Thursday, 26 April 2018

Hi ho, hi ho ...

I'm busily gearing up for a couple of conferences, and finding that my fascination with the history of folklore is moving on apace.

Tomorrow I'm off to the Folklore Society's annual conference. This year's theme is 'Working Life: Belief, Custom, Ritual, Narrative'. It looks, as ever, a fascinating event (it's always the central point of my intellectual year, I must say), and I'll be talking essentially about the folklore of folklorists. This has been raised and discussed before, but I'll be considering the lore that we deploy to consolidate our understanding of our own thinking and practice: like any occupational group, folklorists use folklore to consolidate our social cohesion and to consolidate our occupational practices. It may be a slight topic - I don't want it just to be an exercise in navel-gazing, but it's also not the main event in folkloric research - but its personal significance for all of us makes it rather special to me.

When I get back I'm working again on some earlier folklorists, but in the meantime I've also written a guest blog post for Twitter's #FolkloreThursday crowd. When I started my Folklore MA in the much-lamented National Centre for English Cultural Tradition at Sheffield, Julia Bishop asked us 'Ok, then, you're all interested in it: so what is folklore?' And we struggled for an answer. At the end of that module Julia asked us again 'After a whole term's study: what is folklore?' And we realised that it hadn't been a trick question, after all, but finding ways of explaining succinctly what folklore is involves some knowledge of how it had been understood and explained previously. I'm happy to find that I've been doing this quite a bit of late, but this blog post, '"Folklore"? What do you mean? And why?' marks another attempt by me to set out some of the issues, highlight some of the problems, and hopefully still make it all as fascinating as I find it.

Once I'm back from the 'Working Life' conference I'm intending to get down to some more serious work on one or two of these questions. I've described my paper tomorrow as 'another love letter to my discipline', and I'm standing by it.

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