FOLK 77: The Poetic Roots of Hip Hop (First-year Seminar)
Glenn Hinson (email@example.com )
“There ain’t nothing new about rapping.” That’s what elders from a host of African American communities declared when hip-hop first exploded onto the scene. This “new” form, they claimed, was just a skilled reworking of poetic forms that had been around for generations. Each elder seemed to point to a different form—some to the wordplay of rhyming radio deejays, others to the bawdy flow of street-corner poets, still others to the rhymed storytelling of sanctified singers. And each was right; elegant rhyming has indeed marked African American talk for generations. Yet because most such rhyming was spoken, its history remains hidden. This seminar will explore this lost history, searching the historical record to uncover hidden heritages of African American eloquence, rhymed storytelling, and sharp social critique. Our goal is nothing short of re-writing hip hop’s history, by revealing the everyday poetries that, for generations, have defined what it means to be African American. Towards this end, students will both meet with oral poets and conduct original archival research, leading to team-based class presentations and individual papers. Throughout the semester, students will also attend a range of poetic events, thus honing their skills at hearing and appreciating the eloquence that surrounds us all.
FOLK 202: Introduction to Folklore
Mike Taylor (firstname.lastname@example.org)
In daily life, we all draw upon skills and ideas we’ve learned through observation, imitation, and practice. Consciously or not, each of us incorporates existing patterns into the ways we interact and communicate with those around us. By means of our personal choices and actions, each of us also changes these patterns slightly, making traditions or customs our own. Folklorists study these informal processes and the materials thereby communicated and transformed, that is, the materials we come to think of as vernacular or traditional culture. By focusing in particular on the aesthetic aspects of vernacular culture—on patterns of expression that appeal to the senses—folklorists seek to understand how people interpret and make sense of the world. The study of folklore asks how, in a world flooded with commercial and highly refined cultural products, people use those particular materials that they themselves create and re-shape in order to express who they are, where they belong, and what they value. In this course we will look at diverse forms (or “genres”) of folklore, including song, architecture, legend, and food. We will consider how vernacular expressive culture is learned, what it does for people, and why these processes and products persist through time and space. Students will be introduced to the discipline of Folklore’s central research methodology, ethnography, and have an opportunity to practice that approach in individual and group research projects.
This course is cross-listed with ENGL/ANTH 202. Note: Students enrolling in this class must also enroll in a recitation section.
AMST 246: Indigenous Storytelling
Chris Teuton (email@example.com)
This course offers a historically, politically, and culturally contextualized examination of Native America through oral, written, and visual storytelling. Covering a wide range of genres, including oral narratives, novels, and visual arts, this introductory course showcases the fluidity of Indigenous artistic forms and their continuing centrality in Native America.
AMST 482: Images of the American Landscape
Kathy Roberts (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This course introduces students to the concept of landscape and how it developed in the Western context. We consider how the idea of landscape shapes the way we look at our physical surroundings. The course progresses thematically, covering different analytical perspectives on landscape studies, such as experience (phenomenological approaches), consumption and the geographic gaze. Toward the end of the course, we consider several particular landscapes in light of our theoretical readings: urban, rural and university. We take class field-trips to visit and analyze these landscapes together.
AMST 484: Visual Culture
Bernie Herman (email@example.com)
Visual Culture investigates the ways in which we make and signify meaning through images. We cross boundaries looking at objects ranging from the fine arts to advertising to film to comics to websites. Our conversations range from the history of visualizing Sherlock Holmes to the street politics of graffiti. This course provides you with the critical tools to scrutinize and understand the visual worlds we inhabit.
FOLK/ENGL 487: Folk Narrative
Patricia Sawin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
To be human is to tell stories and to feel the pull of the stories others tell. These days we have almost limitless access to stories offered in the highly produced, dramatized versions of TV and movies, yet other—personal and/or traditional—narrative forms continue to fascinate. In daily informal communication we craft stories to recount and make sense of our own experience. Traditional fairytales allow us to revel in the fanciful while exploring our fondest dreams or deepest fears. Legends and rumors straddle the divide between the known and the uncertain, engaging us in a debate over what to believe and what is believable. Some stories encapsulate what is unique about a particular time, place, person, or culture. Others, found with variations in widely separated places and times, challenge us to consider the source of such ubiquitous appeal. Through telling and listening to stories we share knowledge, figure out who we are and what we might become, debate what really happened, stretch our imaginations, and internalize some cultural norms while challenging others. We encounter these stories in daily face-to-face encounters, in their iteration and transformation in TV and film, and, increasingly, shared through new social media. In this course we ask: What is the appeal of these three classic kinds of stories: personal narratives, legends, and folktales? What makes a “good” story? What is “traditional” about stories transformed so many times in so many contexts? Why do we come back time and again to familiar tropes and patterns? What clues hint at implicit meanings not evident on the surface? Students will collect stories shared in person or in mediated contexts and learn how to choose among and apply the most relevant theoretical perspectives to reveal their evolving significance.
FOLK 571: Southern Music
Bill Ferris (email@example.com)
This course explores the music of the American South and considers how this music serves as a window on the region’s history and culture. We will first consider the South and how the region’s distinctive sense of place defines music in each generation. From the Mississippi Delta to Harlan County, Kentucky, from small farms to urban neighborhoods, from the region itself to more distant worlds of the southern diaspora, southern music chronicles places and the people who live within them.Our course covers a vast span of southern music and its roots, from ballads to hip hop, with numerous stops and side-trips along the way. We will examine the differences between bluegrass and country, zydeco and Cajun, and black and white gospel. We will also study the influences of southern music on American classical music, art, dance, literature, and food.We will consider how field recordings were made by collectors and the impact of these recordings on contemporary music. We will also view documentary films on southern music and will consider how these films enrich our understanding of each musical tradition.
Note: Graduate students meet with Professor Ferris for an additional hour on Tuesdays, 9:30-10:30.
FOLK 790: Public Folklore
Glenn Hinson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This graduate seminar addresses the world of public folklore, exploring theory and praxis in public sector cultural work. Focusing on the ways that cultural workers (folklorists and others) bring their understandings to broader publics, and the ways that we can convey these understandings in full collaboration with the communities being represented, this course explores broad issues of representation, cultural politics, touristic display, and culturally-based economic development. While so doing, it remains eminently pragmatic, drawing participants into conversation with public folklorists, inviting them to attend (and assess) public folklore events, and charting the ways that public cultural outreach translates in the 21st century. At the seminar’s close, each participant will have written a fundable proposal for a public folklore project.
FOLK 850: Approaches to Folklore Theory
Patricia Sawin (email@example.com)
Folklore is not a thing, let alone a single, determinate object. It is, rather, a category of cultural analysis and a way of looking at our cultural world. It was developed as part of the project of European Modernity and had significantly different definitions and impacts in succeeding eras. Indeed, the “problem” with folklore (in the sense of both a practical challenge and a fascinating intellectual question) is that folklore is taken to stand for so many different partially overlapping or even contradictory objects. What, then, might it mean or entail to study folklore in the 21st century? This graduate seminar is designed to do three things. First, the readings provide one relatively systematic overview of many of the major issues and perspectives that have characterized the study of folklore over the past two centuries and more. Second, written work will require students to apply selected theories to bodies of data in order to understand the continuous process whereby theory illuminates data and data inform new theory. Third and perhaps most importantly, our discussion is intended to model a way of thinking historically about the discipline, recognizing how definitions of the folk and folklore and consequent ideas about the social role of folklore and what questions one might productively ask of such material have emerged from the political and social developments of various periods. Students’ challenge will be to use this perspective to develop a form of folklore study that responds progressively to the realities of the global culture in which we now operate.