differences, folk knowledge is less than ("eradicate peasant ways")

Rousseauian Thought

1700 - 1800

Jean-Jacques Rousseau -- "Noble Savage" (strength of people close to nature, indigenous peoples, 'innocent childhood state of man'); valuing traditions for preservation, not for the people or because it is viable or should be it; the authentic could be found with the peasants


1760 - 1899

valuing of the folk; folklore a a means to reconnect with ancestors; Nation-States are developing, replacing empires, and boundaries (they have a shared language and culture); the authentic was marvelous, found in folk poetry


1800 - 1899

Collecting past culture for authenticity; authenticity meaning truth, found in manuscripts; romanticizing the folk, but cared more about the lore; origins; lore is dying; authenticity found in texts and written documents
Late 19th cent: science in the field; creation of professions and disciplines

First Major Schism

1890 - 1895

amateurs vs. professionals
Chicago Folklore Society (Bassett): 1893's Worlds Fair, had a more successful exhibit than AFS (Newell and Boas)

Coming of Age

1950 - 1960

the first generation of trained folklorists graduated

New Folkloristics

1960 - 1979

Performance-based; folklore as a science


1970 - 2000

post-modern ethnography: issues of representation, reflexivity: of attitudes, assumptions, aware of bias, interactions, how presence affects people; theory is never stable; "local" is not homogeneous; challenges the "grand narrative"; multi-layered; language is not purely referential; commentary on society; multivocal: not one fixed meaning for a symbol; representing different voices

Folklife Movement

1970 - 1979

Don Yoder

Politics of Cultural Representation

1970 - 1979

debates of ethnicity and awareness; revival/survival of tradition and acculturation

Reevaluating Tradition

1980 - 1989

challenged the ideas of authenticity; the invention of tradition
JAF Handler & Linnekin (1984): tradition is a model of past and inseparable from interpretation in the present

Publications & Terms

Contes de ma Mere L'Oye


Charles Perrault, also known as Mother Goose; also wrote Countess d'Aulnoy's -- Contes de Fees (Fairy Stories); part of Salon Culture; solidified fairy tales as a literary genre

Scienza Nova


Giambattista Vico; localized history-- environment, landscape, history shapes cultures; beginnings of cultural relativism



James Macpherson; Scotland; "The Illiad of England"; works were found to be Macpherson's own; claimed the works was from 3rd century Celtic bard; prenationalism

Reliques of Ancient English Poetry


Bishop Thomas Percy; English; saved a collection of ballads from a fire and "improved/corrected" them; manuscripts were the most authentic

Kinder- und Hausmarchen


Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm: the first scholarly collectors of folklore; developed methods and approach (had a scholarly agenda); collected myths and folktales too
Children and Household Tales -- Romantic Nationalism; reflected the German soul; "lore is the stuff to be gleaned from the soil, the folk is close to the soil"
1819 edition: had an "anxiety of loss" as editing created a more Christian message



Elias Lonnrot -- "the Finnish Grimm"; epic poem, reconstructed; he collected oral poetry and song, creative composite text; considered the National Epic of Finland



William John Thoms

Slave Songs of the United States


Romantic racialism; about black folksong and their commodification; slaves were seen as a vanishing culture; cared more about the songs than the people

Chips from A German Workshop


Max Muller: solar mythology; questions about why Greek mythology had a lot of violence (traced back to Sanskrit, it was wrong-- the "disease of language"); solar instances = dieties; study literature to understand language; development of religions comes from relationship with nature (worship of nature): light v. dark is the basis of myth
Original meaning of words were lost, so people created stories to replace it (disease of language), the new stories created new deities, THEREFORE, myths were explanations for phenomena and the layering of meaning in folklore

loss of meaning behind words, myth to explain them, development of folktales

Primitive Culture


Edward Tylor; unilineal cultural evolution; stages of cultural evolution (savage, barbarism, civilization); survivals = folklore; past remains from early stages

Uncle Remus: His Songs and His Sayings


Joel Chandler Harris; part of the debate of African American origins (came from Africa); founding member of AFS, but was later "disowned"

American Folklore Society Starts


1st issue of JAF: Relics of Old English folk-lore, lore of Negroes of Southern States lore of French Canada and Mexico, lore of Native American tribes

"The Method of Julius Krohn"


Kaarle Krohn

"Geography and Folk-Tale Oicotypes"


CW von Sydow

Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads


John Lomax

Verzeichnis der Marchentype


Antti Aarne (student of Kaarle Krohn); Historic-Geographic method

Anmerkungen zu den Kinder- und Hausmarchen der Bruder Grimm

1913 - 1931

Johannes Bolte and George Polivka, 5 volumes; annotated Grimms tales; sources and connections with other tales

Totem and Taboo


Sigmund Freud; incest; communities' use of symbols to avoid taboo; survivals with explanations lost

Tsimshian Mythology


Franz Boas; narrative as a mirror to culture, lost parts of culture can be found in narrative, narratives as a source of cultural information

Folklore Archives at WKU


beginnings of the WKU program by Gordon Wilson

The Uses of Enchantment


Bruno Bettleheim; psychoanalytic approach to fairy tales; tell them, but don't explain them, let them interpret them on their own

A Siberian Taleteller


Mark Azadovski, about individual tale tellers; folklore as a living art, about individuals repertoire

Die Folkloristicshe Arbeeitsmethode


Kaarle Krohn; Historic-Geographic method

The Black Ox


Archer Taylor; Finnish-method to English speaking world

Primitive Art


Franz Boas; every culture has an aesthetic system, but not all are the same; all people have art, not all agree what art is; functional items can be art; any human activity can have aesthetic value; perfection of the technical form is part of aesthetic

The Pueblo Potter: A Study of Creative Imagination in Primitive Art


Ruth Bunzel (studied under Boas); Zuni; considered the individual in the tradition

The Proverb


Archer Taylor

Motif Index of Folk Literature

1932 - 1937

Stith Thompson, 6 volumes

Patterns of Culture


Ruth Benedict

Zuni Mythology


Ruth Benedict; critiqued of comparative approach (Historic-Geographic only studied one part, instead of the full body of narratives, extensive rather than intensive); cultural lag: there is a purpose for aspects of a narrative that is not found in the present culture, folkloristic daydreams (i.e. polygamy and infanticide); attacks communal authorship (individual is recognized within community), there is a fixed limit but creative (stock devices) -- narrator adapts within the culture

Folklore at OSU


Utley started the program in the 50s

The Kind and Unkind Girl


Warren Roberts, first dissertation at Indiana University

"The Four Functions of Folklore"


Wiliiam Bascom; oral narrative is ignored by anthropologists, needs the social context of folklore, the function is cultural specific
V(alidation)- justify rituals and institutions
E(scape) - Benedict's daydreams
E(ducation)- teaching aspects through culture and mirroring
M(aintaining conformity)- approve and disapprove behaviors

But, there are also other functions, and one big function

Motif Index of Folk Literature

1955 - 1958

Stith Thompson, revised 6 volumes

Singer of Tales


Albert Lord (studied under Parry, who studied under Kittredge); oral-formulaic theory; epic through performance

The Types of the Folktale


Aarne- Thompson (AT)

Folktales and Society


Linda Degh, Hungarian folklore; English translation in 1969

"The Star Husband Tale"


Stith Thompson; Historic-Geographic Method, diffusion; cared about the principal traits; Native American tales were not influenced by Europe-- they are "less contaminated"; striped down to the skeleton of the type/basic tale

University of Texas- Austin


Center of Folklore Studies opens; taught Richard Bauman, Roger Abrahams, and Jose Limon; in the 80s: Kay Turner, Decarta, Jordan (Women's Section of AFS)

Rationle of the Dirty Joke


Gershon Legman; had to move to France due to obscenity laws; interested in erotic folklore and unprintable folklore; argued that repressed sexuality leads to aggression

The Folk Games of Children


Brian Sutton-Smith; work in developmental psychology and children's folklore, interested in childhood development through stages; how to tell acculturation; founding member of the Children's Folklore Section in AFS

Toward New Perspectives in Folklore


changed the notions of authenticity from the text to context (the experience and the performer); challenged the use and purpose of the idea of genre; cared about the authenticity of the event

M.A. at WKU


started under Lynwood Montell, who graduated from the program while it was still in the Center of Inter-Cultural Studies under D.K. Wilgus

"Psychology, Psychoanalysis, and Folklore"


David Hufford; not all psychological approaches are psychoanalytic; people believe psychological approaches require a laboratory context

"Three Functions of Folklore: Traditional Functionalism as Explanation in Folkloristics"


Elliot Oring
Folklore is not scientific with Functionalism; interpretation vs. explanation; inadequate to find origins; Functionalism is circular; untestable; need hypothesis

"Into the Endzone for a Touchdown: A Psychoanalytic Consideration of American Football"


Alan Dundes; folk speech, clothing, and stance suggest a homoerotic relationship within the folk group in football

The Terror that Comes in the Night


David Hufford; experience in different culture (hagging); experience-center approach: experience happens before outside knowledge of it; similar narrative cross-culture, experience outside of culture

The Invention of Tradition


Hobsbawm and Ranger, historians; individuals establish a pseudo-continuity with the past; part of reevaluation of traditon

"The Psychoanalytic Study of Folklore"


Alan Dundes; argued for psychoanalytic interrelationship of folklore; cared about the meaning; contextual use of all versions; reciprocal relationship between psychoanalytic and folklore; projection vs. projection-inversion

American Folklore Scholarship: A Dialogue of Dissent


Rosemary Zumwalt
First major history of discipline: rhetorical, reflexive stance
The Dialogue of Dissent refers to anthropology v. literary and science v. humanity; anthropology: oral tradition and broad idea of the folk (who were still considered "the other"); literary: lore was broad (oral, material, customary), but the folk were considered peasants and remnants for Europe

"Phantoms of Romantic Nationalism in Folkloristics"


Roger Abrahams
A warning about the politics of culture and the role of the folklorist; nationalism disenfranchises others and the practice of glorifying traditions can be slippery; fine line between folk group and stereotypes: heterogeneous groups, challenge 'groups'; folklorists are still anti-modern; critic of "land-language" lore: natural connection between land, people, and language is actually of construct

"The Creator Gods: Romantic Nationalism and the En-genderment of Women in Folklore"


Jennifer Fox; the way we have developed as a discipline, our "mythology" of the field, effects how we study today- women as folk and folklorists have been ignored; the value of calling a nation the Motherland vs. the Fatherland

In Search of Authenticity


Regina Bendix
Authenticity was created from modernity; cultural purity (authentic) versus hybridity (spurious); lack of authorship makes it "authentic" folklore; authenticity is not inherent
it is about the paradigm shifts in the discipline: reflexive look that questions the past

Fire in the Placa


Dorothy Noyes; an example of post-modern ethnography; traces the history and cultural context of the Patum in Catalonia as the nation-state that faces the pressures of globalization and negotiates their heritage with tourism; vernacular Durkhiem (everything has a function to sustain a stable society) and vernacular Freud (metaphors in everyday language looking at symbols, not people)
Heritage is "an enactment of Berga's unity"; the Patum is a museum of itself; complication due to being forced to remain what it once was instead of being allowed organic change; UNESCO World Heritage Sites create a static narrative

The Types of International Folktales: A Classification and Bibliography


Hans- Joerg Uther (ATU); revised the Tale Types; more widespread scope geographically; added new variants and more specific

People & Places

Giambattista Vico

1668 - 1744

Professor of Rhetoric; critic of Descartes (Cartesian philosophy)-- other means of reaching truth and knowledge beyond math and science; language and culture interaction; cannot study culture outside of time and place; can study time through language; Scienza Nova (1725)

Johann Gottfried Herder

1744 - 1803

ROMANTIC NATIONALISM -- pride in OUR culture (pride in German folk poetry); volkslied = folk song, folk poetry = naturpoesie, where nation's soul resides; considered the "father" of the field; not "one" history, but through each nation; the oldest materials were the most authentic, and therefore the best; believed there was a strong division between the rural and the urban, and as peasants moved into the cities, they lost their 'folkness'

Henry Rowe Schoolcraft

1793 - 1864

"father of American folklore"; "total science of man"; cultural evolution; American Ethnological Society; Native American oral tradition: understood it as literary, but flawed (so rewrote), and that it contained important cultural information
"Algis Researches" (1839)

Theodor Benfey

1808 - 1881

Early ideas of diffusion; everything can be traced back to India; German philologist ; diffusion of literature and narrative; only looked at written traditions

Francis James Child

1826 - 1896

Literature at Harvard; English and Scottish Ballads (1882-1898); authenticity = from manuscripts; predates the Ballad Wars

John Wesley Powell

1834 - 1902

Bureau of American Ethnology (1879-1902), where they collected Native American cultures and was the Center of American Anthropology; cultural evolutionist

Julius Krohn

1835 - 1888

diffusion; student of Lonnrot; cared about the archetype; created the methodology for comparing all available versions (both written and oral versions); considered the oldest = most simple and perfect; "Age-Area" Hypothesis: the further it is from the starting place, the newest variant, more diffused = the older the story

Alice Fletcher

1838 - 1923

Presided of AFS in 1905
Founder of the American Anthropology Association
lobbied for the Dawes Act--- backfired

William Wells Newell

1839 - 1907

AFS brainchild; studied children's folklore; Songs and Games of Children (1883); folklore as oral tradition; anthropology-side of the early schism; included Native American's folklore as part of the scope of AFS

Fletcher Bassett

1847 - 1893

Chicago Folklore Society, Society died with him; amateur folklorists

Sigmund Freud

1856 - 1939

similar interests at 19th century folklorists
survivals are symbols at the individual-level
Why do people believe irrational things? Why do they appear in different places?
Totem and Taboo (1913)
psychic unity of development of humans: "ontogeny repeats phylogeny"

Frank Cushing

1857 - 1900

mentored by Powell
believed in immersion fieldwork to become a master of native culture; studied the Zuni

Emile Durkheim

1858 - 1917

Founder of the French school of sociology; social facts: shape individuals, exist outside of people, collective conscious; mechanical (small society, "simpler", individual shares everything, less room for individuality) and organic (separation of labor and aspects of individuals) solidarity

Franz Boas

1858 - 1942

Columbia; cultural relativism, heterogeneous nature of groups; fieldwork; folklore as a subset of anthropology; against cultural evolution, but for diffusion; authenticity needs to come from accurate transcriptions in original languages; "primitive societies" have same psychological diversity; narrative as a mirror of culture: valuing what people tell; JAF editor from 1908-1924

"Tsimshian Mythology": narrative as a mirror to culture, lost parts of culture can be found in narrative, narratives as a source of cultural information

"Primitive Art": every culture has an aesthetic system, but not all are the same, all people have art, not all agree on what is art, functional items can be art, any human activity can have aesthetic value, perfection of the technical form is part of aesthetics

Cecil Sharp

1859 - 1924

collected ballads, considered them to be part of "living" tradition; collected tunes and text; Appalachia; worked with Maude Carpols

George Lyman Kittredge

1860 - 1941

studied under Child at Harvard; communal side of the Ballad Wars; encourage the literary people to join after Newell's death in 1907

Kaarle Krohn

1863 - 1933

Historic-Geographic Method; diffusion; studied folktales; cared about what the changes in variants mean; strip the tale down into "simple incidents"

Axel Olrik

1864 - 1917

Epic Laws of Folk Narrative (the formal features that distinguish oral folk narratives from written narratives), only considered European tales

John Lomax

1867 - 1948

Cowboy Songs (1910); romance of the "folk"; "genuine encounters with authentic folk"; studied under Kittredge; living folksong; fieldwork; founder of the Texas Folklore Society

Louis Pound

1872 - 1958

taught Botkin; individual side of the Ballad Wars; Nebraska

Elsie Clews Parsons

1874 - 1941

studied under Boas; Native American languages; studied sociology first and founder of the New School for Social Research; believed strongly in fieldwork; AFS President (1918-1920)

Carl Jung

1875 - 1961

broke up with Freud in 1914
Collective Unconscious- psychic unity of man; we pull from a source of archetypes

Alfred Louis Kroeber

1876 - 1960

studied under Boas; "link" to the West; brought folklore to UCLA

CW von Sydow

1878 - 1952

Swedish; critique of Historic-Geographic/Finnish Method: where are the people? (active/passive tradition bearers); coined oicotypes (localized variants), memorate (personal experience narrative about supernatural stories), fabulate (FOAF, third-hand stories)
active tradition bearers: people who carry stories (diffusion does not happen evenly; linguistic and national barrier may stop a diffusion); people have a selective tradition: oicotypification, agency to communities

Bureau of American Ethnology

1879 - 1902

John Wesley Powell; sponsored fieldwork

A.R. Radcliffe-Brown

1881 - 1955

"structural school" of functionalism; English; aspects of culture are separate from individual; organism/culture is made up of units/individual, units/individuals make up the whole/culture; aspects of culture maintain stability; parts of culture understood in the whole, the individual is irrelevant
Rituals: we create them for anxiety, which is good because we need others, creates cohesive stable group

Olive Dame Campbell

1882 - 1954

collected ballads and handcrafts; brought Cecil Sharp to Applachia to study ballads
founded the Joseph C. Campbell Folk School

Bronislaw Malinowski

1884 - 1942

"psychological school" of functionalism; biology and psychology needs of individuals (customs, narratives, and myths); culture fulfills human needs; myth codifies belief
Rituals: we invent them to overcome anxieties at the individual-level

Stith Thompson

1885 - 1976

studied under Kittredge; brought folklore to Indiana University (1921-1955), edited the Tale Type Index; studied Native American narrative using the Historic-Geographic Method; strip tales down to motifs; particularism of tales (tracking of tales to understand diffusion); diffusion and genetic relationship of tales

Ruth Benedict

1887 - 1948

Zuni Mythology; studied under Parsons, then Boas; editor of JAF (1925-1939); functionalist arguments

Archer Taylor

1890 - 1973

The Proverb; studied under Kittredge; founder of California Folklore Quarterly; editor of JAF in 1941; visited Finland in 1924 and brought Thompson to meet Krohn; The Black Ox (1927)- Finnish-method to English speaking world

Melville Herskovits

1895 - 1963

studied under Boas; African culture; African-American origins of folklore come from Africa; "Dahomean Narrative"

Benjamin Botkin

1901 - 1975

Studied under Pound; published folklore for the folk; "applied folklore"; considered the "father" of public folklore; said that not all folklore is pretty

Francis Lee Utley

1907 - 1974

studied under Kittredge; medieval literature and the role of folklore within it

William Bascom

1912 - 1981

M.A. program at Berkely; AFS president; Malinowski-style of Functionalism

Richard Dorson

1916 - 1981

patriarch of 1950s folklore; taught at Indiana University by 1957; American Folklore (1959); coined the term fakelore- stories that seem like folklore, but are not, also works published for popular culture

D. K. Wilgus

1918 - 1989

studied under Utley; founded the Kentucky Folklore Record; studied hillbilly music; taught Lynnwood Montell; his presidential address: "The Text is the Thing" (reaction to the Young Turks movement)

Linda Degh

1918 - 2014

narrative scholar
"Folktales and Society" (1962, English translate 1965); storytellers in their communities
Taught at Indiana University (1969)
a precursor to Young Turk

Warren Roberts

1924 - 1999

first PhD at Indiana University; "The Kind and Unkind Girl" (1953)

Dell Hymes

1927 - 2009

Authenticity is in performance; tradition is made through process, not time

Alan Dundes

1934 - 2005

taught Zummwalt at UC-- Berkely; psychoanalytic theory