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AFS Review: News

Frank de Caro (1943-2020)

Sunday, March 22, 2020   (1 Comments)
Posted by: Jessica Turner

Frank de Caro died this morning at Lambeth House in New Orleans. He was 76. Frank served as president of the Fellows of the American Folklore Society in 2017 and 2018.

Frank was Professor of English Emeritus at Louisiana State University, where he taught from 1971 to 2004, except for one year as a visiting professor in folklore at University of Texas (1974-75). He grew up in New York City, earned an undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins University, taught English on a Fulbright in India from 1966 to 1967, and then studied folklore at Indiana University, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1972. He joined the American Folklore Society at the age of 18 because he wanted a subscription to the Journal of American Folklore.

Frank is the author or editor of thirteen books, and he has published articles and reviews in virtually all of the important journals in the field. He published Women and Folklore: A Bibliographical Survey, and he co-authored American Proverb Literature: A Bibliography. He is the co-author (with his wife, folklorist Rosan Jordan) of Re-Situating Folklore: Folk Contexts in 20th Century Literature and Art, a landmark book on how "two different forms of communication--literature and folklore--interrelate in the twentieth century."

He is also the editor of The Folktale Cat (a book Frank has said he decided to do because a publisher told him books about cats sell better than any other books), and The Folklore Muse: Poetry, Fiction, and Other Reflections by Folklorists. His Louisiana scholarship includes Folklife in Louisiana Photography: Images of Tradition and Louisiana Sojourns: Travelers' Tales and Literary Journeys, which received the Louisiana Humanities Book Award.

In 2013, he published two books, Folklore Recycled: Old Traditions in New Contexts and Stories of our Lives: Memory, History, Narrative, a masterpiece of memoir writing with a scholarly premise. As president of the Fellows, Frank wrote the 2018 Francis Lee Utley lecture, "Herder, the Grimm Brothers, and Richard Dorson's Antiquarians: A New Look," read by Elliott Oring, Frank's colleague and friend since graduate school at Indiana.

Frank served as the first chairman of the Louisiana Folklife Commission and worked closely with the Louisiana Folklife Program. He also served as president of the Louisiana Folklore Society and editor of the Louisiana Folklore Miscellany. He continued to contribute articles regularly to the journal, and plans are already in place for a special edition of the Miscellany in Frank's honor. 

Frank and Rosan moved to New Orleans after they retired, a year before Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. As Frank wrote, "The timing was not entirely propitious." They experienced the "odyssey of displacement" for over two months before they could return to their home. Frank's latest book, Downtown Mardi Gras: New Carnival Practices in Post-Katrina New Orleans (co-edited with Robin Roberts and Leslie Wade), will be released this month.

In the last chapter of Stories of Our Lives, "Katrina: We Leave, We Return, Stories Abound," Frank writes about the stories and urban legends in New Orleans after Katrina, and wonders about and worries about the future of New Orleans. He says, "Those of us who are folklorists can't stop thinking about what the narratives may be telling us about that future--or at least our local visions of it."  It adds to this great sadness that Frank will not be here to help us understand the narratives we're hearing now.

Frank was so special to so many people. He will be profoundly missed.  We send our sympathy and love to Rosan.

Marcia Gaudet, President of the Fellows of the American Folklore Society 


Update on 3/30/20:


Fernando Orejuela says...
Posted Monday, March 23, 2020
Truly saddened. He was not my teacher in the traditional sense but by way of AFS annual meetings--especially in the 1990s. Truly saddened. My deepest sympathy to Rosan.

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