Folklore | African Folklore
F609 | 25690 | Johnson


Meets with F301.  Africa is a vast and often misunderstood continent
with over fifty independent nations, more than 1,000 languages, and
even more ethnic groups than languages. This course is designed to
acquaint students with the basic forms of African folklore south of
the Sahara, and with how these traditions influence the larger
cultural matrix which produces them.  An attempt is made in this
class to give the student both an intellectual and an experiential
understanding of the traditions of the continent. Thus a mixture of
lectures, class discussions, and media are included in the course,
which will consist of four units, beginning with an introduction to
the peoples and languages of Africa and to the discipline of
folkloristics. A second unit on oral prose forms will include
sections on folktales and legends. A third unit on oral poetry and
its influence on African cultural behavior will include sections on
the roles of heroic and political poetries in African social
organizations. A discussion of music will be an integral part of this
unit, as music is an integral part of poetry in Sub-Saharan Africa,
often with ethnic groups making no aesthetic difference between these
two forms of expression. The unit will also include mention of
panegyric, elegiac, religious and drum poetries in African social
organizations. The social role of the poet and the political use of
poetry will also be covered. The unit will conclude with a discussion
of the multifarious uses of proverbs in African societies. The fourth
unit on gestural, customary, and material folklore will deal with
such topics as folk dance; the serious and entertaining use of gaming
behavior; religious and secular roles of wood carving; and the whole
economic complex surrounding weaving guilds. Finally, the course will
conclude with a discussion on the total effect of all these
traditions on the larger cultural matrix of African social behavior
through the formation of worldview or weltanschauung.  Two exams and
a final will be administered in this class. Each exam counts 30% of
the course grade, and the final 40% for a total of 100%. Students
will be responsible on exams for all assigned readings and for
materials covered in the lectures.