The importance of regional folklore in ascertaining aspects of world view.
The purpose of this paper is to gain a deeper understanding of the communicative significance of folklore, the social communicative dimension of folklore, expressive practices of folklore, and folklore through oral narratives. These findings highlight the importance of examining the practice of public folklore, folklore's critical role in cultural life, the interpretation of the communication in folklore, the myth of folk culture, and the nature of folklore.
2. The Nature of Folklore in Society
Hermann Bausinger points out that the dissolution of the horizon does not equal the end of folk culture "but carries with it transformations which are different for each individual cultural good and which must be examined precisely." (1) Kvideland notes that for a long time it has been claimed that the narrative tradition has become extinct. "This claim has been repeated so often that many people believe it to be true. But in later years more and more folklorists have discovered that people continue to tell stories, perhaps not the kind of stories folklorists wanted to be told, but people do tell stories." (2) Benedict holds that the study of different cultures has an important bearing upon present-day thought and behavior.
Modern existence has thrown many civilizations into close contact, and at the moment the overwhelming response to this situation is nationalism and racial snobbery. There has never been time when civilization stood more in need of individuals who are genuinely culture-conscious, who can see objectively the socially conditioned behavior of other peoples without fear and recrimination. Contempt for the alien is not the only possible solution of our present contact of races and nationalities. It is not even a scientifically founded solution. [...] We have traveled, we pride ourselves on our sophistication. But we have failed to understand the relativity of cultural habits, and we remain debarred from much profit and enjoyment in our human relations with peoples of different standards, and untrustworthy in our dealings with them. The recognition of the cultural basis of race prejudice is a desperate need in present Western civilization. (3)
Sims and Stephens state that folklore is a way of understanding people (folklore continues to evolve and change). All folklore is expressive, conveying ideas, values, and traditions creatively. Understanding of folklore has developed to center on people and actions. Folklorists study the importance of those expressive acts to the groups that share them. The physical, cultural, and group settings in which folklore occurs is central in understanding any expression of folklore. sharing folklore is a lively activity that teaches individuals about the beliefs and values of the group. (4) As Bascom puts it, prose narrative is an appropriate term for the widespread category of verbal art which includes myths, legends, and folktales: folktales are prose narratives which are regarded as fiction, myths are prose narratives which are considered to be truthful accounts of what happened in the remote past, whereas legends are prose narratives which are regarded as true by the narrator and his audience, but they are set in a period considered less remote. Myth, legend, and folktales are analytical concepts which can be meaningfully applied cross culturally, but differ in the beliefs and attitudes associated with them. Bascom reasons that myth or legend may be accepted without being believed, becoming a folktale in the borrowing society. (5)
3. Expressive Practices of Folklore
Brunvand writes that folklore is the traditional, unofficial, non-institutional part of culture (the folk tradition relies on oral or customary circulation), encompassing
all knowledge, understandings, values, attitudes, assumptions, feelings, and beliefs transmitted in traditional forms by word of mouth or by customary examples. [...] Folklore manifests itself in many oral and verbal forms ('mentifacts'), in kinesiological forms (customary behavior, or 'sociofacts'), and in material forms ('artifacts'), but folklore itself is the whole traditional complex of thought, content and process--which ultimately can never be fixed or recorded in its entirety; it lives on in its performance or communication, as people interact with one another. (6)
Lee points out that traditional folktales have a place in cultural heritage and contemporary everyday culture. Folktales locate meaning in events and outcomes. The embedding and retelling of a traditional story may function as a map of reading. The embedding of traditional stories and folktales enables a polyphony of voices and cultural traditions. Folktales function as a form of cultural memory. (7) According to Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, folklorists typically stress the traditionality of stories about personal experiences, exploring indigenous forms, processes, and occasions of life review (folklore can serve as a primary medium for recovering a life). (8) Folklore is expressive culture and artistic communication. (9) Hymes suggests that much "applied folklore" is part of the tradition with which it deals. "Close study of old texts may not be merely antiquarian, but the means by which old meanings can take on new life, perhaps partly in print instead of the voice. [...] Short of preservation in the form of boxed storage in locked vaults, our efforts to preserve tradition through record, description, interpretation, find their natural end in presentation, that is, in communication." (10) Slobin stresses that the road to folk music knowledge starts with insiders' feelings: folk music keeps changing and adapting, is aurally rich and satisfying, and in the long run emerges from everyday invention (music faithfully supports words, intensifying their meaning). (11)
Ben-Amos argues that the difficulties experienced in defining folklore result from the nature of folklore (verbal art is the sum total of creation of a whole community over time): folklore is not thought of as existing without or apart from a structured group, is an expression of thought, formulated artistically, involves creativity and esthetic response, is a symbolic kind of action, and is artistic communication in small groups (in its cultural context, folklore is a communicative process).
Based on the considerations above, it is not difficult to show that as a communicative process, folklore has a social limitation. Ben-Amos observes that the materials of folklore are mobile, manipulative, and transcultural, the notion of communal re-creation involves a relationship between folklore and time depth, whereas the traditional character of folklore is an accidental quality. Folklore forms are often interspersed in the midst of other modes of social interaction. Once viewed as a process, folklore is a sphere of interaction in its own right. (12)
4. The Social Functions of Folklore
Bascom argues that culture consists of any form of behavior which is acquired through learning, and which is patterned in conformity with certain approved norms.
Under it anthropologists include all the customs, traditions, and institutions of a people, together with their products and techniques of production. A folktale or a proverb is thus clearly a part of culture. [...] The development of an item of folklore must have been invented at some time, by some individual. It can be assumed that many folktales or proverbs, like many other inventions, were rejected because they either did not fill a recognized or subconscious need, or because they were incompatible with the accepted patterns and traditions of folklore or of culture as a whole. If they were accepted, they depended on retelling, in the same way that all cultural traits in a nonliterate society depend upon restatement and re-enactment. (...) In the course of this retelling or redoing, change occurs each time new variations are introduced, and again these innovations are subject to acceptance or rejection. As this process continues, each new invention is adapted gradually to the needs of the society and to the preexisting culture patterns, which may themselves be modified somewhat to conform to the new invention. (13)
Andersen focuses on verbal expressions of folklore, in particular the oral tradition: listening to folkloric stories in social gatherings can provide a shared set of morals and experiences (folklore through oral storytelling is a living tradition). (14) Laba insists that popular culture ranges over as much cultural space as folklore (there is an intersection between the concepts and actual social communicative practices of folklore and popular culture). As an expressive resource in social communication, folklore has consequence through and the dynamics of context (folklore is a popular expressive means of finding a point of anchorage in the maelstrom). "Folklore as a specialized form of communication in context involves a complex of cultural, social, and historical factors that inform, orient, impel, and ultimately constitute the conditions for the emergence and sustained relevance of folkloric expression." (15) Kodish explores public folklore as an occupation committed to broadly democratic cultural participation (U.S. federal agencies have played critical roles in shaping public folklore): cultural health and vital folklore require resisting state-making machineries (the public interest folklore works to cultivate and detoxify the ground and soil of culture). (16)
The results of the current study converge with prior research on conventional conceptualizations of folklore, the relationship between folklore and other aspects of life, conventional ways of looking at folk art as objects, the social functions of folklore, and the identification of social interaction as folklore. As a result of these earlier research findings, this study sought to determine folklore's public responsibility, the liberatory power of folklore, the practice of folklore in public contexts, and the traditional character of folklore. The current study set out to identify the nature of folklore, the examination of folklore as process, folklore as a communicative process, and the social base of folklore.
(1.) Bausinger, Hermann (1990), Folk Culture in a World of Technology. Trans. Elke Dettmer. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 47.
(2.) Kvideland, Reimund (1990), "Storytelling in Modern Society," in Lutz Rohrich and Sabine Wienker-Piepho (eds.), Storytelling in Contemporary Societies. Tubingen: Gunter Narr, 16.
(3.) Benedict, Ruth (1959), Patterns of Culture. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 10-11.
(4.) Sims, Martha C., and Martine Stephens (2005), Living Folklore: An Introduction to the Study of People and Their Traditions. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 1-29.
(5.) Bascom, William (1965), "The Forms of Folklore: Prose Narratives," Journal of American Folklore 78: 3-20.
(6.) Brunvand, Jan (1978), The Study of American Folklore. 2nd ed. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 8-9.
(7.) Lee, Sung-Ae (2009), "Re-visioning Gendered Folktales in Novels by Mia Yun and Nora Okja Keller," Asian Ethnology 68(1): 131-150.
(8.) Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara (1989), "Authoring Lives," Journal of Folklore Research 26(2): 123-149.
(9.) Bendix, Regina (2000), "The Pleasures of the Ear: Toward and Ethnography of Listening," Cultural Analysis 1: 33-50.
(10.) Hymes, Dell (1975), "Folklore's Nature and the Sun's Myth," Journal of American Folklore 88: 355-356.
(11.) Slobin, Mark (2011), Folk Music: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press.
(12.) Ben-Amos, Dan (1971), "Toward a Definition of Folklore in Context," Journal of American Folklore 84: 3-15.
(13.) Bascom, William R. (1965), "Folklore and Anthropology," in Alan Dundes (ed.), The Study of Folklore. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 27-29.
(14.) Andersen, Michael Jon (2010), "Claiming the Glass Slipper: The Protection of Folklore as Traditional Knowledge," Case Western Reserve Journal of Law, Technology & the Internet 1(2): 148-164.
(15.) Laba, Martin (2008), "Parsing the Popular: A Communicative Action Approach to Folklore," Ethnologies 30(2): 253.
(16.) Kodish, Debora (2012), "Imagining Public Folklore," in Regina Bendix and Galit Hasan-Rokem (eds.), A Companion to Folklore. Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 579-597.
Spiru Haret University
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|Publication:||Geopolitics, History, and International Relations|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2011|
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