COAS | Folklore in Video & Film
S103 | 0076 | Johnson

Seminar 0076 9:30a-10:45a TR

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.