Introduction to Folklore, Paper #2, Things We Do
Interpreting Folk Practices
Your goals in this assignment are:
• to document an example of the kinds of folklore in which people participate bodily and
with multiple senses (festival, custom, celebration, music, dance, play, gesture, etc.)
• in which you have participated or about which you can get friends or family members to
• and, to offer an interpretation of this example of “folklore that we do”
o based on the participants and cultural or historical context, and
o applying theories about these folk activities articulated in course articles and
Step One: Select and document your example of contemporary practice
• You may do this by:
o participating in a family or group celebration, festival, custom, dance, musical
activity, game, legend trip, etc., and taking notes on the significant features
o recalling one of these events in which you participated and taking notes on your
memories of the significant features
o getting someone to recall and describe such an event that they found
particularly significant and taking notes as above
o getting someone to demonstrate a dance, gesture, etc., and explain how they
learned it, when/how they engage in or use it, etc.
o (If you have another idea of something you think might fit for this assignment,
talk with your TA or Prof. Berlinger before settling on it.)
Step Two: Document the context and folk qualities
• Write down an explanation of the cultural, historical, and social context for this exampleof
o Social context: Who participates in it? Who organizes it? How long has it been
going on? From whom has it been passed down? (Try to get concrete evidence,but it
is okay to speculate as long as you indicate that’s what you are doing.)
o Cultural and historical context: What do we need to know about the group(s) of
participants and their beliefs and/or what else is going on in the world at the
time in order to make sense of this example?
o Explain the evidence of transmission and variation that makes us comfortable
calling this an example of folklore.
Step Three: Identify the course readings and other sources in dialogue with which you willdevelop
• As Prof. Berlinger explained in her lectures for this section, folk practices (“things we do”)
are often significant both because people engage in them with their bodies and senses AND
because this engagement ties us to our communities and/or moves us through thecircle of
the year or the life cycle in deep (if not always acknowledged) ways. Does your practice
accomplish any of these? If so, how?
• Identify examples in at least two of the course readings or lectures (including the guest
lectures) that either
o model the kind of analysis you think should apply to your example or
o that you want to argue against (that is, you will explain why the apparently
obvious interpretation is not the best one)
Step Four: Write your paper
• The elements you should be sure to cover/questions you should be sure to answer are:
o Describe the folk practice as fully as possible. If you are working on a large-scaleevent
like a community festival, you will probably want to focus on just one or two elements
(be clear that that is what you are doing).
o Describe the social, cultural, and historical context and the evidence of
transmission and variation as outlined in step two.
o Which of the common features or elements of this kind of practice show up in
your example, in what forms, what does participating in them do for those
o From what perspective or in relation to which lectures or readings are you
analyzing this example and why did you choose those?
o Given all of the above, what would you argue is the meaning or significance of this example of
folk practice for those who engage in it? How do other scholarswho have written about
related folk practices help you to arrive at this conclusion, either because you are
making a parallel or only slightly divergent argument or because you discovered an
example that contradicts or is an exception to a pattern they have identified?
o (Remember that you should shape your paper as an essay. You need to articulateyour
thesis clearly in the first paragraph and build your argument systematically. See the Writing
Center’s “Tips and Tools” for guidance, especially their piece on Thesis Statements
Cite your sources
• We highly recommend that you use the Chicago Author-Date citation system, althoughit
is fine to use another citation system with which you are comfortable as long as you do so
• You can find the Chicago Author-Date system at https://guides.lib.unc.edu/citinginformation/chicago-author-sample
The Chicago Author-Date system requires that:
o within the text, immediately after a quotation or information or idea from a
source, you give (author’s last name publication date, page #) and
o you list Works Cited alphabetically at the end of the paper
■ Hint: our syllabus provides full references for all course readings
o (Berlinger 2021)
o Berlinger, Gabrielle A. 2021. Lecture on Types of Folklore, Things We Do,
Community Festival, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. September 27.
o If you cite more than one source by the same author with the same year,
distinguish them as 2021a, 2021b, etc.
Scholarly source example:
o (Bird 2018, 115)
o Bird, S. Elizabeth. 2018. Playing with Fear: Interpreting the Adolescent Legend Trip.
In Legend Tripping: A Contemporary Legend Casebook, ed. Lynne S. McNeilland
Elizabeth Tucker, pp. 112-128. Logan: Utah State University Press.
• Paper should be roughly 1000 – 1250 words (~5 pages, double-spaced), not including
• Give your paper a title and put your name and your TA’s name at the top of the paper.
• Number the pages.
• Papers are due by 11 am on Friday, October 20.
• Upload a digital copy under Assignments on Sakai and sign the Honor Pledge.
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