Folklore | Folk Commemoration
F722 | 2436 | McDowell


To commemorate is to remember together, in an intensified mode, and
is without doubt an essential social activity, one associated with
significant events, deep meanings, and transforming experiences. We
are aware of the many large-scale public commemorations, but in this
seminar we explore a different venue, that of folk commemoration, by
which I intend expressions that are likely to exude the qualities of
spontaneity and improvisation and to exist for the most part in
informal, unofficial, and unscripted manifestations.  Our quarry is
those forms of commemoration that are rooted in community tradition,
yet always open to reshaping under the spur of circumstance.

Our first task is to gain a firm handle on the nature of
commemoration and on the discourse that accomplishes it.  Specific
links are made to past events and personages and specific identities
and social status are claimed, through a discourse that is typically
replete with artistic elements and rhetorical ploys.  Next we turn
our attention to a series of folk commemorations, in visual, tactile,
verbal, kinetic, and musical idioms.  Finally, we place our materials
within the larger paradigm of collective memory, viewing folk
commemoration as a valuable arena for formulating and probing a
viable sense of social connection.

Readings are drawn from folkloristics, performance studies, the
ethnography of speaking, and the literature on memory and history.
Students will be asked to carry out some exercises (including
observations of actual folk commemorations), to deliver a class
presentation, and to produce a term paper.  They are expected to
prepare well the readings for each class, and to enter into lively
and informative discussion.