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Cultural Studies: Folklore – the Art of Telling a Story Essay


Introduction: Defining the Subject, Authors, and Scope

Folklore is an integral part of any culture. Every person knows at least some elements of folklore in his or her culture. Its origins, specific features and its difference from other literary forms are, however, rather obscure for an average person. In his article “On the Concepts of Folklore,” Eliott Oring attempts at defining the phenomenon of folklore.

To start with, Oring checks the etymology of the word “folklore,” referring to Dundee (Oring 1). As Oring explains, the word can be split into two parts, “folk” and “lore.” In Oring’s understanding, “folk” is defined as a bunch of people, whereas “lore” supposedly includes an “itemized list of genres (Oring 2).

Definitions of folklore

Oring distinguishes several key definitions of folklore. First, folklore is a product of people’s “invention and creativity” (Oring, 3). The next definition states that folklore is any form of human expression. Another interpretation names folklore cultural heritage passed from one generation to another. Folklore is referred to as a bunch of speech forms and customs that are supposed to reflect the past.

When it comes to recalling that “folklore” is composed of “folk” and “lore,” one may say that “folk” is rendered as a group of people who possess a common feature or quality, while “lore” is referred to by Dundee as a list of genres.

The necessity of the definition

The fact that most people can provide examples of folklore on the spot begs the question of whether it is necessary to define it. People define folklore instinctively, as Oring explains. Therefore, folklore is a thing in itself that does not need definition. According to Oring, folklore is a means to envision the world through the lens of a different culture.

Research Objectives and Methodology: A Critical Glance

In his paper, Oring aims at defining folklore from different perspectives. Also, Oring attempts at drawing the line between folklore and other forms of literature.

Key Research Results: The Features That Stand out

To define folklore as a cultural phenomenon, Oring ventures into the history of literature. The research shows that folklore stems from Romanticism in that it supports the natural and spiritual as opposed to the civilization related issues. Also, Oring stresses that folklore stems from Nationalism in that it defines people’s national identity and key features of national culture.

Folklore and creativity

Folklore is often confused with creativity; however, these are completely different concepts. Folklore differs from creativity in that it is the result of the creative process; in other words, folklore originates from creativity. However, folklore cannot exist outside creativity.

Fragments of philosophy

Folklore incorporates elements of philosophy. It is remarkable that folklore usually takes the form of stories that are meant to teach people lessons regarding morality, reasonability, and humanism. As a result, folklore incorporates very basic philosophical principles and often poses philosophical dilemmas to the audience.

Supernatural motifs

Folklore often (though not always) includes supernatural elements. Blurring the line between civilization and wilderness, it helps solve the notorious nature-vs.-nurture The conflict that evolves in a direct proportion to technological progress.

Making the tale well-known

Grimm brothers and their tales are often associated with folklore, mainly because their tales are an interpretation of folklore motifs. However, folklore was not initially meant solely for children, in contrast to tales, which the differences between the original folklore pieces and Grimms’ tales show.

Folklore and mythology

As Oring explains, folklore may or may not incorporate the elements of mythology. The latter presupposes the emergence of unrealistic characters and plotlines, whereas, in folklore, neither is necessary.

Folklore and jokes

Both folklore and jokes presuppose a satirical interpretation of reality. However, folklore does not necessarily contain a humorous element. Jokes, unlike folklore, are aimed at making people laugh.

Folklore in the eyes of romantic nationalists

Opposed to modernity and is in search for their national origins, Romantic Nationalists rediscovered folklore. The latter was seen as an escape from the urbanized city into the realm of nature and, therefore, interpreted as an intellectual and spiritual shrine.

Folklore through the lens of evolutionism

Oring claims that folklore represents the vestige of a more primitive era in human development and, therefore, attracts people. Modern culture tends to imitate the older one by analyzing its folklore.

Folklore and it’s oral/written forms

As a rule, folklore takes forms of oral tradition. However, in some cases, written forms of folklore emerge, Oring explains. Folklore was the result of urbanized cities blending with the rural folk, the process that is usually referred to as the Great Tradition. Some of the most common forms of folklore include epitaphs, latrinalia, and limericks.

Conclusion: Where the Concept of Folklore Stem from

Representing a more ancient culture, folklore is both cultural heritage and a means to enrich the present-day world. Allowing a nation to retain its cultural heritage, folklore helps one embrace the wisdom of the ancestors.

Works Cited

Oring, Eliott. “On the Concepts of Folklore.” Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: A Reader. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 1989. 1–22. Print.

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1. IvyPanda. "Cultural Studies: Folklore - the Art of Telling a Story." March 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/cultural-studies-folklore-the-art-of-telling-a-story/.


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IvyPanda. "Cultural Studies: Folklore - the Art of Telling a Story." March 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/cultural-studies-folklore-the-art-of-telling-a-story/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Cultural Studies: Folklore - the Art of Telling a Story." March 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/cultural-studies-folklore-the-art-of-telling-a-story/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Cultural Studies: Folklore - the Art of Telling a Story'. 17 March.

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