WHAT COMES UNDER FOLKLORE? Image of girl with a painted US flag on her face

As you will learn in your first week's reading, there really is no accepted agreement as to exactly what the boundaries of folklore encompass. I tend to agree with the simple definition of folklore offered by Archer Taylor: "Folklore is the material that is handed on by tradition, either by word of mouth or by custom and practice" (Brunvand 3). You might wish to look over how The New York Folklore Society responds to the popular question: "What is Folklore." As for our class, well, at times we will appear to stray into anthropology, psychology, music, art or popular culture. Rather than see this as a problem, I see it as simply traveling into the rich borderlands of folklore. If you still feel a bit uneasy about exactly what one might include under folklore, you might want to visit  The American Folklore Society's answer to "What is Folklore?" Anyway, I shall attempt to address (through the Brunvand text, the homefun sheets, our bulletin board, via e-mail, or by assigned web sites) at least the following topics during the semester. Some topics will be only touched on, but others will be covered in depth.
  • Jokes--Practical jokes, lawyer jokes, blonde jokes, sick jokes....
  • Local Legends--including Bigfoot, Lemurians...
  • Myths--creation stories, Native American...
  • Fairy tales--history, function, structure and significance
  • Proverbs--their use and abuse in politics and home
  • Folklore in literature--from Huck Finn to The Color Purple
  • Folklore in Movies--from Alien to Candyman
  • Blessings--serious and funny
  • Curses, cuss words, intensifiers, and insults
  • Riddles--function and types
  • Tongue-twisters and catch questions
  • Gestures--from saying hello to go to heck
  • Folk costumes--yes, you got one too
  • Campfire activities--scary stories, roasted marshmellows, and skits
  • Folk art--from gravestones to train graffito
  • Folk medicine--do you feed a cold or starve one?
  • Folk metaphors and similes--What's it mean to have "short hands and deep pockets?"
  • Charms--from the verbal to the rabbit's foot
  • Lullabies, ballads and blues...
  • Superstitions--yes, you got these too
  • Names--where do they come from? Why do we name our cars, guns and boats?
  • Epitaphs--if you don't create yours, someone else will make up the lie
  • Rhymes--children's, game, memory...
  • Latrinalia--writing on bathroom walls
  • Autograph verse and Limericks
  • Festivals--local and otherwise
  • Customs--calendar customs, pregnancy, turning 21...
  • Ghostlore, UFO reports, and other strange happenings
  • Quilt designs and Xerox lore
  • AND JUST ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE WE HAVE TIME FOR!