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Ann Re\ Anthrcpol l9Sft I "^ 437-60

Cnp\mhi ' 1986 In ^inual RcweK? /ti

4i/ ng/if?



STUDIES, 1972-1985
J E Limpn and M J Young
Department of Anthropology. University of Texas Austin. Texas 78712-1086

This IS primanly a cntical review of a particular trajector\' in the contemporar>^ anthropological study of folklore with an additional consideration of
others Space considerations and intellectual saliency limit the total number ot
works we consider representative of these trajectones Our title and pnmar>^
focus come from our examination of the scholarly shape ol the field as it has
developed smce the marked intervention in the early and mid 1970s of a new
conceptual approach in the study of folklore We refer to the clear emergence
of performance and contextually centered understandings of folklore as social
behavioral process and as situated communicative interaction (23. 122) Our
essay pnmanly focuses on the achievements and limitations of this central
trajector)^ in folklore studies since 1972
In his most recent tormulauon ot the concept of performance, Bauman (15)
usefully identifies three related definitions and uses of 'performance'" in
contempordrj' sociocukural analysis performance as situated, ordinary cultural practice, an approach indebted to the Marxian concept of praxis, performance as cultural displays or, to use Abrahams' term, 'enactments" (3), an
approach closely identified with a particular wmg of symbolic anthropology
(Singer, Geertz. V Tumer. and Peacock among others) which while closely
allied to folklore we nonetheless exclude from this space-limited review,
finally, performance as the situated interactional practice of verbal artoral
poetics It IS this third sense of performance thdt Bauman identifies as his
own, and it is also the central concem of anthropological performance437



centered folklorists ' It is our chief concem as well, although we agree with
Bauman that an ideal review would argue that the three approaches are
'convergent in many ways" (15) Again we plead space considerations and
the availahility of related reviews (143a.b)
Departing cntically from older, text-centered and macrofunctionalist
approaches, these new perspectives" propose, m Bauman's representative
words, to analyze folklore by emphasizing "
performance as an organizing
pnnciple that comprehends within a single conceptual framework artistic act,
expressive form, and esthetic response, and that does so m terms of locally
defined, culture-specific categones and contexts" (122. p xi)
Another important aspect of the new perspectives is a redefinition of
folklore m terms of its social basethe "folk"toward a more flexible sense
of size and social composition We find also in the new perspectives a
reonentation of the concept of genre away from genres as fixed normative,
mutually exclusive categones to a consideration of genres as malleable social
phenomena open to emergence, transformation, communicative use. and
lnterrelatedness (20) Not ali of the theoretical and ethnographic contnbutions
to these landmark collections respond to this charter, but most clearly do
Also, as with most seeming novelties in scholarship, these new perspectives
are not entirely new In his more elaborated and seminal statement of performance. Bauman (10) clearly and correctly acknowledges the long-term
precedence of Malinowski in matters of contextual analysis And in 1964,
Paredes had clearly called attention to and explicitly used the categoncal
language of performance and context (118) Nonetheless, as a marked tendency in anthropological folklore, there is a sharp distinctiveness in these wntlngs of the seventies, and it owes much to conceptually and temporally closely
related developments m the ethnography of speaking (16, 17. 74a)


By 1977 this tendency had gained sufficient theoretical coherence and maturity as well as ethnographic yield to encourage its leading theoretician into a
telling metaphoncal elaboration Some of the exponents of the new perspectives gathered in an American Association for the Advancement of
Science symposium to discuss these perspectives under the title, Fronners of
Folklore (7) In a manner paralleling Paredes's participation in the New
Perspectives volume, elder folklorist statesman Bascom introduced tbe symposium with a review of the history of folklore scholarship including his own
'Bauman acknowledges that his formulation of the concept of performance owes much to the
work of other scholars in hnguistic anthropology We note in particular the contnbutions of Dell
Hymes to a perfomiaiice-centered folklonstics (81a-c"!



work, a histor\' which was about to give way to his younger co-participants in
the symposium, the new frontiersmen of folklore Dundes reiterates his ideas
conceming the nature of "the folk" they do not have to be illiterate peasants
nor do they have to be large collectivities" i58) Drawing on his work in
Benin, Ben-Amos re-stresses the small group communicative concept of
folklore (21). while Abrahams proposes the broader notion of enactments to
capture those processual expressive events which in his estimation are not
captured by performance" i3) But it remained for Bauman to have the last
word, and here he proposes that the new perspectives have moved beyond
trontiers" and the task now is to establish settlements" implying detailed
ethnographic work and theoretical elaboration (U) Bauman. like Ben-Amos,
IS able to cite a ver\^ limited range of ethnographic work in his essay, Bauman.
as noted earlier, also points the way toward conceptual and theoretical
elaboration by asking folklonsts to take account of the close affinities between
performance folkloristics and developments m processual symbolic analysis
in anthropology Bauman then i 13i and later dlso reminds folklonsts of the
need for performance-centered analyses to take an integrated account of social
^tructure and a wider sense ot cultural context even as they center their
attention on artful communication
In the remainder of this essay, we take cntical measure of the scholarly
response to Bauman's program for the settlement ot the frontiers of folklore
How w-ell have these frontiers been settled' We are also concemed wMth
noting some at least imphcit limitations in that initial program Were enough
theoretical and ethnographic frontier*-'" defined and therefore enough areas in
need of settlement'"' To take only two initial examples what about
frontierswomen'" and the area ot women's tolklore studies, and what about
Paredes"s wise observation in the forew-ord to the 1972 .Veiv Perspectives
volume that 'several ot the essays that lollow consider folklore exclusively in
terms of verbal behavior ignonng toi their purposes such nonlinguistic
manifestations as dance, gesture, and arts and crafts" (120. p \) Because
these tw^o major areaswomen and mateual culturehave been neglected in
the development of contemporar\ folklonstics. we shall lend them special
emphasis in these pages


Betore developing our own sense of thi>. area we should point out some
earlier and generally less sympathetic reactions to performance folklonstics
We note these both for the historical intellectudi record and because they
(lnticipatc some ot our own concerns, tor example. Paredes's comment
tonceming the exclusion of certain kinds nt material folklore practices
From the beginning textuallv onented folklonsts objected to these new



perspectives and frontiers Foremost among these is Wilgus. who insists that
"the text IS the thing'' (151), a cntical line taken up later by S Jones (90), who
objects to the redefinition of the folklore "text'' in terms of process and event
Both Wilgus and S Jones seem to have the rather quaint notion that there is
such a thing as a "text" which does not change in each performance, a point
made by Ben-Amos among others in his reply to S Jones (22) Georges (69)
attempts to arbitrate the dispute, although clearly his own sentiments and
practice hnng him closer to the performance theonsts Of far greater importance to anthropological folklonsts is the cntical assessment made by
Joyner. who, while highly sympathetic to the new perspectives, correctly
notes Its synchronic bias and calls for the integration of the historical background of performer, performance, and context toward a full understanding of
the folklore event (92) From a more synchronic perspective, Honko has
suggested that performance-centered approaches as a "'new folklonstics'"
remain ' a promise to be fulfilled " While this new^ folklonstics 'helps to set
our thoughts moving again."
the basic rules of different research procedures still have to be exemplified, preferably
with matenal laden analyses of correlations between social lnteracuon matnx, genenc
expression of values, distnbution of traditional elements, attitudes toward life and world,
rapid changes of culture and society (T'. p 20)

We are certam that Bauman does not disagree with Honko or Joyner, given
Bauman"s own fine histoncal scholarship (14. 15) and his own synchronic
model for the study of folklore in multiple levels of context (13) The full
charter of performance theory calls for a total integration of history, society,
and culture in the close analysis of the performance event In these terms we
substantially agree with Honko and with Ben-Amos (22) as well. that, in its
theoretical elaboration and ethnographic yield, performance folklonstics remain still a promise to be fulfilled, although what we have is not entirely


As examples, w^e use a series of selected performance studies Most of these
works appeared dunng or after the advent of performance folklonstics and
tum to the latter for their informing and guiding theory However, we also
note two works that appeared long before 1972, although in their practice they
anticipate a performance-centered approach Crowley (49) and Paredes (119)
both continue an older folklonstic practice by extracting their narratives from
a speech event and relating textual themes to cultural values Nevertheless, in
their shared insistence on delineating the sociology of their respective Bahamian and Texas-Mexican small group contexts and in noting the ways in



whtch the speakers of the^e texts use them for specific comtnunicative
purposes, these two scholars are already practictng at least some of the tiew
However we note a limited number of studies m the 1970s which attempt
to respond exphcttly to the performatice charter but do so more successfully at
the microsociological level It would be reasonable to expect the foremosi
rheoretician of perfoimance to also offer the first consciously explicit
ethnographtc rendenng of folklore as performance and this is what Bauman
does in his brief study ot verbal art tn a Nova Scotian commumty (9)
Focusmg on the small group, face-to-tace context of a general store in the La
Have Islands. Bauman elegantly dehneates the expressive speech economy ot
male performers, an economy tentenng on the native genre.' yams '" In terms
that Abrahams (2i also uses elsewhere Bauman demonstrates the personal
power and s,ocial restraint articulated m the interactional emergence and use ol
these yams The data are nchly textured and the analysis fmely honed and a>.
such IS a vast tmprovement over "pure" textual analysis or a folklore-inculture'" approach which would grossly relate cuttural values" and texts to
discover the former ' expressed" m the latter On the other hand, we ftnd
mmimal or no commentary that takes substantial analytical account of the
historv' and larger sociocultural context of thts speech setting
Another already menttoned major exponent ol the new folklonstics offers
an ethnographic appitcation ot this perspective to stor\telling in Benin.
Nigena (19) In a sense the ver\^ slimnes^ of Ben-Amos's volume betrays the
problem an almost singular emphasis on dehneattng the speaking context and
the expressive speech economy ot this society but a minimal concem wath
broader sociocullural considerations We leam a great deal about Bim
stor\'telling as verbal art but we are lett largely waiting for the fulfillment of
Ben-Amos's implied promise in his introduction to use the performance
approach to demonstrate in detail the historical, sot-iaJ, and political awareness wath which the tales are imbued' (19 p 15)
This microfocus also iimits the work of another folklonst. but he more than
compensates by the nchness of his local analysis and his innovative apphcanon of a performance approach lo material culture M Jones applies certain
aspects of both the perfomiance and behavioral approaches to his study of a
traditional Kentucky chairmake"" (85) Central to his work is a focus on
process rather tban product of most significance to Jones is the interaction of
the chairmaker with the objects he creates and w^ith members of tbe surrounding community who evaluate his chairs from the perspective of a traditional
canon ot what constitutes a 'good chair ' Because he pays close attention to
situations of the production and use ol chairs within the total tramework of
daily community interaction. Jones may be said to analyze folk chairmakmg
as the Situated artful use of folklore" w ithm (he total communicative context.



he departs, however, from most verbally onemed studies of performance in

that he considers a vanety of situations of production and use as they unfold
through time, rather than one performance event only The product of matenal culture performances is not ephemeral, as a specific story told only once in
a given situation is, but rather, it is tangible and thus evokes audience/
community response over many days Nevertheless, it is most appropnate to
view such studies as performance centered Jones's study is 'behavioral" in
that It looks most closely at a single craftsman and the expenences and values
that inform his work his immediate community and family, his personality,
and his creativity/aesthetic sense
Two articles offer sophisticated applications and refinements of performance approaches Porter f 125) examines the complexity of cognitive, artistic,
and local contextual factors mvolved in the different performances of a single
folksong by a single performer over time However, the larger question of
social change and performance vanation is not discussed In a 1979 article
that anticipates his recent fine book (130, 131). Sherzer offers an elegant
ethnography of the localized rules for the performance of tbe Cuna kaa kwenio
but one which in a footnote only suggests the larger social lmphcations of
such performances Finally, perfonnance analysis of his own field matenals
are at the heart of Toelken's welcome comprehensive introductor>' textbook
(141). which clearly replaces other now^ dated sources (36a. 56a)
In the 1980s several studies come closer to an optimum model of performance analysis where a sharp focus on tbe situated artful uses of folklore does
not exclude a full consideration of a wider range of socioeultural factors,
while others offer refinements of the approach in locahzed analyses Drawing
on Afncan matenals. Peek (123a) reminds us of the continuing need to take
account of local attvtudes toward the vew creation of verbal performances
Blackburn (24) takes a careful and productive, though contextually hmited,
analytical look at the way oral cultural context affects the performance
sequencing of Tamil ritualistic narrations, while Herzfeid (76) also considers
the way generic categones of Greek narrative song are shaped by the performative context and how these generic issues ultimately speak to issues of life
and death In this same latter general cultural and genenc vein, Caraveli, in a
superb study of Greek folksong performance, successfully argues 'that it is a
world outside the song-perfonnance style, social usage, mdividual personality of the performer, community world view and local histor\% as w^ell as tbe
long tradition shaping the conventions^w-hich creates the meamng of a song''
(42. p 130)
In another excellent scholarly perfonnance. Caraveli shows how a particular song form, the matmade, when performed in the context of a Greek ntual
enactment, the glendi, becomes a total symbohc performance (43)
If the Greeks seem to inspire performance studies, the Mexican descent



community in the United States is not far behind Bnggs has focused on the
performance of proverbs and treasure tales in New Mexico (29b, 30) with the
largely successful analytical outcome ot demonstrating the w^ays in which 'the
torm and content of performances are simultaneously shaped by structural and
contextual factors'" (30. p 288) While offenng finely honed interactional
analyses, Bnggs's conceptions ot structure and context are not as ambitious as
those of Limdn, who analyzes Texas-Mexican folklore performances and
performers j ^ artful products and producers of histoncal and contemporary^
resistance to structural and cultural domination (100, 101) Further. Bnggs
does not acknowledge the highly relevant precedent of Amenco Paredes in fhe
performance analysis of legend (l20ai proverb 1121a), and fieidwork interaction (121)
Finally. McCarl makes a substantial contribution demonstrating that fhe
performance of a fire fighter*-' ceremonial retirement dinner serves to announce the fire fighters* deepest cultural preoccupations ds they ambivalently
separate the retiree from this culture (109)
However, if a rich delineation ot hi^tor\' and sociocultural context and a
thick descnption of the speech event constitute the optimum model of performance analysis, then perhaps we are being inherently unfair in expecting
article length or early book length works tully to live up to this model Such
an expectation should be better addressed by more recent book length studies,
and w-e tum now to an estimation ot tho^e few recent works explicitly
generated b\ this theoretical perspective Given even the most minimal time
frame for the germination of new idea*- fieidwork. manuscript development
and publication it is nol surprising that such studies explicitly indebted fo
performance perspectives, did not begin lo jppear until the 1980s, nor that
there should be so few
In our critical terms, the least ^ativfattorv^ of these is Seifel's study of
traditional tales from Tanzania 1129) Largely a textual collection of such
tales, this book devotes onl> one chapter fo performance analysis and only
one to the hisfoncal and ethnographic context ot the tales This study falls
short of a full response to Bauman s agenda not only in its relative paucity of
tthnogrdphic data but in its limited integration of this data in a tme and
extended performance-centered analysis
If Seitel'^i book falls somewhat shon ot doing justice to this A.frican
expressive culture, the Afncan extension and adaptation into the Amencas
does receive more than adequate attention in two recent publications devoted
to two different geographical and class sectors of this extension Bell (18)
continues a hne of scholarly inquiry begun bv Dollard (55) but most effectively and expansively carried forth by Abrahams (1), also one of the aforemennoned earlv theorists ol performance folkioristics While maintaining this
tradition s interest in A.fro-American male speech play Bell introduces three



adtnirable innovations First, he conducts a performance-centered analysis by

continuously situating himself amidst the flow of speech play as it spontaneously emerges in a predominantly hiack bar Second, he selects not the
usual street iower class blacks of this scholarly tradition but rather blacks of
the middle class This selection in tum enables him to discuss a relatively new
topic, namely the uses of expressive culture by middle class blacks to make
sense of their marginal status between the * street" and their new social
position In this respect, he addresses larger social issues
Abrahams bas brought together several essays based on his almost 20 years
of field research and reflection on the West Indies (5) If this book bas a
weakness, it lies precisely in its form as a collection m which, at times,
individual essays repeat each other and do not always cohere Nonetheless
this formal objection is rendered mtnimal by tbe sheer brilliance of Abrahams'
fieldwork-based analysis of the expressive role of male "good talkers" and
' good arguers.'' between those who use an expressive language of decorum to
maintain values of social stability and those arguers whose expressive job it is
to establish a counter world of social license through tbe aggressive speecb
play of punning and invective This dichotomy cuts across black social life in
the West Indies from the everj^day to marked ritual enactments Aside from
the slight incoherence of this collection, if one has a larger cntical complaint.
It IS that once again the emphasis on the microdimensions ofthe performance
events bave tended to overshadow the macrospheres of social life For
Abrahams, it often seems enougb to bnefly mention and assume tbe social
oppression inflicted on his subjects and to devote the bulk of bis analytical
energy to a substantial delineation of tbe expressive events that for him signify
their buman vitality
We conclude this section with a consideration of two other books of the
1980s which as extended treatments of tbeir respective subjects seem to most
closely approximate the ideal model of performance analysis Falassi (63)
substantially fulfills the larger promise made by perfonnance folklonstics
Centenng his native analytical attention on tbe vegitafireplace performance
scene in the Tuscan village homeFalassi takes us tbrough tbe structure of
various and genericdlly distinct folklore performances from fairy tales to song
and dance He skillfully relates this scene to anothertbe counter veglia and
largely tbe world of men. drink, and expressive bawdinessand tben demonstrates bow these are involved in the reproduction of culture and histor>'
Like Falassi, Glassie (72) also takes us to the hearth of village homes The
expressive counterpart of Falassi's veglia becomes tbe cetli where Glassie's
close Insh friends have much to say folkloncally speaking Glassie sensmvely
sets out this taxonomy of a rich multiplicity of expressive performances But
he does more, and here there is place for admiration and controversy "I begin
witb texts." be says, m a more poetic restatement ofthe perfonnance charter.



'then weave contexts around them to make them meaningful, to make life
more comprehensible" (72. p xvi) It is. however, in Glassie's weaving of
these contexts, that one feels the too decisive presence of his personality and
prose in tbe ethnographic creation ot a too precious folk cultural world, a
'ceremony of mnoLence.'' from wbich Glassie largely excludes the blooddimmed tide" that is Ulster today Yet as scholarship and as ethnographic art.
the book moves us to agree with one of its folklonst admirers that it synthesizes the advances of a generation of work m folklonstics" and is a
'masterpiece, a watershed m the histor\^ of our disciphne" (93. p 71)
In the preceding we have been concemed with taking cntical account of
exemplarv' studies explicitly indebted to a performance-centered approach to
folklore analysis as developed by Bauman and others We agree with McCarl
that this approach has been one of the most powerful forces m recent
historv'". yet we also agree that this powerful theorv^ "has not pioduced a large
body of field-based studies" (109 p 394) Those that have appeared do not
always fulfill the total charter ot this approach as enunciated by Bauman We
close this section with a consideration of two possible reasons why this
'powerful' theoretical innovation in folklonstics has not wholly fulfilled its
promise and ma> not in the near future The second of tbese two reasons also
leads us mto a bnef evaluation ol Bauman *- own forthcoming field-based
study of folklore in performance
A pnmary problem lies in d methodological paradox imbedded in the
approach itself Honko (781 pomts to an obvious and therefore often missed
methodological-interpretive requirement brought about by the analysis ot
iolklore as emergent, situated artful communication Analysis in tbis mode,
says Honko. presupposes a close contact witb the act of folklore communication " For Honko, close contact" means face-to-tace knowledge of the
speaker or vivid perception of the scene and participants of communication'"
whereas such information may be obtained by other means (one-on-one
mterviewmg. detailed reports from someone else who was present), ''the
weight of documentation lies, however, on obser\-ation'' ("^8. p 43) W^e
wholly agree, but Honko seems to assume a ver>^ problematic point the
obser\'er"s sufficient fluency in the varieties and registers ot the linguistic and
melahnguistic codes in which emergent folkioric acts are performed How
often do such observers develop tht deep fluency in language and social
interaction that tbe close contact ol pertormdnce analysis would seem to
require and which is not (as in most of fieldwork-based anthropology)
solved" by moderate fluency, translators, or key informants'' We realize that
tbese are also traditional and general methodological problems in any kind of
anthropological fieldwork, but the pertormance approach, by its ver\^ intensive emphasis on situated speech in small group contexts, considerably
enhances these issuc:^ In cnticallv reviewing the ethnography of speaking,"



and by implication, performance analysis. Bloch states that what is asked

linguistically of such sociolinguistic ethnographers who do foreign fieldw^ork IS 'a really high level of linguistic ability,*" a 'hypersensitivity which
comes from a total control of the finest subtleties of language and of social
situations" (25. p 231) Paredes has also pointed to this difficulty in ethnographic fieldwork (121) These sociolinguistic demands would seem to be
major obstacles to cross-cultural ethnographic use of performance as an organizing pnnciple for research Even as we raise these considerations, we
should take account of Bell's abihty to establish himself as a white fieldworker m a black bar. and Bnggs's finely textured linguistic analysis supported
by his near native fluency in the Spanish of New Mexico (29a) Finally, in
this interesting issue. Paredes (119. 121), Limon (100. 101), and Pena (124)
implicitly mvite us to consider the always fascinating issue of the native"
Bloch makes a further point similar to our own position concerning the
social limitations of performance ethnography We have noted that as formulated by Bauman. performance analysis should extend beyond the situated
speech event to other levels of social context For Bloch the same ideal may
prove to be a ver>' difficult if not insurmountable"' goal To fully understand
the situated speech event requires 'an extremely thorough knowledge ofthe
social organisation, the kinship system, the pohticai system, the economic
system, the trend towards change at work in the society concerned"', for if the
ethnography of performance is concemed with artful talk, 'it is such social
which are the substance of most of this talk"" (25, p 233)
Again, Bauman would disagree with none of this (13) However, his
forthcoming ethnography of male verbal art in Texas (15a) seems to fall short
of his own ideal We leam much about the poetics of this verbal art but
comparatively little about its relationship to that always fascinating
sociocultural process called Texas Finally, in a quite recent statement he
seems to acknowledge that this full charter for an adequate performance
folklonstics has not yet been camed out. that his landmark settlement awaits
this further development The poetics of performance." he says, can provide a powerful integrative frame of reference for the next stage of inquir>^
mto that most fundamental and fascinating of all problemsthe art of life
ltseir (15)


While our chief concem has been to evaluate the development of performance-centered folklonstics, we will also comment on other frontiers and
settlements, theoretical and areal. that continue to be of importance to anthropological folklore Nonetheless, we point to certain of these settlements



that seem to be of such compelling mterest as to warrant future intensive

development At times performance theor\- overlaps these other frontiers and
settlements, but in this section we note them in their own right
Tbe genera! history and theoretical development of folklonstics continue to
receive attention ranging from the welcome translation and recompilation of
Propp's wnting (126). the equally welcome translation of Cochiarra's book
on the genera! bistor\' of European folklore studies (46). to less tban complete, engaging, or illuminating article-length studies (38, 51) A detailed and
sophisticated book-length theoretical review of folklonstics, histoncal and
contemporar), is mucb needed Work of higb quality on specific theoretical
problems appears occasionally (116. 14"?). but not in the quantity one would
like Tbe tendency is clearly toward tbe ethnographic and textual application
of existing tbeor>^ ratber than theoretical lnquirj^ m its own nght Further, as
we shall note later, certain theoretical areas remain in an almost total state of
Ethnicity, occupation, and children have been traditional concems of folklonsts. and they continue to receive attention of varying quality In the first
two categones some clear sense ot the state of the art can be obtained by
companng special issues of leading folklore joumals The articles in a 1977
special issue on etbnicity (50) generally do not seem particularly insightful or
innovative, although Stem's review of ethnic folklore and the folklore ot
ethnicity is extremely useful (136) Far better in terms of mnovative scholarly
imagination and sophisticated analysis is a more recent special issue of
another joumal on ethnicity, tradition, and identity (45) Paralleling tbese
efforts in ethnicit\ is the work on occupational folklore found in two other
special issues of joumais There is much to admire in the earlier of these
issues (40). particularly the work of McCarl (108) and Abrahams (4) A more
fluid, sophisticated, and ethnographically diverse treatment of this area is to
he found in a more recent issue of this same joumal (88)
Tbe quality of work on children's tolklore also vanes from tbe generally
uninspmng (74i to extended and largely successful treatments reflecting
sophisticated sociolinguistic and psychological preoccupations In the latter
area, children s folklore specialists always welcome any new publication by
tbe distinguished Brian Sutton-Smith and his associates (137. 138) The
iollowing reflect language- and pertormance-centered interests a masterly
sur\ey of children's speecb play (128). a data-ricb and theoretically complex
study of children's nddling f l l l i and a wholly engaging performancecentered smdy of Mavaho children s narratives (2"^). all of which nonetheless
fall somewhat short in providing an adequate analytical account of these
children's sociopolitical world
Following are otber areas of folklonstic inquiry that have not fully benefmed from fresh tbeoretital development and ethnograpbiL work although
the beginnings are clearly there



Structuralism and Semiotics

In the last decade a number of folklonsts have attempted to analyze their data
from the perspective of semiotics, an onentation that seems to be connected
with the growing interest in context and perfonnance as well Descnbed as the
study of sign systems and the rules underlying such systems, the semiotic
approach is not fundamentally separate from structuralism, and in fact, both
approaches could be subsumed within a third area, the study of communication, or again, the analysis of performance Because of this multiple overlapping we note only a few works in this area For folklonsts, a significant and
still quite important point of departure is Maranda & Maranda's Structural
Analysis of Oral Tradition (104) But two more recent studies are exemplary
one for its continuing influence and the other for its ground-breaking potential
Glassie, one of the major proponents of the use of structural analysis m
matenal culture scholarship, descnbes it as *thc search for mind" (71)
Influenced by the theories of Chomsky and Levi-Strauss. he derives a system
of rules, an ' artifactual grammar." representing underlying mental concepts
that are the basis for architectural form and designing competence Glassie's
search for a mental model has itself become a model, influencing the thinking
of a number of later folklonstically onented scholars, especially those who
seek to describe the interplay between verbal and visual expressions In an
edited work. Proschan offers another example of the semiotics of matenal
culture applied to performing objects (127) The central contention of the
vanous authors is that performances involving puppets, masks, and other
sorts of performing objects constitute an intensification of expenence, 'simultaneously utilizing a wide range of codes, channels, and systems, these may
complement or contradict one another in the dynamic performance" (127. p
4) Finally. Bauman (12) and McDowell (112) bave provided recent fine
sur\'eys of semiotic scholarship in relation to folklore

Psychological and Marxist Perspectives

Psychological, particularly psychoanalytical perspectives have actually received a good deal of attention, pnncipally tbrough the writings of Dundes
(57. 59) We charactenze this area as underdeveloped not because we reject
psychoanalysis as a legitimate mode of inquir\'. rather, we feel that Dundes's
particular practice of it does not represent the best kind of scholarship that
could be done For us and others his work remains too textually and
etymologically onented and consistently lacks the fieldwork, ethnographic
analysis, and intense engagement of Freud that would lend legitimacy to, and
senous consideration of, his provocative speculations (117a. I28a) Even his
coauthored book on tbe palw in Siena. Italy (60), does not fully draw on a
contemporar>' social field of analysis for its psychoanalytical speculations A

K)LKLORH STUDiFS 1972-198'i


better example of ethnographically grounded and closely analytical work in

this theoretical area is by Brandes (28). even better in its systematic application of psychoanalytically keyed interview data, testing, and long-term
observation is Boyer's outstanding work on Apache folklore (26) A particularly mnovative psycbohistorical study is Oring's bnlliant analysis of Freud's
own jokes (117) It is from Onng that one might expect in the future a truly
profound engagement of Freud and folklore in the field Finally, Hufford (79)
has called for otber kinds ot psychological theors- in folklore analysis in
addition to psychoanalysis We also propose the expansion of psychoanalysis
beyond the textual applications of traduional Freudian concepts toward tbe
fieldwork based analytical use ot post-Freudian thought in folklonstics We
particularly urge attention to the language-centered ideas ot Lacan Buchler
provides a fine lead in tbis direction (3'^s
Whereas psychoanalytical perspectives have received some consistent,
albeit intellectually limited attention, tolklorists have been even more reluctant to take up Marxism in their work Williams (152) has cntically explored
tbis reluctance in American folklonsts as has Fox (6''), while Limon examines
new Marxist theoretical sources tor tVieir potential use in expanding this
constncted sense of Marxism and folklore (102) Useful also is bis critical
exchange with Zipes (102a. 157) Pena provides a fine historical Marxist
analysis of Mexican-Amencan folk mass-media music (124). wbile Charles
Keil's bnlliant entbnomusicological work also responds harmoniously to the
rnusic of Marxism (93a)

Women's Studies
Tbe purpose of the volume Women and Folklore was to bnng foreward data
concerning a subject area tbat had been virtually ignored by folklonsts since
the establishment ofthe discipline (64) Farrer. the volume s editor, claimed
that altbough lip service" bad been paid to tbe importance ot women's
expressive bebavior, usually that bebavior was recognized and accorded
legitimacy only when it occurred in predetermmed genres that fit tbe prevail
mg image of women" (64, p vi Challenging ngid dichotomies such as tbose
suggesting the oppositions of male female public/private, and powerfulpow^erless. ihe vanous authors in this volume examined the prevalent images
of women and the subsequent genres through which women s creativity had
been viewed, suggestmg that new images, genres, and approaches needed to
be developed in the study of women and folklore Admittedly, this collection
of explorator>- essays fell short of providing a theoretical basis for the study of
women's expressive behavior, but it did serve to focus attention on an
emergent area of folklore research Nevertheless, tbe publication of this book
was not followed by the spate ot scholarly articles on women's expressive
bebavior that Farrer and the otber essayists had hoped to spark, few articles or



books providing a theoretical framework for an approach to women's or

men's expressive behavior specifically, or artistic communication between
men and women more generally, have been published to date
Detailing the images of women in men's myths and ntuals m Westem
societies, Weigle (150) calls for further research that will look to non-Westem
traditions and women's mythologies within those traditions There is a wealth
of fascinating matenal in this book, but it suffers from the lack both of cntical
commentar>' and an overall synthesis Like Weigle's book, de Caro's (52) is a
useful compilation of publications on women's folklore, folklore about
women, and related topics Although de Caro states that the "realization that
W'omen's folklore exists bas revolutionar>' implications for folklore studies"
(p \i). that "revolution" has yet to exert a major impact on contemporar\'
folklore scholarship This lacuna is not due to tbe neglect of women's
expressive behavior by individual folklonsts so much as to a bias in the
discipline as a whole created by the prevalent notion that a focus on culture is
synonymous watb a focus on the expressive behavior of men W'eigle cogently
points out that one means by which to eliminate or reduce this bias is to
redirect attention from highly marked male-onented pubhc performances to
the artistic communication that is inherent in the sphere of ever>'day or
"mundane'* activityactivity that is stereotypically associated with w^omen
Of central concem to this review are the studies of women as performers,
practitioners of artistic commumcation, whether the communicative mode is
verbal or visual, that have been published in the past ten years or so both
Kligman (96) and Tumer (142) challenge the idea tbat domestic implies
insignificant, revealing the considerable power women wield in the pnvate
domain. Kodish delineates tbe w^ay in w^hich women's songs reflect the
senous concems of community hfe (97). Caraveli ("41). Lawless (98). and
Webber (148) discuss situations in which women are effective performers in
the public sphere, and Cooper & Buferd (48). Dewhurst, MacDowell &
MacDowell (54). Ice & Shulimson (82). and Sherzer & Sherzer (132) focus
on matenal items created by women that ser\'e as symbols of cultural identity
and social continuity Other folklore scholars have pointed out that women's
humor n, not only distinctive, but artfully used to negotiate gender interactions, sometimes in a manner that is oppositional or contestational (73,
84, 113)
Tbe most recent attempt to provide new perspectives on women's folklore
IS Women's Folklore. Women'> Culture, edited by Jordan & Kalcik (91) The
vanous articles included in this book certainly document women's expressive
behavior in a vanety of situations, but the book as a whole neither delineates
"new^ genres*' that are exclusively women's genres nor provides a coherent
theoretical framework within which to analyze these genres As Levin has

FOLKLORE S rUDthS 1972-1985


pointed out in her review, the vanous authors never address themselves to the
issue that 'studying women makes a difference" (99i Levin adds that
although the book claims to focus on women's genres, there are some notable
omissions such as cooking, decoration and household aesthetics, and housework
Although none of these pubhcaiions has provided the new perspective."
the theoretical underpinnings that would give the folklore of and about women
Its proper place in tolklore scholarship we predict and hope that the study of
women's artisttc communication will soon come into its own

Folk Matenal Culture

That part of folklonstics which centers on tangible items is frequently segmented mto overlapping subject areas labeled folkhfe." tolk matenal culture." folk art.'" and 'folk craft.' but forthe purposes of this review the more
encompassing term, tolk materiai culture." will be used It designates those
tangible things that signify informal leaming of traditional ideas that have
persisted through time to some degree " and are based upon a communal
aesthetic (33. l40i This definition situates the artitact wathin the social
context, directing attennon away from the tormal attnbutes ot the object and
toward the interaction between artist and audience or community
Many of the earliest members ot the American Folklore Society regarded
the study ot matenal culture as an integral part of folklore research, indeed,
they considered matenal items to be mirrors of culture Dunng the next 50
years, the academic fortunes of material culture studies vaned from a low
dunng the intet^'ar period to a revival atter World War II i32) In the late
1960s folk matenal culture studie*- escalated with the publication of several
regionalh onented books whose authors took as their pnmar)' goal the
documentation and preser\'ation ot traditional hfeways (66. 70)
An emphasis on method and theor\- was an important facet of folk matenal
>,ulture scholarship in the t970si7! H5 145 154) Like the early members of
the American Folklore Society, Glassic and Vlach regarded objects as mirrors
of culture, that is, as the physical embodiment ot ideas held collectively by
society Glassie, in particular, developed a structuralist approach to matenal
culture studies which, in tum, greatly influenced later research, especially
studies of vernacular architecture In addition, Glassie and other matenal
culture scholars ot the 1970s poinied out that the study ot folk objects could
illuminate the ever\'day lives ot the common people who left no w^ntten
records, a view shared by histoncal archaeologists and social histonans as
well i53, 133) Jones, on the other hand, was more concerned with individual
motivation, focusing on the matenal ohiect as a means bv which to illuminate
the mind of a particular maker and uset
(ones s research was at the torcjroni o\ a "lajor shift that has taken place in



folk matenal culture scholarship since the mid-1970s tbis shift is charactenzed by a focus on the individual rather than a concem with broad generalizations, classifications of types, delineation of groups, and regional trends
Descnbed as the behavioral mode of analysis, this new onentation, also
prevalent in studies of verbal art. implies a change in the definition of
folklore instead of refemng to a certain tj'pe of group, 'folk" as understood
by the behavioraiists refers to a particular process of creation and transmission ^ The following cntena distinguish the behavioral approach from
earlier folklore scholarship ' rather than conformity, vanation is emphasized,
instead of tradition, motivationis stressed" (31. p 158) Of course, this raises
the question, 'if we do away with tradition, what is folklonc' about tbe
behavionst onentation "*" One often-voiced cnticism of structuralists is that
they frequently overlook the mdividual in search of underlying pattem. m
contrast, behaviorahsts tend to overlook cultural pattem in their emphasis on
the personality of the individual Furthermore, one potential problem with tbe
latter approach is that it encourages tbe folklorist to adopt the stance of a
psychoanalyst while lacking proper training in that particular profession
Nevertheless, the influence of the behavionst approach adopted by Jones is
evident in a range of more recent publications whose authors have begun to
question overarching assumptions about tradition and culture Vlacb. for
instance, acknowledges Jones's intellectual contnbution to his own research
In his most recent book (146). Vlach examines the perpetuation of tradition in
tbe urban environment, emphasizing the w^ays in which this environment
actually encourages the retention of folk aesthetics and creative processes
Other recent folklore publications situate studies of individual craftspersons
withm the community, economic, and environmental contexts (29, 34, 35,
39, 83. 106. 143)
The new perspective of tbe early 1970s that led to the characterization of
folklore as "perfomiance" and '"communicative act" (23, 68, 81) has influenced matenal culture studies as well as researcb in oral tradition
Although folklonsts who study verbal art as performance have focused predominantly on syncbronic events, a number of matenal culture scbolars bave
adapted the performance model to their studies of diachronic events For
example, m a recent study several essayists analyze meals and other foodcentered events as performances within which fhe relationship between food
and identity is enacted (89) Sherzer and Sherzer have also employed this
model in their research on Cuna molas. pointing out that one can use
^Anticipating this new onentation, lti 196"^ Bauman detailed the assumptions and objecti
that were necessarj to establish a behavioral science of folklore (8) A number of these objecti



' ethnographic semiotics" to conduct contextual studies of matenal culture

(132) '^
The impact of the performance model on comemporar\^ studies of folk
matenai culture is evidenced by a growing emphasis on process rather than
product In architectural studies, for instance, thib entails analyzing the ways
in which people create, live in, and alter their dwellings through time
Studying the changes that occur when people fix up, re-do, or add on to
their urban houses, Jones directs attention away from the traditional form
of the house to 'traditional' actions that are performed on that house
Herman, on fhe other hand, posits that all areas of expressive culture are
shaped by some sort of constitutive grammar (75) Glassie also posits a
grammar of (-orrect forms (711. but does not follow individual houses through
successive changes as Herman does Ofher contemporary^ scholars of vernacular architecture similarly analyze change through time, ot particular nofe
are those who include in their studies the commenfar>' of the vanous people
who have interacted with the buildings (107, 114. 153) In addition, these and
scholars of other folk material cultural performances"* often take into account
the overall social and symbolic context within which such performances are
enacfed (144, 156)
To performance-oriented mafenal cuhuralists, action is central Instead of
examining objects in and of themselves, they analyse the ways in which
people behave in relationship to those obiects. the ways in which they
mediate, anange. and manipulate forms in a traditional manner (33) Like
structuralists, these matenal culturahsfs seek to delineate pattems in the mind,
but. unlike stnicfuralisfs. they believe that these pattems are revealed in the
observable behavior of people dealing with objects
The new direction in contempordr\' material culture studies thus parallels
the reonentation m folklore scholarship in general a change in the definition
of folk,' accompanied bv an emphasis on process rafher than product, has
resulted in d revised idea ol what constitutes lore' as well These altered
definitions anse in part from the changing nature of Amencan society a large
segment of the population has moved from the rural setting to the urban scene
and IS subject to the considerable influence of mass media Dundes & Pagter
(61) have offered a landmark work on the role ol objects in middle-class and
urban life Not only does this work challenge the conception of folk group,
but m dealing w ith photocopied letters and cartoons it also challenges the idea
that folk artifacts must be made by hand untainted by mass production
Similarly, M Jones has recently fumed his attention to ' art and work." or
what might be described as the aesthetics of organizational life (86, 88)
Nickersop (i 15). McCarl (11(J). and others have also focused on the way m
which the use and production of material culture items illustrate shared values



and the informal transmission of techniques and ideas in the lives of workers
(47. 103)
This bnef review of the histor>' of folk matenal culture studies in Amenca
points to certain biases in contemporar>' Amencan folklonstics, biases due in
part to a tendency to accord precedence and prestige to the study of verbal art
while overlooking the equally important contnbution made by the study of
visual art forms A commonly made distinction in hoth contemporary and past
folklore scholarship is one between research that focuses on oral tradition and
research that has as its central goal the study of traditional matenal culture It
almost seems that folklore scholars had tacitly agreed to pursue the study of
either physical objects or spoken texts, but not both This ngid division has.
however, begun to disappear in the w ake of recent theoretical developments
in the discipline of folklore which stress a dynamic reconceptualization of
folklorea reconceptualization that not only renders the genre-onented
approach obsolete, but dissolves as well the frequently artificial hamers
separating the study of oral literature from matenal culture These theoretical
developments are exemplified by the growing number of folklonstic/
anthropological studies that treat verbal and visual arts as intertwining modes
of communication (6. 65, 72. 80. 94. 135, 155)
As with women and folklore, matenal culture is addressed separately and at
length in this review^ as a way of pointing to a lacuna m past scholarship both
areas have been severely neglected by those who claimed that they were
guiding the discipline toward new frontiers Paredes's suggestion in 1972 that
performance scholars should look to nonlinguistic manifestations as well as
linguistic materials has not necessanly led to the recognition on the part of the
more verhally oriented folklore scholars that the interaction of people with
objects IS also a viable avenue for a performance-centered approach to

The Urban Scene

Several publications ofthe 1970s extended the realm of folklore to include the
urban and contemporar>^ experience (56, 123) Although from the perspective of fast-changing times in the mid-1980s these works may appear to be
datedfor instance, seldom do any of the authors explain what they mean by
the term 'urban"there is no doubt that they had considerable influence on
the thinking of succeeding generations of scholars One question to be
explored m this respect is that of whether or not folkionc aspects of the urban
expenence are qualitatively, not just quantitatively, different from traditions
in rural life A partial answer to this question is Bronner's statement that the
study of urban folklore has fostered a new trend an emphasis on emergent
tradmons particular to cities rather than "Old World or rural folkionc transplants in new settings" (36, p 222)



Recently a number of folklonsts have chosen to focus on specific geru^s of

expressive behavior within the city as a way of narrowing down the complex
urban environment to a more convenient slice to study Matenal culture
scholars, for instance, have pubhshed articles on urban gardens, rehgious
artifacts, ethnic musical instruments, and other urban forms (62. 80, 105,
134. 139) Although approaches such as these do not paint a holistic picture of
the urban environment, they certainly ser\^e to explore the behavior of individuals in relation to objects they make, use, and market within a generally
well-defined section of the city In general, urban folklonsts view life in the
city as pluralistic rather than homogeneous, and their research emphasizes
interpreting the present instead of reconstructing the past (36) Carpenter
suggests, however, that in addition to documenting and analyzing urban
genres that are similar to those one might hnd in rural areas, it is also
important to document the urban categorv^ unconceived by us before our
discover\' ot it on city streets" (44. p 240) Eloquently summanzing this area
of inquir\', Kirshenblatt-Gimblett (95'( brings us full circle to the central
organizing metaphor for this review She categonzes the urban expenence as
a future ''frontier " On this frontier folklore embodies human values and
reactions to the urban expenence, tbus the city is a dynamic locus for people s
expressive behavior in the face of change and adaptation

The performance-centered approach to folklore has been recognized as the
leading theoretical force in contemporary^ folklonstics It has led to the
welcome reconceptualization of the traditional concepts of tolk." 'folklore,"
and 'tradition " At the heart ot this reconceptualization is an imbedded
rethinking of culture, society, and the individual No longer a superorganic
torce that compels the individual, culture is now seen as a framework within
which individuals strategically select and express their identities as social
beings The performance of folklore is vital to this dynamic mteraction.
therefore, the ethnographic analysis ot this total interrelationship should be
the goal ot a fully adequate perfonnance folklonstics While noting some
exemplar\ work, we have pointed to the general quantitative and qualitative
uneveness of the scholarship resulting from this new folklonstics It remains a
frontier and settlement in need of future development Further, we have also
noted other frontier areas thai require significant, sustained attention and
scholarly development

We would like to thank Laura Marcus and Suzanne Senff tor their help with
research and commentar\' on content We are also grateful to Richard Bauman
for making bib latest manuscnpts available to us



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