books in a pile in my office

I'm probably going to be in clean-out mode for some time to come, which means these posts will continue to be jumbled....

Books Related to Teaching Storytelling:

--Bruner, Jerome Making Stories
I read this while in the hospital for a one-day medical test, so I have odd memories associated with it. (All was well with the test.) Alma Gottlieb recommended it to me, and I found it to be intriguing because it situates story both as an inherent element of the legal system--"The Legal and the Literary," chpt 2--and as the central tool for "The Narrative Creation of Self" (chpt 3).

I'm copying the first chapter, "The Uses of Story," with the idea that it would make a good reflection piece for later in the class, much as I've used the set of three articles by Betsy Hearne for this spring 2007 iteration.

--Thursby, Jacqueline S. Story: A Handbook
Absolutely useful, positively dry as dust. It's not that the definitions, information, and expansive overview given aren't worthwhile--they are deeply worthwhile--but the depth is so shallow that the book reads like a dictionary definition of loosely related terms. Nevertheless, it's current and it's a whirlwind tour of practically everything related to folklore studies, storytelling, and narrative studies, which libraries should definitely own. I'm copying the "Scholarship and Approaches" chapter.

--Dundes, Alan The Study of Folklore
One of many important books by Dundes on the study of folklore. This is an edited collection from 1965, and contains a number of gems from big names in the field at the time (Stith Thompson). I've been distracted from this post by one essay by Bascom on "Four Functions of Folklore." The four functions turn out to be: 1) fantasy, 2) validating culture, 3) education (proverbs, morals, the bogey-man), and 4) to instill conformity. Bascom also writes that all 4 functions can be summed up as maintaining the stability of the culture. Folktales "warn the dissatisfied of over-ambitious individual to be content with his lot, to accept the world as it is and his place in it, and thus to conform to the accepted patterns." (p. 296)

Except, of course, when the folklore is about the act of instigating social change. Bascom doesn't say this at all, but I think it's crucial to remember that some stories are about validating the outsider, the possibility of changing the world, or the necessity for political resistance.

I'm also reading a book called "Why are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" by Beverly Daniel Tatum. She emphases the need to deliberately promulgate stories of resistance in addition to stories of oppression. This resistance may come from people of any color, but without a sense that there were individuals working against such evils as slavery, a child encountering this history could easily be overwhelmed. It would also be confusing... if that's how things were and it's not how they are, then why did they change? Stories of resisters are important.

At the same time, the Bascom essay in the Dundes book has a point, in that stories always convey at least implicit ideas of what a proper way of being in that culture is. There are several other interesting essays in this collection: "The 'It' Role in Children's Games" by Gump and Sutton-Smith which examines how power plays out in these sorts of games, "The Three Bears" by Phillips which searches for folkloric origins of this authored tale, which has since passed back into folklore... lots of interesting things, really, but the entire collection reflects an overly psychologized ethos that was probably the result of its 1965 publication date, a time when Americans had absorbed the ideas of Freud and others thoroughly. It's funny how much you can feel the impact of historical context on supposedly objective scholarship.