Dr. Margaret R. Yocom
Spring 1999 M, W 1:30-2:45 Robinson A247

Office: Robinson A439 Phone/Voice mail #31172
Hours: M,W 10:30-11:30 & by appointment.
Mailbox: English Department, Rob A487
E-mail: myocom@gmu.edu
Web site: http://mason.gmu.edu/~myocom

Through the written and oral literature, the films, and the material objects that we meet in this folklore course, we will explore several aspects of the traditional culture of women and men. We'll use the perspectives open to us when we ask questions about gender: How does the gender of the performer and the audience influence the contruction of the text? Given the pressure to conform to roles and ways of being and given the devaluation of women's voices and work, how are women able to create what they wish? How do they subvert, reject, transform these judgments? What role do the products and processes of traditional culture--such as stories and storytelling, quilts and quilting-- play in both the maintenance and the transformation of stereotypic gender role behavior?


  • Readings in ENGL 491. Booklet of photo-copied articles for sale in Johnson Center, Rm 117
  • Dundes, Cinderella: A Case Book
  • Radner, Feminist Messages: Coding in Women's Folk Culture
  • Jordan and Kalcik, Women's Folklore, Women's Culture (book will arrive in Feb)



  • Hacker, Writer's Reference
  • Cashorali/Hopcke, Fairy Tales : Traditional Tales Retold for Gay Men
  • Lewin/Leap/Leap, ed., Out in the Field : Reflections of Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists
  • Taggart, Enchanted Maidens: Gender Relations in Spanish Folktales of Courtship and Marriage

Reserve Books (JC Library) listed on last page of syllabus

SCHEDULE OF TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION. (Snow days, sickness, and class decisions to shorten or lengthen discussions may cause this schedule to change. You are responsible for attending class and keeping up with any announced changes. Readings/activities listed after a date on this syllabus are to be prepared for that day's class.)
[For information on Group 1, Group 2, Group 3, and Group 4, please see the course requirement section of the syllabus.]
[* Starred readings are those that the assigned Group needs to prepare for that day's class. Other students do not have to read this article for class, but they are responsible for the information from this article that is discussed in class.]
[I've listed some recommended readings you may like to read as well; you will not be tested on this material.]

I Introduction to folklore

Mon, 25 Jan.

-- Introduction to the course. Introduction to folklore as a bridge between literary studies and anthropology. Discussion of the genres within folklore. Introduction to the three layers of culture: elite, popular, and folk.

Get your free tickets this week to the 24 March - April 11 play Grimm Tales. Production by Theater of the First Amendment. Adapted by Carol Ann Duffy. Ticket demand is high, and you are required to either see this or go to the 8 April storytelling, Thursday 4:30 to 7.

Wed, 27 Jan.
-- Storytelling: All Kinds of Fur

Mon, 1 Feb.
-- Discussion of several key concepts in the study of folklore by talking about variants of modern legends and the construction of the feminine and masculine within them.

-- How old is Cinderella? Discussion of the "marchen," the history of the folktale "Cinderella," and the differences between the heroine of the oral tales and of the written ones:
-- Yolen, in Dundes, Cinderella: "America's Cinderella" 294-306.
-- Jameson, in Dundes, Cinderella: "Cinderella in China," pp. 74 (lower half)-77.
-- Bascom, in Dundes Cinderella: "Cinderella in Africa" 148-158, 165 (last paragraph).
-- Handout. Aarne-Thompson, The Types of the Folktale. Type 510 "Cinderella"

II Gender Roles in Traditional Stories and Storytelling . . . stereotypes and creative responses

A. Theories of performance and context in traditional narratives and jokes:

Wed, 3 Feb.

-- (Group 1, Response Paper #1) In Readings. Falassi, Folklore by the Fireside. Intro. pp. ix-xii, xvii-xix; Chapter One, pp. 1-11, 16-28, 30-33. How does the Tuscan environment, especially the hearth and the fire, influence the telling and the content of the tales?

Mon, 8 Feb Falassi, cont'd.
-- (Group 2, RP #1) PCA #1: pp. 52-55, Folklore by the Fireside. And Falassi, in Dundes, Cinderella, pp. 276-293. How does the grandson finally get to tell his tale? What does the grandmother's riddle on page 287 refer to?

-- Recommended: Taggart, Enchanted Maidens (Differences between women and men's versions of Cinderella in rural Spain)
-- Recommended. Radner. 1989. "`The Woman Who Went to Hell': Coded Values in Irish Folk Narrative." ( Men and women's different tellings of one Irish tale.) Midwestern Folklore 15(2).

Wed, 10 Feb.
-- In-class exam questions on material to date.

B. "If the shoe fits, ..." : things Walt Disney never told us. Gender critiques of Perrault's and Grimms' written versions of oral narratives.

Mon, 15 Feb.
-- Perrault, in Dundes, Cinderella: "Cinderella, or the Little Glass Slipper" 14-21
-- Grimm Brothers, in Dundes, Cinderella: "Ash Girl (Aschenputtel)" 22-29

-- *(Group 3 only, RP #1) "Grimms' Tales and the Three Thousand Year Tradition," pp. 1-11 in Bottigheimer Grimms' Bad Birls and Bold Boys, on reserve. (How did the Grimms brothers come to write their versions of the tales? How did they change the tales? Male and female narrators of the tales?)

Wed, 17 Feb.
-- (Group 4, RP #1) In Readings. "Cinderella," pp. 57-70, in Bottigheimer, Grimms' Bad Girls and Bold Boys.
-- Stone. "Misuses of Enchantment" 125-145, in Jordan and Kalcik, Women's Folklore, Women's Culture.

Mon, 22 Feb. Re-visioning "Cinderella"
-- In Readings. Sexton's poems "The Key" and "Cinderella"
-- In Readings. Stainthorpe, "London Feminists Revisions of Grimms' Tales." Manuscript from the Northern Virginia Folklife Archive.

-- Recommended: Jarvis, in Haase, The Reception of the Grimms' Tales: "Trivial Pursuit? Women Deconstructing the Grimmian Model in the Kaffeterkreis" 102-126, on reserve. See also the many other rewritings of Grimm tales by Angela Carter, Barbara Walker, Peter Cashorali, and more.

Wed, 24 Feb
-- (Group 1, RP #2) Gordon, in Radner, Feminist Messages: "The Powers of the Handless Maiden," pp. 252-288

-- Recommended. Stone, in Women and Language, "And She Lived Happily Ever After?" 14-18
Recommended. Bly, Iron John: A Book About Men, especially pp. 1-27. Read "Iron Hans" in Grimm.

-- 25 (5pm/8pm), 26 (8pm), 27 Feb (8pm) "Ever After" retells Cinderella. Stars Drew Barrymore and Anjelica Huston. JC Cinema. See this film for class discussion 1 March.

Mon 1 March
-- (Group 2, RP#2) In Readings. Preston, "Cinderella as a Dirty Joke"
-- Discussion of "Ever After"

Wed, 3 March
-- Class cancelled in consideration of requirement to see play and storytelling later in semester. (I may need to change the date of this cancelled class.)

III Gendered Speech

Mon, 8 March
Do women tell stories differently from men?
-- *(Group 3 only, RP#2) Kalcik, " ... like Ann's gynecologist or the time I was almost raped; Personal Narratives in Women's Rap Groups," in Farrer, Women and Folklore, on reserve.
-- (Group 4, RP#2) Baldwin, in Jordan and Kalcik, Women's Folklore, Women's Culture: "Woof! A Word on Women's Roles in Family Storytelling" 149-162
-- Burk, in Women and Language: "Collaborative Group Performance Among Three Generations of Women" 3-8

-- Recommended. Yocom, in Jordan and Kalcik, Women's Folklore, Women's Culture: "Woman to Woman: Fieldwork and the Private Sphere" 45-53

PAPER #1 Due. Topics will be taken from readings about gender and storytelling discussed to date.

Wed, 10 March Gender systems and male speech patterns
-- (Group 1, RP#3) In Readings. Leary, "Fists and Foul Mouths: Fights and Fight Stories in Contemporary Rural American Bars"
-- (Group 2, RP#3) In Readings. Tobin, "Car Wrecks, Baseball Caps, and Man-to-Man Defense: The Personal Narratives of Adolescent Males"

15, 17 March No class SPRING BREAK

IV. Coding Strategies in the Traditional Arts

Mon, 22 March
-- (Group 3, RP#3) Radner and Lanser, "Strategies of Coding in Women's Cultures," in Radner, Feminist Messages, pp. 1-30.

Wed, 24 March
-- In Readings. "Jury of Her Peers," short story by Susan Glaspell
-- Exam question in-class

Mon, 29 March
-- Film, in class. Pat Ferrero, "Hearts and Hands" (on women's use of textile arts for political and social justice issues in the 19th century USA)

Wed, 31 March
-- Handout. Walker, Alice. "Everyday Use," from her short story collection In Love and Trouble.
-- (Group 4, RP#3) Pershing, "She Really Wanted to be Her Own Woman": Scandalous Sunbonnet Sue," in Radner, Feminist Messages, pp. 98-125.

Mon, 5 April
-- On reserve. Fienup-Riordan, "How Yupik Women Spoil Their Cloth: The Seal Party Quilts of the Nelson Island Eskimos" in To Honor and Comfort: Native Quilting Traditions (MacDowell/Dewhurst).
-- (Group 1, RP#4) Ostrowski, in Women and Language: "The Clothesline Project: Women's Stories of Gender Related Violence" 37-41

V Fieldwork and Gender

Wed, 7 April

(Group 2, RP#4) Yocom, "'Awful Real': Dolls and Development in Rangeley, Maine," pp. 126- 154 in Radner, Feminist Messages. (Slides in class of women's and men's traditional arts in a northwestern Maine logging community. Discussion of fieldwork and gender.)

-- Recommended: Bronner, Chain Carvers: Old Men Carving Meaning.
-- Recommended: Yocom. 1990. "Fieldwork, Gender, and Transformation: The Second Way of Knowing," in Southern Folklore 47(1).

Mon, 12 April
-- (Group 3, RP#4) In Readings. Bresnahan, "Depression Quilts." Manuscript, N VA Folklife Archive.

Wed, 14 April
-- Discussion of Duffy's Grimm Tales play and Susan Gordon's storytelling.
DUE: exam questions on these performances.

-- (Group 4, RP #4) In Readings. Lawless, in JAF: "Writing the Body in the Pulpit: Female-sexed Texts"

-- Recommended. Conaway, "The Pretense of the Neutral Researcher" 52-63 in Whitehead and Conaway, Self, Sex, and Gender.

VI Bodylore: Studying Folklore and the Body

Mon, 19 April
-- (Group 1, #5) Babcock, in JAF: "Pueblo Cultural Bodies," pp. 40-54.

-- Recommended: Przybysz, "Quilts and Women's Bodies: Dis-eased and Desiring," pp. 165-184, in Young, Bodylore, on reserve.

Wed, 21 April
-- (Group 2, RP#5) In Readings. Williams, "The Bachelor's Transgression: Identity and Difference in the Bachelor Party"

VII Gender and Ritual

Mon, 26 April

-- Film in-class on Cajun Mardi Gras in rural Louisiana: "To Dance for a Chicken."
-- Handout on film.

Wed, 28 April
-- Introduction to issues of Gender, Festival, and Ritual. Recommended: Myerhoff, "Rites of Passage," from Turner, Celebration. What 3 paradoxes of festival does Myerhoff outline? What symbolism lies within mirrors and other reflecting surfaces? What functions do festivals serve?
-- (Group 3, RP#5) In Readings. Ware, "Women and Mardi Gras"

PAPER #2 DUE, in class, at the beginning of class.

(What plans have you made for April 30th, Walpurgis Night?)

Mon, 3 May Invented Traditions: Ceremonies of Commitment, Celebrations of the Onset of Menstruation, the First Haircut, and Cronings
-- Handout. Selections from Butler, Ceremonies of the Heart. Gay and lesbian ceremonies of commitment.
-- Handout. Hill: "The Marriage of John and Marshall," Friends Journal.
-- In Readings. (Group 4, RP#5) Radner, "Coming of Age: The Rituals of Older Women."

Wed, 5 May Poster Sessions on your research.

-- Take-home exam questions, due 12 May or before. Place in sealed envelope in my Englsih Department mailbox. If you want them returned to you, include a self-addressed stamped envelope.


1. Class participation. 30%. You'll be working in groups a lot and writing regular response papers. More than two absences will affect your grade. And, when you're not present, the other members of your group will find it harder to do their work.
If you cannot commit to attending class regularly, I recommend that you drop this course.
(A.) Response Papers: To facilitate discussion, we'll be dividing our class into four groups: Group 1, 2, 3, 4. The syllabus indicates which group is responsible for which reading. For a "Group 1" reading, for example, everyone in class is responsible for reading the assigned text, but I will only call on members of "Group 1" in class. Anyonefrom any groupmay talk about any reading, however.
If you see a * by a reading, that sign means that only the group designated needs to read that text. Everyone is responsible, though, for the material from that article that is discussed in class.

When it's your group's turn, you'll each answer these questions on one sheet of paper:

1. What do you think was one of the most important ideas in today's reading? (Give page numbers)

2. What feature of the day's reading interested you the most? (Give page number)

3. What question would you like to have discussed today concerning this reading? (Give page number, if relevant)

You may mix and match these questions. For example, one day you may not have a question you'd like to discuss, so list three most important ideas about the reading. Or, one day there may not be any difference between the ideas you think are important and those that interested you. As long as you hand in a page with three observations on it, you've fulfilled the assignment. Please label clearly, though, the titles: "most important," `interested me," "question."

Please make two copies of your response paper, and bring them both to class. Place one on my desk. As class begins, you'll exchange your papers with other group members before we begin our discussion. I'll return a copy to you, sometimes with comments.
These pages will help you focus your thoughts in preparation for class, for papers, and for exams; they'll help me follow your progress in the class and give me an indication of the effectiveness of the reading assignments.

I'll accept for credit only typewritten materials that have been prepared before class. Be sure to include your name, your group number, the title of the reading, and the number of the response paper.
As with any paper for a course, be sure to keep a copy in case there's any question about your work at semester's end.

(B.) Short response writings. While the Group responsible for the day's reading exchanges their papers, the rest of the class will write short responses to the day's reading. Sometimes, I'll collect your page at the end of class.

2. Paper 1. 10%. 2 pages.

3. Paper 2. 30%. Six pages of text, minimum, exclusive of bibliography; no maximum length. I encourage you to include photos, charts, etc., but these figures do not fulfill part of the six page requirement. Typed, double-spaced, standard margins, 10-12 point font, bibliography (see a grammar text for examples of in-text citation and bibliographic form). Options: research alone or fieldwork and research.
Includes Semester Project Poster Sessions. 1-2 pages, 14 point print or more, of a story or a quotation from your informantsomething from your Semester Fieldwork Project that you can hang on the wall and discuss with other students as they read it.

4. Exam questions. 30% Instead of a midterm and a final exam, I'll be asking you to write what I call "exam questions" throughout the semester. I'll give you two kinds of questions: in- class and take-home.
From time to time, I'll ask you to write for about ten minutes on the reading you've prepared for class that day or for that day and several days before. Sometimes I'll announce the questions ahead of time; other times, I'll just begin or end class by asking you to write.
I'll also be assigning one to three two-page essays on class readings. I'm trying this format because I want to encourage you to keep up with your reading and because I think that these questions, interspersed throughout the semester, will reinforce learning better than an exam would at semester's end.
Exam question on Duffy's play Grimm Tales or Gordon's storytelling . Write a page-long essay about any issue that you'd like after you attend one of these two events (see Text and Community schedule, below). Due 14 April.


My late paper policy: All papers and exam questions are due in class, at the beginning of class, on the day of the assignment. Short Response papers are due at the end of class. Papers left in my mailbox, papers handed in later that day are late papers.
If you talk with me before the day that the paper is due, I will discuss the possibility of your handing in your paper at another time.
If you are sick on the day of the paper, call me during office hours or leave a message at #1172. Do not use e-mail for this message). If you contact me in these ways and bring your paper in during the next class, I will not deduct anything from your grade.
If you hand your paper in late--that is, any time after our class on the date listed, I will take off one letter grade. All late papers must be in to me within one week of the due date.

Exam policy: I re-schedule exam questions only in the event of illness or a death in the family. If you miss an exam because of illness, have someone call me at #31172 on the day of the exam. To re-schedule an exam, bring a doctor's excuse and come talk to me as soon as you're back in school. If you miss an exam due to a death in the family, call me before or on the day of the exam. To re-schedule the exam, bring me a copy of the funeral bulletin or any other printed document and come talk with me. In-class exam questions cannot be made-up for credit, but I will not penalize you if you have an excused absence.

English Department statement on plagiarism. Plagiarism means using the words, opinions, or factual information from another person without giving the person credit. Writers give credit through accepted documentation styles such as parenthetical citation, footnotes, or end notes. A simple listing of books and articles at the end of a paper is not sufficient. Plagiarism is the equivalent of intellectual robbery and cannot be tolerated in the academic setting.

University workload policy: Many GMU students work in order to meet expenses, and each student needs to find an appropriate balance between employment and academic load. University policy urges students employed more than 20 hours a week to take a part-time academic load (less than 12 hours). Students employed 40 hours a week should attempt no more than 6 hours. Students whose workload exceeds these limits will not receive consideration from the University for problems arising from the pressures of employment and academic load. Please see section on "Academic Load" in the University catalog.

Office hours: Please come see me during my office hours anytime. You don't have to have a particular reason for coming; you are welcome to just drop by. Sometimes I am called away to meetings during my office hours. I'll put a note on my door when such an event happens. If you are busy during the hours I've listed, call me or see me for an appointment.

University dates:
Last day to add classes 8 February
Last day to drop classes with no tuition liability 1 February
Last day to drop classes without dean's permission 26 February
Incomplete work from Fall must be submitted to instructor 2 April

Special events:

For Text and Community: The Tales of the Brothers Grimm

See website: http://www.gmu.edu/pubs/text/fairytale/

-- 25 (5pm/8pm), 26 (8pm), 27 Feb (8pm) "Ever After" retells Cinderella. JC Cinema
-- 24 March - April 11. Grimm Tales. Production by Theater of the First Amendment. Adapted by Carol Ann Duffy. Get your free tickets during the first week of classes because the demand is great.
-- 24 March, 5:55-7:10. Margaret Yocom speaks in Enterprise 80: "Peekholes, Marauding Wolves, and Bloody Body Parts in Tales for Children and the Home: What Were the Grimm Brothers Thinking of?"
-- 28 March. Performance workshop by actor Jeff Thaiss.
-- 7 April, 5:55-7:10. Rick Davis, on Duffy's play. Enterprise Hall, Room 80
-- 8 April. Storytelling by Susan Gordon. West Lounge, Johnson Center


Folklore activities in the Metro Area:

Washington DC houses more folklorists than any other part of the country, so there are a wealth of folklore events--lectures, workshops, exhibits, festivals, fieldtrips, dances, singings, storytellings--throughout the year here sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Council for the Traditional Arts, the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress, many local libraries, and others.
See my web site for links to many of the opportunities listed here.

Every summer during the last week of June and the first week of July, the Smithsonian sponsors its Festival of American Folklife on the Mall in DC. One of the best folklife festivals in the nation, this events brings together traditional performers from across the United States with those from at least one other nation.

The Folklore Society of Greater Washington sponsors many events by both traditional and revivalist performers--dances several nights a week (square, contra, and international), song and storytelling concerts, gospel sings, sacred harp sings, and story and song-swapping evenings. They host weekend get-a-ways filled with singing, dancing, and storytelling. During the third weekend in January and the first weekend in June, they host folk festivals that feature traditional and revival performers. To join the Society and get a monthly newsletter with a list of all local events and/or to get a listing of events coming up, call the Folklore Society of Greater Washington Hotline at 703-281-2228.

The Virginia Folklore Society and the Mid-Atlantic Folklife Association meet once a year. Here, folklore scholars, students, and those interested in folklore gather to give papers on their research, see new folklore films, talk about what's new in folklore, and enjoy each other's company--often over a good meal. VFS meets in late fall; MAFA, in the spring.

The Northern Virginia Folk Festival Association sponsors a folk festival every other year in Arlington, in the spring.

The Birchmere in Alexandria brings in many traditional musicians and musicians who sing in the folk style.

Every Tuesday night, the Reston Folk Club meets at the Tortilla Factory Restaurant for an evening of open mike folk singing and--once a month--invited guests.

The Washington Storytellers Theatre hosts about three performances a semester, with professional storytellers from across the country. Other storytelling events are often listed by the Post in their Friday Weekend section; check the museum and the children's section. Call (202) 291-2170 for information.

The area is also home to over 55 different ethnic groups. Their festival and events, neighborhoods, craft stores, restaurants, grocery stores, and churches are good places to visit.

Other events speak of the folklife of the region--harvest festivals, wine festivals, oyster festivals. The Post provides a pretty good list in its Friday Weekend section. See also the posting of events I keep record of on the Folklore Bulletin Board outside the English Department office.

Best wishes for a good semester!

Return to Course Descriptions