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.
For outsiders, the languages of Latino literature are English, Spanish, and code-switching between the two languages. What is more, code-switching is considered a symptom of not knowing either language well. At the same time, Latinos themselves feel anxiety toward perceived deficiencies in both languages. This essay argues that Latino literature offers a complex use of language that can be appreciated through the lens of translation. This essay explores the forms of translation present in Latino literature suggesting that Spanish and English always exist in the presence and under the influence of each other. Discussions of Felipe Alfau, Junot Díaz, and Urayoán Noel highlight the centrality of translation issues in Latino writing ranging from creative output and expression to the making of subsequent versions of literary texts. Overall, considerations of translation in Latino studies can lead to a more complex understanding of the work of translators and multilingual writing in general.
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.
Kiara M. Vigil and Tiya Miles
A recurring and powerful motif in the African-American literature is the crossroads, a black cultural spot marked by the sign of an X. The crossroads also aptly characterizes the nature of Afro-Native literature but, unlike the “double-voiced” discourse in African-American literature and the “hybridized dialogue” attributed to Native American literature, it is a combination of Native American oral tradition, African-American vernacular culture, and modern Western literature. This article examines the writings of black Indians, the so-called red-black literature, and the ways in which African-American, American Indian, and mixed red-black writers articulate the shared and distinctive histories among them. It analyzes a number of novels by Native authors and authors of mixed descent, including Vine Deloria Jr.’s Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto (1969), Alice Walker’s Meridian (1976), Craig Womack’s Drowning in Fire (2001), and Michael Dorris’s A Yellow Raft in Blue Water (1987).
This article mentions the complicated relationship between elegy and the longing for aesthetic redemption; however, such longing is rarely distant from anger and rage, and therefore never far from the effort to make of the AIDS elegy a social genre that could offer the prospect of interaction ‘with the oblivious or indifferent’. The elegy adopts the testimonial precisely because it refuses to turn its back on the ‘urgent concern with the responsibilities of the living’. It then notes the poems by a few of the very well-known gay male poets as evidence of the way in which elegy was being adapted in this writing to the purpose of AIDS witness, somewhat in the manner of a coming out. The intertextual relation of the poems by Ingrid de Kok and Thomas Gunn signifies that here/there and now/then differences are not as self-evident as they may seem.
This article examines how the field of Native rhetoric emerged to address concerns in the study of Indigenous literature. It begins with a discussion of the formation of Native American studies and American Indian literary studies in the United States. It then comments on scholarship and teaching about Native Americans’ rhetorical practices, focusing on the views of Montana Rickards, Red Wing, Paula Gunn Allen, and Elizabeth Cook-Lynn. Finally, it considers Native rhetoric’s historical and ongoing political, intellectual, and ethical challenges within the context of its disciplinary history.
Equations for human whitening (Spanish blanqueamiento) emerged in the eighteenth-century Americas as a path to what would later be termed “racial improvement.” Such equations were derived from folk and learned knowledge economies around degeneration in plants and brutes dating back hundreds of years. Horses, merino sheep, and racing and hunting dogs from Spain and its possessions were the envy of the world in the early modern period. Thomas Jefferson’s horse breeding and sheep breeding informed his understanding of how much “white” blood was required for persons with black African ancestry to leave the mulatto category. Definitions of “mulatto” and “white” in parts of the early U.S. republic imply crucial similarities in the racial lives of British America and Spanish America: overlapping histories of whiteness and hybridity that contemporary critical histories of race overlook. Ignoring this shared legacy fuels our continuing re-inscriptions of whiteness in the U.S. today.
This article examines the risks and possibilities of an explicitly transformative pedagogy based on the author’s personal experience as a non-Native teacher of Aboriginal literature in Canada. The author, a first-generation immigrant from Germany, takes into account her own subject position as a non-Native teacher and explains how she fully engages those of students and the texts themselves. She uses two fictional characters, Helmut Walking Eagle in Emma Lee Warrior’s short story “Compatriots” and Herr Schwarzkopf in Tomson Highway’s novel Kiss of the Fur Queen, in her classes to lead up to her self-location, as well as to draw attention to oppression and victimization. She believes that the pedagogy in her classroom is part of—and hopefully makes a contribution to—the larger pedagogical project colonizer-allies are involved in: the education of Canadian society.
In Canada, criticism of Indigenous literatures has been intertwined with cultural and political continuance. In 1983, Plains Cree Métis scholar Emma LaRocque explained how Métis literature helps ensure the survival of Métis communities and argued that the proliferation of Indigenous literary production would foster Indigenous “endurance” in Canada. LaRocque later modified her statements, claiming that “endurance” is an inadequate aspiration for Indigenous literary artists or critics. This chapter examines the change in LaRocque’s perspective and discusses how literary criticism can elucidate the relationship between specific instances of Indigenous literary articulation and the “affirmation” of particular Indigenous communities. It also considers how Canadian literature gained institutional legitimacy in the 1970s, a period that saw the rise to prominence of the discourse of multiculturalism in Canadian politics and public life. Finally, the chapter offers a reading of Robinson’s 2006 novel, Blood Sports (2006), particularly how it delineates the contours of a criticism dedicated to moving beyond continuance.
“Beyond the Lines of Poetry”: Ethnic Traditions and Imaginative Interventions in Irish-American Poetics
This article aims to provide a brief recent history of Irish-American literary studies, then focuses on how Irish-American poetics might be employed as an evaluative critical lens through which to regard Irish, American, and transnational exchange. It discusses whether Irish-American poetics can be used as a critical framework for reading poetry that might not traditionally be labeled “Irish-American,” at least in terms of more obvious ethnic claims or cultural affiliations. This in turn might allow asking larger questions about how, when, and why transnational cultural encounters are assessed and described, and what this might reveal about the ways in which critics, readers, and writers respond to imaginative resources.
This essay deals with the multiple languages of Latino/a literature: English, English and Spanish (code-switching), Spanglish, and Spanish. It traces the linguistically and thematically diverse Latino/a literatures of today back to the Nuyorican literary movement of the late 1960s and 1970s. The argument here is that Latino/a writers like Sandra Cisneros, Judith Ortiz Cofer, and Cristina García, and even those who write exclusively in Spanish today, as for example, Tina Escaja, Marta López Luaces, and Miguel Ángel Zapata are the literary heirs of Miguel Algarín, Sandra María Esteves, Pedro Pietri, Miguel Piñero, and Tato Laviera, the writers who bravely paved the way for them.
Poe regularly attended New York City literary salons during the 1840s with women writers referred to as “bluestockings” in an homage to the feminist intellectuals of the eighteenth-century Blue Stockings Society. Poe depended on the salons of bluestocking women to help him access the literary marketplace. Poe’s posthumous career during the 1850s and 1860s followed a similar pattern, as his reputation was linked to a coterie of New Yorkers who modeled themselves on the bohemians of Paris’s Latin Quarter. These bohemian writers, who included Walt Whitman, used Poe as a touchstone for their own work. The various groups of New York writers who claimed Poe during his life and after his death illustrate a central tension in coterie practice: namely, that membership in a literary community both models and informs the fickle nature of the marketplace.