Grand Theory in Folkloristics
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Why is there no "Grand Theory" in the study of folklore? Talcott Parsons (1902–1979) advocated "grand theory," which put the analysis of social phenomena on a new track in the broadest possible terms. Not all sociologists or folklorists accept those broad terms; some still adhere to the empirical level. Through a forum sponsored by the American Folklore Society, the diverse answers to the question of such a theory arrived at substantial agreement: American folklorists have produced little "grand theory." One speaker even found all the theory folklorists need in the history of philosophy. The two women in the forum (Noyes and Mills) spoke in defense of theory that is local, "apt," suited to the audience, and "humble"; the men (Bauman and Fine) reached for something Parsons might have recognized. The essays in this collection, developed from the forum presentations, defend diverse positions, but they largely accept the longstanding concentration in American folkloristics on the quotidian and local.

Michael Dylan Foster and Ray Cashman

Folkloristics in the Twenty-First Century
Alan Dundes

America's Antitheoretical Folkloristics
Lee Haring

The Sweep of Knowledge: The Politics of Grand and Local Theory in Folkloristics
Gary Alan Fine

What('s) Theory?
Margaret A. Mills

The Philology of the Vernacular
Richard Bauman

Humble Theory
Dorothy Noyes

Grand Theory, Nationalism, and American Folklore
John W. Roberts

There is No Grand Theory in Germany, and for Good Reason
James R. Dow

What Theory Is
Newton Garver

Weak Theory in an Unfinished World
Kathleen Stewart

"Or in Other Words": Recasting Grand Theory
Kirin Narayan

Disciplining Folkloristics
Charles L. Briggs

Reflections on Grand Theory, Graduate School, and Intellectual Ballast
Chad Edward Buterbaugh

Ten Years After
Lee Haring



Publié par
Date de parution 19 septembre 2016
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780253024428
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0500€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Grand Theory in Folkloristics
E NCOUNTERS : Explorations in Folklore and Ethnomusicology
Michael Dylan Foster and Ray Cashman, Editors
A Journal of Folklore Research Book
Grand Theory in Folkloristics
Edited by Lee Haring
This book is a publication of
Indiana University Press
Office of Scholarly Publishing
Herman B Wells Library 350 1320 East 10th Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA
2016 by Indiana University Press
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The Association of American University Presses Resolution on Permissions constitutes the only exception to this prohibition.
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences-Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Haring, Lee, editor.
Title: Grand theory in folkloristics / edited by Lee Haring.
Description: Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 2016. | Series: Encounters : explorations in folklore and ethnomusicology | Includes bibliographical references and index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2016019302| ISBN 9780253024398 (pbk. : alk. paper) | ISBN 9780253024428 (ebook)
Subjects: LCSH: Folklore-United States-Philosophy. | Folklore-Study and teaching-United States.
Classification: LCC GR105 .G727 2016 | DDC 398.20973-dc23 LC record available at
1 2 3 4 5 21 20 19 18 17 16
On the cover : Gustave Baumann, Grand Canyon , 1934, color woodcut, 12 11/16 x 12 13/16 in. Collection of the New Mexico Museum of Art. Museum purchase with funds raised by the School of American Research, 1952 (903.23G). Copyright New Mexico Museum of Art. Photo by Blair Clark.
Preface / Michael Dylan Foster and Ray Cashman
1 Folkloristics in the Twenty-First Century / Alan Dundes
2 America s Antitheoretical Folkloristics / Lee Haring
3 The Sweep of Knowledge: The Politics of Grand and Local Theory in Folkloristics / Gary Alan Fine
4 What( s) Theory? / Margaret A. Mills
5 The Philology of the Vernacular: / Richard Bauman
6 Humble Theory / Dorothy Noyes
7 Grand Theory, Nationalism, and American Folklore / John W. Roberts
8 There Is No Grand Theory in Germany, and for Good Reason / James R. Dow
9 What Theory Is / Newton Garver
10 Weak Theory in an Unfinished World / Kathleen Stewart
11 Or in Other Words : Recasting Grand Theory / Kirin Narayan
12 Disciplining Folkloristics / Charles L. Briggs
13 Reflections on Grand Theory, Graduate School, and Intellectual Ballast / Chad Edward Buterbaugh
14 Ten Years After / Lee Haring
Michael Dylan Foster and Ray Cashman

Preface: Theorizing Grand Theory in Folkloristics
T HIS BOOK IS an expanded edition of a Journal of Folklore Research special issue published in 2008. That original issue had a long history and, for a slim volume, has made remarkably expansive ripples in the disciplinary pool of folkloristics. The time is right, we feel, to republish the articles collected therein because the questions they raise are just as critical today as they were almost a decade ago. What is grand theory ? Do folklorists in fact lack grand theory? Why should it matter (or not) for folklore studies? How does/should theory inform our research? The chapters that follow fervently address these questions and many more, exploring, comparing, revealing, speculating, and most of all theorizing. We will allow them to speak for themselves, but it is worth adding here a little context and explanation.
In October of 2004, the American Folklore Society (AFS) held its annual meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah. Alan Dundes, whose prolific and influential work crossed genres and geographic regions, was asked to give the Invited Presidential Plenary Address. Although he was, as one colleague put it, the most renowned folklorist of his time (Hansen 2005, 245), Dundes had not actually participated in the meeting in many years. He delivered, in the words of Regina Bendix,
one of his rousing, funny, critical, controversial, irreverent, yet erudite papers in the rapid-fire pace in which he tended to lecture-pausing only for an insight, a joke, or an analytic statement to sink in-only to pick up the pace again with more. His address ruffled some feathers, as many of his presentations and publications tended to do; it made the usual demands for rigorous scholarship founded on multilingual bibliographic research and voiced a commitment to an internationally housed discipline; it challenged, politely but firmly, the fieldwork practices of major scholars in the field; it astonished and purportedly even shocked some younger members of the audience. (Bendix 2005, 485)
The text of Dundes s address, titled Folkloristics in the Twenty-First Century, was published the following autumn in the Journal of American Folklore (Dundes 2005; see also chapter 1 ), where it continued to provoke controversy and stimulate discussion. Sadly, its impact was made all the more poignant by the fact that the very same issue of the journal contained Dundes s own obituary: he had passed away unexpectedly in the spring of that year, in the months between his oral delivery of the lecture and its publication. In this context his address became, as it were, a provocative parting gesture from the most provocative folklorist of his generation.
Among the many comments in Dundes s paper was a lamentation on the low profile of folkloristics within the academy. The first, and in my opinion the principal, reason for the decline of folklore programs at universities, he explained, is the continued lack of innovation in what we might term grand theory (Dundes 2005, 387; see also chapter 1 ). This question of grand theory -or its lack-was duly taken up at the AFS annual meeting held in October of 2005 when Lee Haring chaired a plenary session featuring a number of prominent folklorists. The panel, titled, Why Is There No Grand Theory in Folkloristics? faced these issues head on:
Does American folkloristics have or need grand theory ? Can a discipline be taken seriously if it studies culture with no reference to a broader social theory? If past folklore theories have been successively discredited, is there no space for a new one? Where shall folklorists look for a theoretical base? The forum will open such questions; speakers will briefly present their views; much interaction and debate is hoped for. (AFS 2005, 41)
There was indeed much interaction and debate, and eventually Haring brought together revised versions of the papers presented at that forum, along with a number of others, for a special issue of the Journal of Folklore Research ( JFR ) in 2008.
And that special issue has resonated within the discipline. Select articles (and often the entire volume) are assigned in graduate seminars, frequently appear on bibliographies of essential readings in folkloristics, and, of course, on qualifying exams for Masters and Doctoral students. That is to say, the discussion of grand theory-and what it says about American folkloristics, disciplinary histories and futures, and theory in the social sciences more generally-has become required reading for anybody serious about understanding the study of folklore today, particularly as it is practiced and theorized in the United States. Indeed, it should be remembered that the debate on grand theory emerged out of specific concerns within American folkloristic discourse. But that is not to say that it has remained limited to an English-speaking readership: two of the articles, for example, have already been translated and published in leading Japanese folklore journals (Noyes 2011; Bauman 2013).
It is impossible to know what Alan Dundes intended when he delivered that lecture back in 2004. But consummate provocateur that he was, perhaps this continued discussion-and the fact that decades into the twenty-first century students and scholars still grapple with the questions he raised-is exactly what he had in mind. The discourse on grand theory, and especially its exploration in the 2008 issue of JFR , continues to compel us to take a long, hard, critical look at folklore studies and ask essential questions about disciplinary definitions, contributions, influences, and responsibilities. And ideally these questions also inspire a more comparative approach to the field, a dynamic international exchange of ideas that encourages folklorists to seek potential answers beyond their own shores.
In his contribution to the JFR special issue, Charles Briggs explains that in the 1990s he and Amy Shuman edited a theory-focused special issue of Western Folklore (Briggs and Shuman 1993). But here s the rub, Briggs writes, Shuman and I attempted to turn these articles into a collection for classroom use, but we were repeatedly told by publishers that there was no market for books on folkloristic theory (Briggs 2008, 92; see also chapter 12 ). What then makes it possible for us today to republish the JFR issue as a standalone book exploring folkloristic theory and indeed theorizing about theory? In part, perhaps, changes in publishing technologies allow us to create a book that can supply the demands of even a relatively specialized market. But more importantly, we are also reaping the compounded benefits of earlier s

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