E N G L 491. 001 / A N T H 3 9 9. 002
F o l k l o r e o f t h e A m e r i c a s

Spring 2005 M 4:30-7:10pm
Enterprise 176

Dr. Margaret R. Yocom, English;
Dr. Margaret R. Yocom,  Folklorist, Department of English
-- Co-coordinator, Folklore & Mythology Minor
-- Advisor, English Dept's Folklore, Myth. & Lit. Concentration
-- Co-director, Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies: Folklore Concentration
-- Director, N Virginia Folklife Archive, Rob A439

Office: Robinson A439   Phone: 993-1172
Mailbox: English Department, 487 Robinson
E-mail : myocom@gmu.edu
Home page: http://mason.gmu.edu/~myocom
Northern VA Folklife Archive: http://www.gmu.edu/folklore/nvfa
Classweb: http://classweb.gmu.edu/myocom (See this site for most recent syllabus)
Folklore@GMU: http://www.gmu.edu/folklore/resources
GMU Electronic Reserve: http://oscr.gmu.edu
Listserve on folklife activities at GMU and in DC area: GMUFOLK-L

Franz Kafka has famously said that a book is an ax for the frozen sea within. How more accurate to see any artwork as a portal of a kind through which we step, like Alice through the looking-glass, into worlds not our own and unimaginable by us, conjoining ourselves with persons not known to us.
—Joyce Carol Oates, “The Writing Life: Tales Out of School” Washington Post, 16 March 1997

Artworks such as quilts and carvings, masks and costumes, festive foodways and treasured mementos do provide portals to worlds unimaginable to us, but they also enable us to re-envision those worlds we’ve grown up into and think we know well. To learn about traditional creativity and the forms it takes we’ll explore the lives and works of many, varied folk artists. Why do members of our families hold fast to particular foods year after year? Why do we treasure mementos that have no worldly value? What prompts European, African, and Native American women to pick up their needles and create bursts of color with swatches of cloth? What propells a Vietnam War veteran to sculpt and paint scenes of the battles he’s survived? Why might a reclusive Kentucky man turn to chairmaking? Why would a Maine woodsman want to spend his off-hours chain-saw-carving images of miniature loggers and giant bears?

In our semester together, we’ll use the lenses of biography and literature to explore the aesthetic characteristics, the communal bases, the tug of memory and tradition, and the behavioral and political impulses intrinsic to traditional arts and artists.
(This course fulfills requirements in the Cultural Studies and the Folklore, Mythology, and Literature Concentrations within the Department of English.)

Required Texts:
Kathy Neustadt, Clambake: A History and Celebration of an American Tradition
Diane Hacker, A Writer’s Reference (or some equivalent style/grammar/punctuation guide)
Readings in ENGL 491/ANTH 399. Photo-copied booklet of articles on sale in Bookstore.

To be announced:
Varick Chittenden, Vietnam Remembered: The Folk Art of Marine Veteran Michael D. Cusino

Recommended Texts, no required readings:
Henry Glassie, Material Culture
Rosan Jordan and Susan Kalcik, Women’s Folklore, Women’s Culture
Joan Radner, Feminist Messages: Coding in Women’s Folk Culture