| ENGL 491.001 / ANTH 399.005 Fall 2001 Tu 7:20pm-10:00
Narratives of the Spirit World: The
Lore of Ghosts and Fairies
Dr. Margaret R. Yocom, English;
Office: Robinson A439 Phone: 993-1172
"I read the other day in a book by a fashionable essayist that ghosts went out when the electric light came in. What nonsense! The writer, though he is fond of dabbling, in a literary way, in the supernatural, hasn't even reached the threshold of his subject. As between turreted castles patrolled by headless victims with clanking chains, and the comfortable suburban house with a refrigerator and central heating where you feel, as soon as you're in it, that there's something wrong, give me the latter for sending a chill down the spine!" -- Narrator of the short story "All Souls" by Edith Wharton
"The fairies are the ultimate strangers,
and serve as metaphor for all that is strange, not only in nature but
in other people."
What can we learn from traditional tales whispered in the night about ghosts and fairies? We'll explore these stories of the spirit world to understand the workings of oral narrative, the role of gender and race in the telling of otherworldly tales, their connections to specific places and to environmental issues, their manipulation by certain individuals and groups for political ends, and the nature of those spirits that continue to make Northern Virginia their home. Come prepared to tell a story or two: do you know what the Irish say happened to the fellow who had no story to tell? And, be prepared to check your disbelief at the door: do you know what happened to the girl who said there were no such thing as ghosts?
Required readings, in order of use:
Barbara Walker, ed. Out of the Ordinary: Folklore and the Supernatural.
USU (1 article)
Readings in ENGL 491/ANTH 399. Photo-copied booklet on sale in Bookstore.
Texts on reserve at Fenwick Library: see last page of syllabus for the list of books I've put on reserve in the Johnson Center. Please let me know if you have any problems finding these materials. One copy--in some cases, two copies--of all course texts (except photocopied booklets) are on reserve.
Recommended books, not required. Thought you might enjoy adding
some of these to your otherworldly library:
SCHEDULE of topics: (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 below the date on this syllabus are to be prepared for that day's class. "Recommended reading" indicates a reading I recommend to you but one that will not appear on exam questions. For information on GROUPS 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 please see the course requirement section of the syllabus).
________ Tues, 28 August __________________________________________
Storytelling: "The Girl in the Lavender Dress"
_______ Tues, 4 September __________________________________________
Gender, Place, and Ghosts from the North Carolina Appalachians:
Deathlore as a context for ghost stories, from the Kentucky Appalachians:
-- Read in Part 3 "The Return of the Dead" pages 87-94. In pages 95-215, read at least two in each category (categories are written in CAPITALS after the story title). Choose favorite stories you'd like to discuss. Be sure to read at least the first four stories in the three following lists:
--#300 Woman Dressed in Black DISAPPEARING GHOSTS
--What makes a good ghost story?
--Playing on people's belief/disbelief in ghosts and their ideas about
--Recommended. Leloudis, James L, II. Tokens of Death: Tales from Perquimans
County. NC Folklore Journal 25:2 (47-60).
_______ Tues, 11 September _____ Ghost Tales in Black and
-- In Gillian Bennett's Alas! Poor Ghost, read the Introduction 1-3. Chapter 1 "Belief and Disbelief" 17-38 [GROUP 1]
-- Recommended: Montell, Ghosts Along the Cumberland. Ghosts and
_______ Tues, 18 September ______________________________________
-- -- In Gillian Bennett's Alas! Poor Ghost, read Chapter 2 "Contact with the Dead" 39-77 and Chapter 3 "Witnesses, Bereavement, and the Sense of Presence" 95-114.
-- Discussion of your fieldwork: collecting one ghost story
_______ Tuesday, 25 September ______________________________________
Ghosts at Work: Occupational Tales
--Storytelling: "Big Joe and Phantom 309" (performed by Tom Waits; written by Red Sovine)
-- Read in Readings. Ellis, Bill. "Fast Food Ghosts." [GROUP 2]
From Latino traditions: La Llorona
--Recommended: Dégh, Linda and Andrew Vázsonyi. 1976. Legend
and Belief. In Folklore Genres, edited by Dan Ben-Amos. Austin: University
______ Tues, 2 October Chasing Down Ghosts: Nightime
Visits to Haunted Sites
--Montell, Ghosts Along the Cumberland. Visits to haunted sites,
as well as ghost tests:
--Readings. Bird, Elizabeth. "Playing with Fear: Interpreting the Adolescent Legend Trip" Western Folklore [GROUP 5]
_______ Tues, 9 October _____ No class: Columbus Day Recess _____________
_______ Tues, 16 October ____ No class __________________________________
_______ Fri 19/20/21 October _____ Fieldtrip: "Leesburg Hauntings"________
_______ Tues, 23 October _____ Ghosts in Asia ________________________
-- In Readings. Read "Korean Ghost Stories" by former student Minyoung Kim, NVFA #1997-76
Storytelling: stories from Vietnam by Aaron Hartman and other students.
_______ Tues, 30 October _____ Hallowe'en ___________________
--Storytelling: Local ghosts
Here are some tales, but see the on-line list of Archive titles at http://www.gmu.edu/folklore/nvfa.
Just type the word "ghost" in the search category, and you'll see what's
_______ Tues, 6 November _____ Introduction to the Living Tradition
DUE 9: Annotated bibliography for Semester Project
_______ Tues, 13 November _____ Wanderers "in the fairies"________________
Fairy Changelings and the Politics of Nation and Gender
_______ Tues, 20 November __________________________________________
--Storytelling: presentation by GMU 1999 graduate Lara Henry on her fieldwork in Ireland on the banshee. Recommended, in NVFA #1997-15 The Banshee: Tales from Ireland--L. Henry
--Introduction to ballads
_______ Tues, 27 November _____ Ballads of the Supernatural _____________
_______ Tues, 4 December ______ The Selkies of Ireland and Scotland
-- Read in Readings the summary of the film The Secret of Roan Inish
and the study questions.
DUE: Semester project
_______ Tues, 11 December __________________________________________
How I compute your grade:
First collection paper 20%
Exam Questions (throughout semester) 30%
Class participation 20%
To receive a passing grade in the course, you must complete work in each of the above categories. You won't pass the course, for example, if you have passing grades in the rest of your work but neglect to do one of the papers.
1. Response papers and class participation
(A) Response papers. To facilitate discussion, we'll be dividing our class into five groups: Group 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. The syllabus indicates which group is responsible for which reading. For a "Group 1" reading, for example, members of Group 1 write a Response Paper (see below) on the assigned reading. Everyone else in class is also responsible for reading the assigned text, but I will especially call on members of "Group 1" in class. Anyone—from any group—may talk about any reading, however.
--When it's your group's turn to hand in a response paper, you'll each
answer either two or three (your choice) of these three questions on one
sheet of paper, single-spaced:
--You may mix and match these questions. For example, one day you
may not have a question you'd like to discuss, so list another most important
idea about the reading instead. 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 developed observations on it,
you've fulfilled the assignment. Please label the titles clearly,
though: "most important," ‘interested me," "question."
--Please make two copies of your replies. When your group has an assignment, be in class a few minutes before class begins. Put one copy on my desk for me. Usually, group members will read each others' papers in the first 5-10 minutes of the class. These Response Papers will help us focus our thoughts in preparation for class; they'll help me follow your progress in the class and give me an indication of the effectiveness of the reading assignments.
-- Full credit. I give full credit to response papers only when they are handed in on time and when you attend the entire class. You will not get credit for your work if you hand in a response paper and then don't attend class. I don't accept late response papers.
(B) Class discussion. My assessment of your participation in class. Also included here at any brief writings that are not exam questions.
2. Exam questions given throughout semester
How I grade your work:
-- For me, an A means that, in my opinion, you understand all the concepts
(for example, twin laws, function, tradition), that you have done an outstanding
job in your analysis, and that your prose is free, or almost free, of
-- University dates, Fall 2001 (see http://registrar.gmu.edu/acadcal01f.html):
--My late paper/classroom work policy: All papers are due in class, at the beginning of class, on the day of the assignment. 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. 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, I will take off one letter grade unless you have a doctor's excuse or documentation of a death in the family. All late papers must be in to me within one week of the due date. I make these policies so I can treat all students equally. Also, because our class is large and the writing substantial, I need to have your papers so I can get them graded and back to you in a timely fashion.
If you miss a class, you are responsible for getting notes from and any announcements made in class. Please get the names and numbers of one or two classmates. I can't answer emails asking what we did in class on the day you were absent.
--Exam and oral presentation policy: I re-schedule exams and oral presentations only in the event of illness or a death in the family. If you miss an exam/oral presentation because of illness, have someone call me at #1172 on the due date. To re-schedule, bring a doctor's excuse and come talk to me. If you miss an exam/oral presentation due to a death in the family, call me before or on the day of the exam. To re-schedule, bring me a copy of the funeral bulletin or any other printed document and come talk with me.
--Pre-requisites: Please note that you must have successfully completed three credits of a 100-level English course and six credits of 200-level English courses before taking this class.
--Classroom practices: Please arrange your schedule so that you come to class on time; latecomers searching for places in already crowded classrooms disrupt our conversations. When I determine your discussion grade, I factor in repeated late arrivals and absences. Also, if you bring a cell phone or any other sound-producing equipment to class, please turn it off at the door.
--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: I encourage you to come see me during
my office hours or any other time I'm in. You don't have to have
a particular reason to visit; just drop by. Sometimes I'm called away
to meetings during my office hours; I'll put a note on my door when such
an event happens. If you're busy during the hours I've listed, please
make an appointment with me.
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. For their websites and the sites of organizations mentioned below, see "Folklore Links" on my homepage: http://mason.gmu.edu/~myocom.
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 or access their website.
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. Would you like to give a paper?
The Northern Virginia Folk Festival Association sponsors a folk festival every other year in Arlington, in the spring.
The Birchmere in Alexandria and Wolf Trap in Vienna 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, located at the Writers' Center in Bethesda near the Metro and a lot of restaurants, hosts over eight performances a semester, with professional storytellers from the area and 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.
The area is also home to over 75 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, blossom 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.
--GMU Storytelling Club. Wednesdays, 8pm. Email President Katy Brown