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Folklore and Literature Section

The Folklore and Literature Section of the American Folklore Society is dedicated to the advancement of the study of folklore and literature. Together with the Folklore and Literature discussion group of the Modern Language Association, the Folklore and Literature Section meets annually at the AFS annual meeting to plan forum discussion and paper presentation sessions. We promote each other in this field of scholarly work and encourage the participation of new members. Dues for membership in this section are $10 annually.

To encourage exploration of folklore and literature theory, the Folklore and Literature Section sponsors annual paper panel and forum sessions at the annual American Folklore Society meeting. At the section meeting and during these panel and forum sessions, we discuss developments in folklore and literature and further investigate the relationship between the two fields. Our meetings provide an opportunity for the discussion of our work as folklorists and literary scholars. We are continually working to build a community of American Folklore Society members actively engaged in folklore and literature method and theory. Our joint meeting with the AFS@MLA section works to that end and fosters the exchange of ideas and resources among scholars working in both fields.


2012 Session Sponsored by the Folklore and Literature Section

Folklore and Fiction: This session interrogated the relationship between folklore and fiction, asking questions about the relative importance of tradition, authenticity, materiality, and other affiliated qualities when folkloric subjects are represented in a fictionalized manner. Our papers paid special attention to fiction as a laboratory for folklore, a place where folklore, folk worldviews, and the folk themselves can be recreated and reconfigured. Moreover, we placed our interrogations alongside the relatively recent emergence of creative nonfiction as a discrete genre, arguing that fiction retains unique abilities in the representation of both folk groups and their folklore.   Todd D. Richardson (University of Nebraska, Omaha), chair  

Shelli Homer (University of Missouri). Reclaiming the Space of the South in the African American Literary Imagination. In her most recent work of criticism, The Scary Mason- Dixon Line (2009), Trudier Harris argues that "African American writers have played a large role in creating a negative mythology of the South” that has continued into the 21st century. I will be arguing that there is a significant shift in the treatment of the South by black writers beginning in the mid-1970s. In my paper, I will focus on Raymond Andrews’s Muskhogean County trilogy to argue that following the end of Jim Crow, black writers create a positive mythology around the South, transforming it from a space of alienation to a space of healing through rural black communities  

Todd D. Richardson (University of Nebraska, Omaha). Folk Identity and Imagined Folk in A Confederacy of Dunces. "When a true genius appears in the world,” Jonathan Swift wrote, "you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” Serving as the epigraph to John Kennedy Toole’s Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, Swift’s statement does not describe a folk identity per se, yet it is a folk group (the confederacy of dunces) that makes this identity discernible. I will discuss how this manner of differentiation, specifically difference generated via the refusal of folk belonging, animates Ignatius Reilly, the central character in Toole’s portrait of New Orleans and the French Quarter.  

Shelley Ingram (University of Louisiana, Lafayette). Vrai Americain: James Baldwin and the Folklore of Whiteness. James Baldwin once said that "people invent categories in order to feel safe. White people invented black people to give white people identity.” But anytime that writers write, they are creating a people—and created people have created folklore. I am going to explore how Baldwin creates a folklore of "whiteness” in his novels Giovanni’s Room and Another Country by investing the body of his white characters within a mythology of American cultural identity in a way that actually displaces "whiteness” as the central marker of identity for his white characters.  

Elaine J. Lawless (University of Missouri).  Killing the Missionary: The Delights and Perils of Ethnographic Fiction. This paper will explore how the term "ethnographic fiction” is being used in scholarly and market discourse. Rarely defined, the term is aligned broadly with ethnography, creative ethnography, creative nonfiction, and memoir (Narayan 1999, 2007; Lawless 2009). The term is applied to works written by ethnographers who choose a "fictive” mode, but it is also being used to market works by fiction writers as an impulse toward verisimilitude and "truth.” I will contend that "ethnography” is being co-opted for markets of exploitation as well as colonial impulses.

2010 Sessions Sponsored by the Folklore and Literature Section

Teaching Folklore and Literature

Mary Magoulick, chair  

Timothy H. Evans (Western Kentucky University), Nancy McEntire (Indiana State University), Danielle Roemer (Northern Kentucky University), David Stanley (Westminster College)  

Imagining a Sense of Place: Community Responses to Literature

David A. Allred, chair 

  • Alina Dana Weber (Indiana University), "Costuming” the Land: Layers of Space and Performance in German Karl May Festivals
  • Marcia Gaudet (University of Louisiana, Lafayette), Ernest J. Gaines and Community Responses to the Imagined False River Landscape
  • David A. Allred (Snow College), The Saga of the Sanpitch: Literary Performances of Community History

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