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Literature and Folklore

ENGL 571.401
instructor(s):
M 2-5

This course regards the fields of literature and folklore as one world: a single domain comprising innumberable diverse systems. Whether people are writing or not, they compose and perform tales and epics, poetry and plays. One set of questions asked in the course focuses on the artists and the genres, performances, and publications, they produce in several societies, both literate and nonliterate. Another set of questions examines the ways that well-known literary artists use folklore and thus take part in vernacular tradition. In crosscultural perspective, the course analyzes how literary canons are formed and reinforced, how literary judgments are made by audiences and critics, and whether the concepts of Western criticism can be applied to the verbal art of nonWestern peoples. Along with literary texts, reading include critical folkloristic, and anthropological commentary. The course combs these for information about the nature of the poetic, the role of the artist, and the social constraints on literary production and performance.