College Of Arts And Sciences | Folklore in Video & Film
S103 | 0212 | Johnson, J.


Since the beginning of the discipline of Folklore in the mid
Nineteenth Century, many new ways have evolved to spread and
reinforce folk belief and other kinds of folklore, A new term,
Popular Culture, has also evolved to describe these new forms.  The
difference between folklore and popular culture is sometimes very
difficult to determine, but one such difference seems to be that
folklore forms exist in unstandardized multiple variation, while
forms of popular culture exhibit multiple variation that is
standardized.  While topics that interest folklore scholars appear on
film and video, the presentation of such topics are standardized
(changeless) in that they are “frozen” onto film.  This course will
deal with a number of issues of folk belief and world view
reinforced, debated, propagated, and spread by film and video, and it
will explore whether folklore is really altered by standardization.
Many ideas from the past are indeed spread by the cinema, television,
and VCR players in modern America.  The course will also explore ways
of critically viewing and examining folklore on tape and film.

Two varieties of video/film will be examined.  Documentaries are
perhaps the most common medium by which folk belief is communicated
on film.  But dramas are also employed by the true believer.  Samuel
Coleridge suggested in an essay in the late eighteenth century that
readers are asked to “suspend their disbelief” when reading fiction.
It is interesting that neither the documentary nor the drama in this
respect ask its viewer to suspend disbelief.  Both forms are more
related to legends that fictional folktales, because even the dramas
are enacted as “true stories.”

Videos that will be shown in the class include such topics as
Atlantis, the Ark of the Covenant, Bigfoot, the Shroud of Turin, the
Bermuda Triangle, Ghosts, UFOs, Alien Abductions, the search for the
Holy Grail, stigmata, Alien Autopsy, Loch Ness (and other lake
monsters), Near Death Experiences, and the X Files phenomenon.  If
the Truth is out there, perhaps you can find it in this class.