Hello and welcome to folklore.  My name is Michael Roesch, and I’ll be your instructor.  What I want to do today is just talk briefly about folklore and what you’re going to be doing at the beginning of the semester and probably what you’re going to have to accomplish during this first week.  Suffice it to say that folklore, at least to me, is all that knowledge that you have acquired apart from your formal education.  And believe it or not, you know an awful lot that you’ve learned from your parents and your interactions with other people.  Such things include jokes, superstitions, legends, local legends like Bigfoot perhaps, urban legends, and even fairy tales that you might have heard as kid.  Maybe you’ve learned some folk arts such as quilt making or wood carving.  Chances are, if you get sick you may have some folk medicine cures that you might consider using.  There are also the superstitions that we all have.  There are the myths and proverbs that have been passed on, even such things as the gestures you use when you were introduced to somebody or you wave goodbye.  And there are the customs, maybe, that you engage in at such things as funerals or maybe the festivals you go to.  Anyways, folklore is quite pervasive and one reason I started studying this, it’s certainly just interesting.

 

I first became interested in folklore when I heard what I later found out to be an urban legend.  And the story, simply put, started with “This honestly happened to a friend’s mother who was residing at a local rest home.”  And according to the informant, the elderly lady, who was not used to leaving Siskiyou County, signed up for one of those little gambling bus trips to Reno, played the slot machines, got tired of doing that, and later she decided to head back up to her room.  So, clutching her little purse to her chest, she walked off to take one of those elevators up to her room.  Just as the elevator door closed, a man jumped in the elevator and sort of out of breath yelled, “Hit the four.”  The elderly lady, somewhat terrified already, thought the man was yelling at her to hit the floor, and she did, she dived for the floor.  The man at first was sort of shocked and then as he realized the misunderstanding he said, “No lady, I said hit the four,” and he was laughing.  Later that night, there’s a little, there’s a knock at her door and it’s one of the bell hops and they’re bringing her a big bouquet of flowers and a fruit basket.  And there’s little note in there and it says, “Sorry about our problem in the elevator” and it’s signed by Richard Pryor.  Well, because my friend told me that it happened to his friend’s mother, I thought, gee, this sounds like it could have happened.  It certainly was a cute story.  It seemed a bit “pat,” but I still thought it might have happened.  Unfortunately, about a week later, I was again at somebody else’s house and the story showed up again, but this time it happened to not a friend of a friend’s mother but actually to somebody’s mother.  Unfortunately, this time, it wasn’t Reno, it was Las Vegas.  And this time it wasn’t Richard Pryor.  This time it was Eddie Murphy who was dropping off a fruit basket.  And I knew something was going on, but I’m not a conspiracy theorist.  I didn’t believe that all black comedians in America were united to deliver fruit baskets to old white ladies from Siskiyou County, so I knew something else was happening.  And luckily, not too long after I heard the story, I was attending a conference where the author of your folklore textbook was at, Mr. Brunvand, and he was talking about some elevator, no I’m sorry, some urban legends that he had heard, and I mentioned this to him.  And when he got done laughing at my gullibility, he informed me that the story had actually been around for about 15 years.  And originally it involved somebody in a New York elevator. According to the story, there were three white women in an elevator when a black man gets in with his dog and the man yells, “Sit.”  And the women thinking that the man was yelling “sit” to them, sat down.  And of course, at that time, I think it was Reggie Jackson is the one who apologizes.  The story has showed up under such names as Wilt Chamberlain, Lionel Richie, O.J. Simpson….  And what we do in folklore is we’ll look at such legends, urban legends or contemporary legends in this case, passed along and we’ll be looking at such things as why are people likely to believe such a remarkable event occurred? Why do they hold a belief like that —even though there are certain contradictory evidences associated with it? And does the particular legend, you know, tell us much about the people who passed it on or talked about it? What does it tells us about our culture?  As folklorists, we tend to believe that most things we do have a reason.  During the semester, you’re going to find out that you are really the folk in folklore and that you’re going to get to share quite a little bit of it.  You’ve got lots of family lore, the things you do on your holidays.  We’ve got folklore that’s associated with your jobs, certain jargon.  You probably are a member of certain interest groups that use special jargon as well. You may be a member of an ethnic group that has certain folk foods, such things as that.

 

During the first week, though, you’re going to have quite a few tasks to do, and it’s kind of a busy week.  For example, you’re going to be reading the course syllabus/first-day handout.  And hopefully as you read the first-day handout, you’re going to have a better understanding of what the course consists of, what exactly will be expected of you.  Briefly stated, as you read over the course syllabus you’re likely to have many questions.  You might want to know why I selected Brunvand’s textbook.  And that question I answered quite well, I believe, in the Frequently Asked Questions  (FAQs) section linked from our homepage.  But anyways, Brunvand’s book, The Study of American Folklore, is the best all-around textbook that addresses such things as the history, the definitions, the broad scope of folklore in a academic manner, well researched, imminently readable, and all in all, I have to say it’s by far the best text out there.  Now, it is an academic text which means that, well, you might not want to read it late at night in bed, necessarily.

 

During this semester, we’ll be doing many types of assignments.  You’ll be doing what I call weekly “homefun sheets”.  I consider them homefun rather than homework.  And the primary purpose of those homefun sheets is to help you in learning the specific folklore of the week that I think is most important and they’re great guides for quizzes and final exam.  Luckily, you won’t have to turn in but two of them, only two of the home funsheets that you’ll do during the semester.  In other words, although you would, if you’re an excellent student, which I’m sure you are, and you’ll want to do those home fun sheets, but only two of the home fun sheets will be turned in for grading.  And there will be more on that on the first day handout. 

 

You’ll also be doing a few what I call “collection sheets.”  And the collection sheets are one of the most important types of folklore skills that you’re going to get to learn this semester.  And you’re going to be collecting certain information about a particular type of folklore, maybe a proverb, and maybe a folk medicine cure, maybe an urban legend.  And you’re going to be reporting on it.  And just like the homefun sheet, there are examples online of exactly what I want for the collection sheet.  And if you follow the exact format, you shouldn’t have any problem with them. 

 

Another thing we’ll be doing throughout the semester, and you’ll be trying it this week, is our folklore conference or discussion board.  The discussion board is a place where we get to, sort of, interact or talk to each other electronically.  And I expect you to be visiting the board probably at least three times a week.  Now you could do that at your own time.  It’s one of the benefits of the Internet class.  You can go there at midnight or eight in the morning or whenever you’d like, but it’s very important for you to spend a little bit time there interacting.  And I think you’ll—actually most of you should - will probably enjoy some of the great discussions we’re going to have on the discussion boards.  

 

You’re also going to end up having to do a course project paper near the end of the semester.  And I have student examples of all things that you can do linked from the homepage.  There are also quizzes, typically almost every week. They’re short, primarily designed to make sure you’re keeping up with the reading and getting out of the reading when I hope you are.  And then we also have a final exam.

 

There’s quite a little bit of information on that first-day handout/syllabus and, in fact, your first quiz will be over the first-day handout, so you’ll want to spend a little bit of time on that.  As far as any general course policies or special warnings, this is a college class so, of course, no cheating, no plagiarizing, anything like that.  I don’t accept late work.  Now, during each week there are a number of links that you’re expected to visit and you’ll just click on them and you’ll go to all these other sites out there.  Some of the sites will be other academic institutions, and they’re certainly well worth you spending quite a little bit of time on.  What I want you at least to do is visit each site that I link to each week and explore them for a moment.  You don’t have to know everything that’s on the sites, you don’t have to spend hours and hours on these other sites, but they’re designed to enrich what you get out of your textbook and to give you good examples.  So, yes, I want you to visit each one of the links.  How much time you spend there will be more dictated by your own particular interest, but you are expected.  Now, be aware that the quality of some of the sites is going to vary.  Some will be academic, and you’ll be able to trust everything they say.  Some of them may not be quite at that level.  So be careful when you see anything out on the Internet, except for information that I put there.  Be careful of anything else out there. Much of what I link to comes from educational organizations, or some expert in the field, or somebody who has at least done a little bit of research because, you know, there is so much on the Internet that is unsupported or simply not true.

 

Even though this course is offered on the Internet, it doesn’t mean that it’s an easy course.  Students typically have to spend as much time on an Internet course (likely more time) than they do in an in-class course. I would say that students doing well in this course (because of the lengthy readings, the numerous links, the many writing assignments) may well spend about nine hours each week on this course.  So you have to be ready to put in the time.  I expect all of your writing to be at the college level.  So even when you post to the discussion board, you know you should do a spell check and ensure that all your writing is relatively free of gross errors and common punctuation problems. 

 

Now, one last little caveat, some of the course content can be offensive to some people. You know, during the semester, you’re going to be asked to collect, read, critically analyze materials that some people may consider offensive. There are lots of jokes, and some of these may be sexist or include racist language. Also, even when examining Native American myths you may find some sexually explicit creation stories out there.  So, if you’re unable to handle adult content, are troubled by conflicting creation stories, or seriously offended by the study of humor,  then you might actually consider taking a different course because there is that sort of material that is covered.  It doesn’t mean that we support that type of material, but if you go out collecting jokes, you may well hear such material. 

 

And about this week, as you—you’re going to see that the course is structured basically the same throughout the semester.  Generally, there’ll be a weekly schedule and you’ll be expected to explore a particular group of links and then you’ll be expected to complete a specific amount of work that’s clearly listed.  Typically, there’ll be a lecture, a reading assignment, and then something for you to respond to on one of the discussion boards. There will likely be a quiz, and even another task or two, but it should be fairly well clear what is expected of you once you’ve seen how each week is done.  So this week, explore the folklore homepage links.  Look around the whole site if you would like.  Spend a little bit time with your textbook by Brunvand.  It truly is a rich text that will be a resource long after you’re out of this class and have moved on.  Lastly, just let me say that I think folklore is one of the funnest courses; it’s one of the most exciting types of course that you could ever take, and I think you will find it enriching.  And lastly, I think that by taking folklore, you’re going to learn an awful lot about yourself and certainly a lot about the community you live in, the people you know, the family that you may live with, and all those around you.  And you’re going to be surprised at how much you learn and the new insights and depth that you have about life and people in general.  And I hope you have a great time.  And if you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me or contact me via the private message option on the discussion board.  Bye.