Folklore | COMMEMORATIVE DISCOURSE
F527 | 2245 | J. McDowell
"Commemoration," to remember together, is a primary and primordial social
activity, one associated with significant events, deep meanings, and
transforming experiences. In this seminar we inspect the discourse, creative
and expressive, that accompanies and often accomplishes commemorative acts.
Our main emphasis will be on the verbal, and specifically on spoken,
chanted, or sung speech forms, but we will touch on commemorative discourse
in other expressive media as well, particularly the visual and the musical.
We will examine a series of commemorative performances and genres in an
effort to establish a theory of commemoration linking stylistic effects in
the medium of expression to the articulation of immanent truth. Proverbial
language, mythic narrative, heroic ballad, and ceremonial and ritual forms
of speech -- all contain evidence for this linkage between expressive form
and referential intent. A similar argument can be made for statues erected
to honor famous ancestors, for music that moves people through religious
worship, and for forms of personal adornment that flourish in carnival and
Our goal will be to understand the impact of these commemorative forms of
expression on individuals and on communities. We will explore connections
between commemorative discourse and ecstatic experience, imagined community,
rites of passage, and magico-religious thought, among other topics.
Readings will be drawn from folkloristics, performance studies, the
ethnography of speaking, ordinary language philosophy, and sociolinguistics.
Students will be required to produce a term paper, and there will be a few
shorter exercises as well.