Folklore | Folklore & the Supernatural
F256 | 31263 | D. Goldstein


Fulfills COLL Arts & Humanities, Culture Studies List B

Statistics gathered by Gallop Poll together with a variety of other
scientific and public opinion surveys indicate that an extremely
large percentage of the American and Canadian population not only
believe in the supernatural, but in fact, believe that they
themselves have had a supernatural or paranormal experience. While
most social science disciplines consider supernatural belief to be
either historical or marginal, it would seem that a substantial
proportion of the North American population, of all ages and social
classes, share in these traditions. If this is the case, two
questions become enormously important. First, why is it that
traditions predicted to decline as scientific rationalism arose,
have not? Secondly, why has the extent of belief in the supernatural
gone unrecognized and underestimated by the academy for so long? By
examining patterns of belief and the features of supernatural
folklore, this course will attempt to understand the nature of
surviving and declining tradition. The course will focus on the
phenomenological features of supernatural traditions; explanatory
frameworks and their internal logic; means of developing and
maintaining belief; functions and structures of belief traditions;
and relationships between genres of belief. The general approach of
the course will be ethnographic, focussing on the ethnography of
belief systems.