The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #122508   Message #2690172
Posted By: Jack Blandiver
30-Jul-09 - 04:41 AM
Thread Name: Folklore: What is Folklore?
Subject: RE: Folklore: What is Folklore?
A lot of the problem stems from the gap between popular perceptions of folklore and the current state of folkloric studies in academia to which few have access. Bob Trubshaw wrote his Explore Folklore (Heart of Albion, 2002) as a means of somehow bridging this gap, by looking at the fascinating developments in the study of folklore in the last twenty-or-so years as few books about British folklore and folk customs reflect these exciting new approaches. It's a field in constant flux basically, and some seven years on from publication I dare say it's pretty dated, but remains a fascinating read that confirms much of my own feelings on the matter, with respect of customary practice, community and belief.

Human reality has always fascinated me - hence my 1954 and All That thread which deals with the pragmatics of actual usage, rather than a definition which may, or may not, cover it in terms of an orthodox reading. Fact remains folk covers a multitude of actualities, whether we like it or not. Personally, I'm torn between my come-all-ye drunken hearty self, and my reserved intolerant traddy purist self, but - when in Rome... Folklore is very different in that revival effectively kills it stone dead; folklore is part & parcel of any human community, and is mutable & transitory by default. When did way-side shrines become such a feature of the British roadside? Likewise the degree to which graves are decorated & venerated. It seems as we move into secularism, then our need to venerate the dead becomes ever more acute, especially compared with the sobriety of even twenty years ago. Children's graves are especially poignant in this respect.

On other threads I've contextualised folk in terms of its humanity, and its individuality, rather than a perceived collectivity or any sort of absolutism arising therefrom, such as might be construed from E.P.Thompson's observation about folklore being born from genteel antiquarians regarding such things across a gulf of class condescension. In this sense a question like Does Folk Exist? becomes all the more urgent, given that it is not, generally speaking, the folk themselves who show an objective interest in such things - they're too busy doing them, unconsciously, to consider such things as being in some way folk. When we start doing then consciously, however, they somehow stop being folk. It is, in truth, a curious sort of alchemy!

I know people who claim to have been abducted by aliens; I know people who were social workers during the Satanic Abuse scare and were convinced it was real; I know people who believe crop Circles are the work of Extra Terrestrial Intelligence - either directly, or by inspiring the minds of the circle makers! I buy every edition of Fortean Times as I have done for years, but also recognise that the local kids who pimp their rides are doing something folkloric too; there is community, transference, ritual, custom, transformation and not a little by way of misrule. Likewise, in terms of context & occasion alone, Karaoke becomes Folk Music, though stretching an Orthodox Reading of the 1954 Definition around it might prove problematic. The Folk are still there; the same issues of life, labour, love and death remain paramount as they have done for thousands of years and, when I see the Hen Party girls out in their flamboyant liveries braving the gales of Blackpool, I see something common to the whole of human history. I don't point my camera at them though, experience having taught me that will just result in a multiple exposure by way of a greater misrule, after which they go home and get on with the business of living their lives, as we all must.