Folklore | American Folklore, Worldview, & Tradition of Belief
F625 | 2434 | Dolby


In this course we shall examine a few of the many topics that could
be considered within the broad heading of American worldview—with a
special emphasis on the role of folklore and tradition in expressing,
maintaining, and challenging values and beliefs.  Because this is
such a large topic and because not all significant avenues of
exploration can be covered even minimally in a single semester, I
have chosen to highlight areas I find most compelling.  These areas
arise from five general conceptual or topical concerns in the
discipline:  1) the interplay between personal and cultural belief
and practice; 2) tacit patterns of behavior, taste, and value; 3) the
overlap between popular culture and folklore (especially in such
materials as self-help books, legends, and novels) and their joint
role in expressing traditional values; 4) ways of identifying an
American cultural frame of reference; and 5) the role of oral
narrative and traditions of belief in mainstream religion.

The format of the course will be a seminar, and the expectation will
be that all participants will read and discuss the assigned books and
will prepare one collaborative (with a partner) discussion.  In
addition to this important participation, the major requirement of
the course will be either a research paper or an analytically framed
documentary (a field-based paper or a documentation in alternate
format, subject to approval).  Books ordered for the course include
some classic studies—Linda Dégh’s American Folklore and the Mass
Media, Alan Dundes’ Interpreting Folklore, Stewart and Bennett’s
American Cultural Patterns, and Herbert Gans’ Popular Culture and
High Culture—as well as some surprises. Please join us and let a
stimulating seminar context contribute to the development of your own
project or paper on some aspect of American worldview.