One of the best known explanations of folklore is found in Alan Dundes' brief essay, "What Is Folklore?" Dundes disputes the notion that "folk" should be automatically identified with peasant or rural groups, or with people from the past. He argues that contemporary urban people also have folklore and suggests that rather than dying out, folklore is constantly being created and recreated to suit new situations (Dundes, 1965: 2).
Dundes asserts that "folk" can refer to "any group of people whatsoever who share at least one common factor. It does not matter what the linking factor is-it could be a common occupation, language, or religion-but what is important is that a group...have some traditions that it calls its own" (Dundes, 1965: 2).
Rather than offering a definition of folklore, Dundes provides a list of various types of folklore to demonstrate the large range of the field of study. His list includes the expected subjects of folktales, legends, myths, ballads, festivals, folk dance and song, but also offers examples of folklore that may not be as obvious, such as children's counting out rhymes, food recipes, house, barn and fence types, latrinalia (informal writings in public restrooms), as well as the sounds traditionally used to call specific animals. Dundes stresses that his list is not exhaustive, but merely a sampling of the subjects that folklore scholarship can address, and which merit study for the insight that they provide into specific cultures (Dundes, 1965: 3).
Folklorists focus on the study of human creativity within specific cultural and social contexts, including how such expressions (i.e. stories, music, material culture and festivals) are linked to political, religious, ethnic, regional, and other forms of group identity.
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Bauman, Richard (ed.). 1992. Folklore, Cultural Performances, and Popular Entertainments: A Communications-centered Handbook. New York: Oxford University Press.
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Dorson, Richard (ed.). 1972. Folklore and Folklife, An Introduction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
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Dundes, Alan. 1965. The Study of Folklore. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.
GR66 .D87 1980 Undergraduate Library
Dundes, Alan. 1980. "Who Are the Folk?" In Interpreting Folklore. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
Noyes, Dorothy. 1995. "Group." Journal of American Folklore . 108 (430): 449-478.
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Oring. Elliott. 1986. Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: An Introduction. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press.
Kentucky Folk Web
Site dedicated to promoting Kentucky's culture, including festivals, exhibits, and other events. The site also provides curriculum guides and materials for teaching about traditional life and culture and information to link people to resources in or near their communities. Provides some very useful definitions of folklore, including those drawn from key folklorists.
New York Folklore Society
Provides some useful definitions and examples of folklore in modern contexts drawing for folklore scholars and documentation of community folklore by public folklorists.