Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


In this thesis I examine why and how the focus on aesthetic expression and the avoidance of making certain types of value judgments have shaped the discipline of folklore. In the first chapter I look briefly at some of the major figures and themes in our history in order to ascertain how we arrived at the perspective from which we now work. In Chapter Two I explore and critically examine the limited examples of North American folklore scholarship that examines "dysfunctional" folklore. In Chapter Three I consider the study of belief as an example of an area of folklore scholarship that has considered the consequences of ideas such as objectivity and neutrality, belief and disbelief, yet suggest that the discourse on approaches to the study of belief must continue because of the existence of belief-related practices which suggest that there may be instances in which value judgments are called for. In Chapter Four I discuss folklorists' recent acknowledgment in the last two decades that all that we do and have ever done has political implications. Yet, so far, folklorists have for the most part avoided investigation into the role of folklore in the enculturation of ideology, particularly ideologies that may be injurious to certain members of society. In Chapter Five I tie together the many themes that I have developed throughout this thesis and discuss the implications of our current model of folkloristics, a paradigm of celebration. In so doing, following the suggestions of feminist folklorists who have come before me, I present an example of how folklore serves to benefit from feminist theory. The central purpose of this thesis is to challenge folklorists to begin to move beyond celebration and consider the traditional nature of oppressive ideologies. Folklorists have the training and skills needed to deconstruct the transmission of traditions of dominance; our challenge, therefore, lies in the formulation of appropriate methods for doing so.



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Folklore Commons