Abstract and Keywords
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.
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