AMCULT 219 - Survey of American Folklore
Section: 001
Term: FA 2007
Subject: American Culture (AMCULT)
Department: LSA American Culture
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

This course is a survey of the unofficial culture that has helped shape the American experience, with special emphasis on oral literature, conventional belief, and traditional lifeways. Together we examine various forms of folklore: from the tales of witches and devils that preoccupied the 17th century to the urban legends of "vanishing hitchhikers" of today. The course will feature special sections on dance, material culture, and folk music — especially the emergence of the blues as a musical force. This course helps us understand what it is to be "American" and how we define that status through our traditions and beliefs.

Intended audience: Undergraduates in general.

Course Requirements: 3 quizzes (essay), final essay exam, collection project (1500-word essay, collection items, transcriptions, etc.)

Class Format: Students are expected to attend two 1.5 hour lecture sessions each week.

This course bridges many areas of American Culture offerings and draws them together through the common threads of belief, custom, tradition, and ritual. It introduces students to the broad field of folklore that encompasses philology, anthropology, literary studies, and the humanities in general. The collection component is especially valuable to American Culture students since it introduces students to fieldwork methodology and asks them to produce a collection that will be accessioned into the American Culture Folklore and Oral History Archives. LSA undergraduates gain a valuable insight into the ways in which our cultural and ethnic backgrounds not only differ, but are brought together with many of the same traditions and customs. Folklore, as a universal phenomenon is a perfect topic to address issues of diversity and our mutual commonalities.

The Survey of American Folklore falls naturally within the realm of humanities due to both its history and major paradigms. With its roots in philology, the earliest folklore studies were combinations of linguistics and literature. More recently folkloric studies have begun to include some social science methods within its research tools, but it still remains largely in the humanities. Bishop Thomas Percy (a member of the Antiquarian movement) published one of the first folkloric texts in 1765 with his "Relics of Ancient English Poetry" in which he considered folklore (the rude survivals of the past) as something worthy of collection. The Romantic Movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries believed that the true soul of a people could only be found in its lore, hence scholars such as Herder (1800) and the Brothers Grimm created the foundations of the discipline to be known as folklore: fieldwork, theoretical perspectives, its link with linguistics, and its universality. By 1846 Wm Thoms coined the term folklore to mean "the lore of the people," which explains the discipline's link to the humanities (in many universities and colleges folklore is offered through the English Department). Theoretically, folklore can be divided into several paradigmatic approaches: the Hemispheric School which traces American folklore to its roots; the Folk Cultural School which takes an holistic approach to folk cultural studies; Mass Cultural studies that deal with the material artifacts manufactured by the folk that give meaning to their understanding of the world; and the Oral Formulaic School in which the text becomes the focal point of the scholar. These methodologies, coupled with the history of folkloristics, make it entirely appropriate to be considered Humanities.

AMCULT 219 - Survey of American Folklore
Schedule Listing
001 (REC)
MW 8:30AM - 10:00AM
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