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Elements of Folk Imagination

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSCC2LA8024

Semester and Year Offered: 2013-14

Course Coordinator and Team: Ravindran Sreeramchandran, Akhil Katyal (Program Coordinator)

Email of course coordinator: akhilkatyal@aud.ac.in

Pre-requisites: None

Course Objectives/Description:

The purpose of this course is to explore the nature of storytelling from the anthropological point of view. We will focus upon that genre of folklore known as the folktale primarily (but also look at other genres such as Ballads and Folk Songs) – because here folklorists offer us a vast repository of materials – to try and understand the nature and dynamic of storytelling as well as its diversity across cultures. What is the difference between living in a world of oral narrative and a literate world? How easy is it to recapture that "lost world"? Can we understand the role of narration in giving meaning to human life in culture and come to detect the storytelling that is present in everyday life and even in the professional life? Students will expand their knowledge of how “folk narrative” has been defined and approached by folklorists, past and present. We will begin with what have been considered the “major” genres, and move from narratives understood as more communal to those understood as more personal – troubling and blurring the boundaries of such a continuum (and of core concepts such as genre) as we go.

The objective of the course is to demonstrate to the student that folklore is far from a static body of material only of historical value but rather is a dynamic entity that continues to exert its influence to this day and that it has proven to be an enormous resource for fiction, music, the graphic arts and film.

Course Outcomes: On completion of the course, it is expected that the student will have

A clear understanding of the idea of the folk imagination.

Developed multicultural competence and sensitivity to issues and histories of diversity.

Developed inculcate moral and ethical reasoning through exposure to folk narratives.

Developed sensitivity to the place of culture in the self perception of communities.

Enabled the development of self directed, research oriented projects on folk culture.

Developed a familiarity with the digital resources available for the study and dissemination of folk culture.

Overall structure:

Introduction to the subject.

Deals with some basic issues and develops some foundational perspectives that have become canonical in treating and understanding oral narrative and the lore of the folk.

Do We Need to Tell Stories? : The Argument of Images and the Power in Mimesis and Gesture.

Telling Stories in Primary Oral Societies: Orality and Literacy

. Starting Something From Nothing: Origin Tales, Where They Come From and What They Tell Us.

Cultural Diversity and Sameness in Storytelling: Types and Motifs. Snow White in North Africa. Sleeping Beauty Around the World

The Same Old Story: Finitude in Motif, Theme, Plot and Character. Revisiting of the Narrative.

Contents (brief note on each module; indicative reading list with core and supplementary readings) :

UNIT WISE DIVISION THROUGH WEEK WISE BREAKS.

Week 1.

Introduction

Week 2.

Deals with some basic issues and develops some foundational perspectives that have become canonical in treating and understanding oral narrative and the lore of the folk.

  • Walter Benjamin, "The Storyteller" in ILLUMINATIONS. New York 1968.
  • Esther Schely-Newman, OUR LIVES ARE BUT STORIES; Narratives of Tunisian-Israeli Women. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. 2002. Introduction, Chapter 5. Conclusion. (Recommended)

Week 3.

Do We Need to Tell Stories? : The Argument of Images and the Power in Mimesis and Gesture.

  • Walter J. Ong, "African Talking Drums and Oral Poetics," NEW LITERARY HISTORY 8(1977):411429.
  • M. C. McGee, "Narrative Reason in Public Argument," JOURNAL OF COMMUNICATION, Vol 35. 1985. pp. 139155.
  • G. Hewes, "Primate Communication and the Gestural Origin of Language," CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY 14: (1)(1973):524. (Recommended)

Week4.

Telling Stories in Primary Oral Societies: Orality and Literacy

  • - J. Goody and Ian Watt, "The Consequences of Literacy", COMP. STUDIES IN SOC. AND HISTORY. Vol. 5: 304-345.
  • - Margaret Trawick, "Spirits and Voices in Tamil Songs" American Ethnologist, 15 (2), 1988. 193-215.Calerie Babb,
  • -Writing to Undo What Writing Has Done" Phylon, XLVII (2), 1987: pgs 107-116.
  • Week 5 & 6: Starting Something From Nothing: Origin Tales, Where They Come From and What They Tell Us.
  • Anna Birgitta Rooth, "The Creation Myths of the North American Indians", ANTHROPOS, Vol 52, (1957), 497508.
  • Aygmunt Bauman "The Story in the Story: Metanarration in Folk Narrative. In Bauman. VERBAL ART AS PERFORMANCE.

Week 7, 8 & 9:

These set of readings are about the pragmatics of folk sensibility in a rapidly changing world. Its authors engage many topics, but through all of the chapters there runs a series of crucial intra-civilizational debates: about the past and its uses, about the multiplicity of canons which performers may invoke (or subvert, and about the politics involved in the resilience of oral forms in a society where literacy is highly valued.

  • A.K. Ramanujan, “Toward a Counter-System: Women's Tales” in Gender, Genre. 1991. (Ed) Arjun, Appadurai et al. Univ. Of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Stuart Blackburn, “Death and Deification in a Bow Song Performance” in Stuart Blackburn and A. K.Ramanujan, eds., ‘’Another Harmony: New Essays on the Folklore of India,’’ Oxford Univ. Press.
  • Susan Wadley, "The Katha of Sakat: Two Tellings” 147-162, in Stuart Blackburn and A. K.Ramanujan, eds., Another Harmony: New Essays on the Folklore of India. Oxford Univ. Press.
  • Stuart Blackburn, “Performance as Paradigm: The Tamil Bow Song Tradition” in Stuart Blackburn and A. K.Ramanujan, eds., ‘’Another Harmony: New Essays on the Folklore of India’’, Oxford Univ. Press.

Unit 3.

Week 10 & 11

Cultural Diversity and Sameness in Storytelling: Types and Motifs. Snow White in North Africa. Sleeping Beauty Around the World

  • B. Bettleheim, “The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, 1976, Alfred A. Knopf.

Week 12 &13

The Same Old Story: Finitude in Motif, Theme, Plot and Character. Revisiting of the Narrative.

  • Paul Ricoeur. ‘’Narrative Time” Critical Inquiry, Vol. 7, No. 1, On Narrative (Autumn, 1980), pp. 169-190
  • A. K. Ramanujan, "Is there an Indian Way of Thinking?" Contrib. To Indian Sociology, Vol. 23 (1) 1989. PP 41-58.

Week 14. Summation and final Assessment situation.

Pedagogy:

Instructional design : Lecture and Class room discussion

Special needs (facilities, requirements in terms of software, studio, lab, clinic, library, classroom/others instructional space; any other – please specify) : Classroom with a projector.

Expertise in AUD faculty or outside: AUD as well as outside if needed.

Linkages with external agencies (e.g., with field-based organizations, hospital; any others)

Assessment structure (modes and frequency of assessments): Students are expected to participate fully in the activities of the classroom, which will include immersive reading, discussion, and engagement. Assessments will include components for presence and participation, a reading response, a seminar presentation, and a term paper. Students who are repeatedly absent will find themselves in difficulty both in terms of keeping up with the course content and their grade.

  • Presence and participation 20%
  • Response paper 25%
  • Seminar 25%
  • Term paper 30%

READING LIST

  • Albert Lord and Milman Parry, THE SINGER OF TALES. Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press 1966.
  • Walter Benjamin, "The Storyteller" in ILLUMINATIONS. New York 1968.
  • Esther Schely-Newman, OUR LIVES ARE BUT STORIES; Narratives of Tunisian-Israeli Women. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. 2002. Introduction, Chapter 5. Conclusion. (Recommended)
  • Walter J. Ong, "African Talking Drums and Oral Poetics," NEW LITERARY HISTORY 8(1977):411-429.
  • M. C. McGee, "Narrative Reason in Public Argument," JOURNAL OF COMMUNICATION, Vol 35. 1985. pp. 139-155.
  • G. Hewes, "Primate Communication and the Gestural Origin of Language," CURRENT ANTHROPOLOGY 14: (1)(1973):5-24. (Recommended)
  • J. Goody and Ian Watt, "The Consequences of Literacy", COMP. STUDIES IN SOC. AND HISTORY. Vol. 5: 304-345.
  • Margaret Trawick, "Spirits and Voices in Tamil Songs" American Ethnologist, 15 (2), 1988. 193-215.Calerie Babb, “Writing to Undo What Writing Has Done" Phylon, XLVII (2), 1987: pgs 107-116.
  • Anna Birgitta Rooth, "The Creation Myths of the North American Indians", ANTHROPOS, Vol 52, (1957), 497-508.
  • Zygmunt Bauman "The Story in the Story: Metanarration in Folk Narrative.” In Bauman. VERBAL ART AS PERFORMANCE.
  • A.K. Ramanujan, “Toward a Counter-System: Women's Tales” in Gender, Genre. 1991. (Ed) Arjun, Appadurai et al. Univ. Of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Stuart Blackburn, “Death and Deification in a Bow Song Performance” in Stuart Blackburn and A. K.Ramanujan, eds., Another Harmony: New Essays on the Folklore of India, Oxford Univ. Press.