Folklore occurs at every stage of a person’s life, and this chapter covers the way folklore and folklife across, and of, the life course has been studied. Six divisions in the life course that mark traditions of age groups as well as perceived stages in the United States are pregnancy and birth, infancy and early childhood, childhood and adolescence, adulthood, seniority, and death. Although much of the scholarship of age groups has been on the beginning and end of life, I demonstrate the conditions of aging in adolescence through the senior years that generate folklore and should be studied in relation to formation of age-group identity. This chapter emphasizes the use of folklore as an adaptation to aging. It examines the connection of folk traditions to the role that anxiety plays in the aging process, the formation of self and group identity, and the rites of passage that mark transitions from one stage to another. It shows that the presence of invented and emerging traditions indicates changing values and beliefs across the life course and encourages research in age-based research as a basic component of folklore and folklife studies.
Teaching Native American literature to the uninformed student is not an easy task, especially when compared to teaching mainstream literature, African-American literature, Chicano literature, or Asian literature. The teacher of Native literature can help in correcting misconceptions about American Indians by teaching the reality of the American Indian experience in both historic and contemporary times. In this article, the author examines the stakes of being a Native person teaching Native American literature based on her personal experience as a teacher. She also stresses the importance of using novels and short stories to engage students.
Emilio del Valle Escalante
Since the 1980s, Mayas in the Yucatan Peninsula have produced a literary canon that seeks to distance itself from Indigenismo, or literature about the indigenous world by non-Indians. This literary canon, which ranges from poetry to theater, songs, prayers, narrative, testimonies, and legends, is an attempt on the part of the Mayas to affirm and establish their own literary and cultural authority. This chapter examines the origins of contemporary Maya literature in the Yucatan Peninsula, focusing on Jorge Cocom Pech’s 1997 autobiographical account Muk’ult’an in Nool (Grandfather’s Secrets). It looks at the book’s critique of modernity, as well as its affirmation of Maya cultural identity and indigenous knowledge. It also discusses the ambiguities and contradictions in Cocom Pech’s work, which favors a patriarchal Maya order that ignores the contribution of indigenous women.
This article discusses the American constitutional elegy. It argues that American national difference in literature can be tracked in the terms of its engagement with specifically American constitutional principles, concentrating on the national period, beginning in the late eighteenth century with the Revolutionary War and sketching the story up to the present day. It then returns to the great theme of elegy as a flexible form and its practices under persistent self-scrutiny. All choral poetry carries with it an association with the choruses of ancient, especially Athenian, tragedy and thus with the common understanding that the chorus speaks as or on behalf of a democratic citizenry. Marilyn Hacker has written a ‘constitutional elegy’ in the great American tradition, a tradition that continues to challenge our principled commitment to the legal and symbolic bonds of ‘adjacent difference’ in a rights-based national polity.
Alan Dundes (1971) proposed the phrase “folk idea” as a concept folklorists could and should use to link the folk items and practices they usually study to larger patterns in American culture, a goal that other familiar folklore concepts (such as myth and genre) could not accomplish. Folk ideas are “underlying assumptions” and offer people ways to order and understand their experiences. Folk ideas move across levels of culture, entering popular culture and even high culture. Dundes saw the folk idea as the smallest unit of the worldview of a people, recognizing that the concept of “worldview” is as vague as “folk idea” and that both needed to be operationalized through concrete examples. The Dundes project is where American folklore studies and American Studies meet, as American Studies scholars look to American history, literature, and the arts for evidence of larger patterns in American culture.
Caroline Sinavaiana Gabbard
In 1900, Germany and the United States divided the Samoan archipelago into Western Samoa, consisting of nine western islands, and Amerika Samoa, comprised of seven eastern islands. This political partition resulted in the respective development of written literatures in the “two” Samoas shaped by distinctively different sets of cultural exigencies, opportunities, and constraints. This chapter explores the emergence of a modern, distinctively Amerika Samoan literature; specifically, it analyzes Amerika Samoan writing as a discrete body of literature that addresses its historical context, including the dynamics of colonialism and its discontents, along with cultural integrity as modern Samoan aesthetic expression. The chapter first provides an overview of literary genealogies for the two Samoas before shifting to Amerika Samoa, focusing on works by John Kneubuhl, Dan Taulapapa McMullin, Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl, Sia Figiel, and Caroline Sinavaiana Gabbard. It concludes by discussing shifting notions of home, place and displacement, and cultural and gender identities in the literature.
This essay examines Poe’s conception and use of the Gothic via his engagements with the work of earlier writers from Horace Walpole through Ann Radcliffe, William Godwin, Charles Brockden Brown, Mary Shelley, and E. T. A. Hoffmann. Poe’s uses of the Gothic, and his relationship with the work of these writers, was informed by his philosophical materialism and framed by his dialogue with the writings of Sir Walter Scott. Tracing these associations reveals Poe’s transformation of the idea of “Gothic structure” from an architectural model, the ancestral pile of the eighteenth-century Gothic, to one of energetic transformation, the electric pile featured in many of Poe’s tales.
Leigh Anne Duck
This chapter compares James Agee and Walker Evans’s photodocumentary book, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men: Three Tenant Families (1941), with Luis Buñuel’s documentary film Tierra sin Pan/Las Hurdes (1933) in order to argue that, while each of these works is considered unique within the history of its medium, they share a desire to unsettle their audiences by rendering the act of viewing an exercise in prurience and distortion. Thus, the abject traits these texts locate in destitute spaces are matched or even exceeded by those aligned with the source of the gaze. Situating this commonality in relation to their shared theme of uneven economic development and the transnational context of avant-garde aesthetics, the chapter argues against conventional readings of Praise—which describe it as a model of ethical, creatively tortured individualism—by recovering a milieu in which such a pose exemplifies bourgeois egotism.
The study of Asian-American folklore and folklife focuses on the diverse peoples of Asia as they navigate their lives in America. Sharing the historical framework of Asian American Studies, Asian American folklore and folklife studies are informed by, and respond to, a legacy in the United States of racial discrimination, and stereotypes of the Asian “model minority” and “forever foreigner.” More specifically, these studies challenge Eurocentric ethnic folklore theory and method by emphasizing the distinctive ways in which diverse groups within the Asian American rubric create and sustain folkloric identities and raising the question of whether there is an emerging pan-Asian American or transnational identity evident in music and other folk forms. This chapter presents as examples approaches to, and interpretations of, in folkloristic studies of religious observance, artistic expressions, and food cultures in everyday practice of various groups in the United States with backgrounds in China, Japan, India, Pakistan, Vietnam, and Korea. Folklore and folklife scholarship on Asian America should foster a multidimensional perspective approach that counters the image of Asian homogeneity.
This chapter suggests a lens for comparative racialization by engaging representations of Asian Americans within the South’s black-white binary. The documentaries Miss India Georgia and Daughter from Danang, along with Monique Truong’s novel Bitter in the Mouth, explore racial subjectivity along a black-white continuum. These depictions of transnational migration do not simply connect the region to circuits of economic globalization. Rather, southern film and literature perform a sort of surrogacy: the Asian American as stand-in for whites and African Americans who remain latent within these narratives. The portrayal of Asian racial difference in the South emerges through displaced association, through the interplay between (white) idealization and (black) disavowal. The South’s historically burdened context allows for a specific latency of racial meaning as it becomes filtered through the perhaps imperfect subjects of national abjection: Asian Americans.