You are responsible for your own course registration.
Begin by getting an Individualized Section form from the English
department. You may register for 1-3 hours of graduate credit.
Conferences / Written
work / Reading / Recordings
We expect to meet as a group five or six times, time & place to be
determined. Your input may change the agenda as time goes on, but here
is how we see it at the outset --
1. Introduction: What is a ballad? What are "ballad studies" and will
they bite you? We'll
talk about "types," "versions," & "fragments" of ballads and how
they function in local and global contexts. And we'll look at one ballad
through time -- "The Unfortunate Rake" from 17th c. London to 20th c.
New Orleans & Texas.
2. Verse structure / narrative structure. We'll look at how forms of
repetition & balance, stanza and rhyme, as well as the use of
verbal formulae, effect the mode of narration that defines the ballad
as a genre.
3. Metaphor & symbol: Keeping with our theme of sex & death
we'll examine what happens when wells, flowers & rings meet swords,
knives, thorns, & horns -- not to mention talking birds, magical
corpses, elf knights, ghosts, and riddles.
4. Individual singers & singing communities: At this meeting, Susan
& Peggy will each present a portrait of a singer -- one in Scotland
and one in Appalachia. We'll talk about repertoire, transmission of
ballads from one singer to another, the social meanings of
ballad-singing for this singer's community, and how "collection" or
contact with scholars and urban audiences affected their lives and
5 - 6. Individual ballads: In our last meeting (more probably two) each
of us -- students & faculty -- will present a single ballad,
focusing aspects, such as the ballad's variants, its
form & structure, its collection history & current vitality,
and its social & metaphorical meanings.
Each of you should work out a schedule of individual conferences with
your faculty member.
Each of you should
contract with your faculty member for written work expected.
Each of you will
be asked to diagram the narrative & verse structure of at least one
ballad. Bring a draft to our second meeting, revise after the meeting.
Each of you should keep a Reading/Listening journal.
Those planning to use "traditional ballads" or "Scottish ballads" as an
entry on the MFA exam list should work toward compiling an annotated
anthology of ballad texts for the final stages of exam preparation.
This anthology, minus the annotations, can also be used in the exam
itself. Please talk to Susan if you have questions.
Those enrolled for three credits will complete a major project, such as
a research paper
or a casebook. Please
talk to your faculty member.
Reading Meeting 1 / Meeting 2 / Meeting
3 / Meeting 4 /
History & Transmission / Complete List of Materials at Reserve Desk
Use the Annotated Bibliography for more detail on the readings
we've assigned or suggested.
Most of your
readings may be found at the Reserve Desk at the
Johnson Center. All required readings are there, as are many optional
readings. A complete list of materials on Reserve appears after the
sequential reading list.
Optional readings not owned by the library (including those on the
"History & Transmission" list) are available from faculty for
**Note that the heaviest reading is for our second meeting.**
We may provide texts for
versions we want to discuss, but otherwise we’ll leave it up to you to
texts for songs we assign or that you become interested in. Let us know
if you’re having trouble
finding what you need. (See links on the Ballads
home page but remember that notes and apparati in the books are
generally missing from web versions.)
Francis James Child’s
5-volume The English and
Popular Ballads will be
among the books on Reserve for your use.
Most of the ballads we'll discuss can be found there in multiple
If you want a
handy book with a number of good texts,
though only single versions of each, we recommend Emily Lyle’s Scottish Ballads, which you should be
able to find used (or new from Amazon.co.uk). Also useful is the
reduction of Child, edited by Sargeant & Kittredge, if you can find
one. Our library has a copy.
specialized books, collecting the songs of a particular
time & place, or the songs of a particular singing community, may
useful. For Scotland in the 19th & early 20th centuries, for
example, you might want to examine The
Song Collection, edited by Patrick Shuldham-Shaw & Emily
Lyle, and Ord’s Bothy Songs and Ballads of Aberdeen, Banff
& Moray, Angus and
the Mearns. For Scottish Traveller singers, you'd want two books
by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger: Travellers’ Songs from
England and Scotland, and Till Doomsday in the
Afternoon: The Stewart
Family of Blair.
(for our first
We suggest you read
these materials in the order listed. "Reserve Desk" means the
book is on Reserve. "Photocopy"
means a photocopy is on Reserve, or will be distributed.
What Is a Ballad?
A.L. Lloyd: “The Big
Ballads.” Folk Song in England.
A major English
figure of the
mid-century Revival, from a book he says is for beginners, not experts.
academically rigorous by today’s terms, but a wise and far-ranging
“Introduction: accessing ballad tradition.” The English
Ballad Tradition. Reserve
ballads along with the major trends in ballad scholarship. Defines the
“type/variant” concept and the problems that arise when either side of
balance is emphasized. Addresses the issue of literacy among singers.
Introduces most issues & many basic terms, such as commonplaces
calls “formulaic units”) tale role, audience’s role in completing
Hamish Henderson: “At the
Foot of Yon Excellin Brae.” Alias
A great intro to
ballad Scots & ballad English, by a major figure
mid-century Revival and founder of the School
of Scottish Studies at Edinburgh University.
Stewart: “Scandals of the
Ballad.” Crimes of
contemporary American poet & critic critiques the cultural uses of
in literary discourse as a location of our various desires: otherness,
authenticity, belatedness, and so forth. "Notes on Distressed Genres,"
in the same volume, also highly recommended.
Hamish Henderson: "The Ballad, The
Folk and the Oral Tradition." The
People's Past, ed. Cowan. Photocopy
Readings on Verse &
(for our second meeting)
This unit of reading is our
longest and most technical. We suggest you read the
introduction to McCarthy's book before you read David Buchan.
Bernard McCarthy: Introduction and Part II of The Ballad
Matrix. Reserve Desk.
I is not directly related to this week's discussion, but you should
read it, now or later.
Buchan: Part II of The Ballad and the
Folk Reserve Desk
Those enrolled for 3
credits should read this whole section. Those enrolled for 1 credit
should read, at a minimum, Chapters 8, 9, 12 & 13.
Tichy: structural analysis of Dick Gaughan's “Babylon” here
Bertrand Harris Bronson:
“On the Union of Words and Music in
the ‘Child’ Ballads.” Ballad as Song. Reserve
G. Andersen: "From Tradition to Print: Ballads on Broadsides." The Ballad as Narrative. Reserve Desk
form & structure:
Buchan. “Talerole Analysis and Child’s Supernatural Ballads,” in The Ballad as Oral Literature, ed.
Albert B. Friedman. “The Oral-Formulaic Theory of Balladry:
A Rebuttal,” in The Ballad Image, ed. Porter. Reserve Desk
Hugh. “Impossibles in Ballad Style,” in The Ballad Image, ed. Porter. Reserve Desk
George R. “The Meter of the Popular Ballad,” in The
Critics and the Ballad, ed. Leach. Photocopy
Readings on Metaphor &
Symbol / Sex
(for our third meeting)
Toelken: readings (not yet selected) from Morning Dew and
Roses: Nuance, Metaphor, and Meaning in Folksongs. Reserve Desk
Atkinson: “Incest and ‘Edward’.” The
English Traditional Ballad. Reserve Desk.
Further(optional) reading on
metaphor/sex & death:
Atkinson: “Motivation, Gender, and Talking Birds.” The
English Traditional Ballad. Reserve Desk.
deV Renwick: “The Semiotics of Sexual Liaisons.” English
Folk Poetry: Structure and Meaning. Reserve Desk
Readings on History &
This set of
readings is not tied to any one of our meetings but may help in any.
Fowler: A Literary History of the Popular
Ballad Reserve Desk. See
the annotation for this book.
Emily. “Parity of Ignorance: Child’s Judgment of ‘Sir Colin’ and the
Verdict ‘Not Proven’,” in Harris, The
Ballad as Oral Literature. Argues a position opposite to
Fowler's -- namely , that we cannot assume a ballad is no older than
its oldest surviving written copy. Photocopy
Pettitt: "'St. Stephen and Herod' and the Songs of the Sloane
Manuscript. The Ballad as Narrative.
A demonstration by close reading of early distinctions
between what would and would not be called "a ballad." Reserve Desk
Buchan: Part I of The Ballad and the
Folk. Reserve Desk
McCarthy: Part One of The Ballad Matrix. Reserve Desk
Sprott: “Traditional Music: The Material Background,” in Cowan, The People’s Past. Photocopy
J. Cowan. “Calvinism and the Survival of the Folk,” The
People’s Past. Photocopy
Henderson, Lizanne. “The Road to Elfland: Fairy Belief and the Child
Ballads,” in The Ballad in Scottish
History, ed. Cowan. Photocopy
Henderson: several short pieces are useful, including “The Underground
Song,” and “The Ballad and Popular Tradition to 1660,” in Alias
MacAlias, and “The Ballad, the Folk, and the Oral Tradition,”
in Cowan’s The People’s Past. Photocopy
Mary Ellen. “Old Singing Women and the Canons of Scottish Balladry and
in A History of Scottish Women’s Writing. GMU
has this book in electronic form: search for it in the catalog, then
click the link & enter your G-number.
Scottish Traveller singers, 20th c.:
MacColl and Peggy Seeger: Travellers’
Songs from England
MacColl and Peggy Seeger: Till Doomsday in
the Afternoon: The Stewart
Family of Blair. You'll
have to get this via Interlibrary Loan. Highly recommended.
Porter & Herschel Gower: Jeannie
Robertson: Emergent Singer, Transformative Voice. Reserve
Sheila. “Belle Stewart, ‘The Queen Amang the Heather,” in Russell and
Atkinson. Reserve Desk
Flemming G. Andersen: "The Living Oral Tradition: Jeannie Robertson's
'Little Mattie Groves'." The Ballad
as Narrative. Reserve
Gower & James Porter: “Jeannie Robertson: The Child Ballads” and a
companion article by Allie Munro: “Lizzie Higgins, and the Oral
Ten Child Ballads.” Lizzie was Jeannie’s daughter. Photocopy
Hamish Henderson & Francis Collinson. “New
Child Ballad Variants from Oral
Tradition” discusses a number of ballads collected in the 1950s &
1960s in Scotland,
with emphasis on their tunes. Photocopy
Henderson: “How a Bothy Song Came into Being.” Photocopy
England, 18th-19th Centuries:
David Atkinson: The Traditional
English Ballad Reserve Desk
Flemming G. Anderson: "Oral Tradition in England in the Eighteenth
Century: 'Lord Lovel'." The Ballad
as Narrative. Reserve Desk
McCarthy: “The Americanization of Scottish Ballads: Counterevidence
Southwest of Scotland,”
Alie. The Democratic Muse: Folk Music Revival in Scotland.
MacKinnon: The British Folk Scene:
Musical Performance and Social Identity.
MacNaughton: “The Folksong Revival in Scotland,” in Cowan, The People’s Past.
Sweers. “Ghosts of voices: English folk(-rock) musicians and the
of traditional music. In Russell & Atkinson.
Verrier. “Folk club or epic theatre: Brecht’s influence on the
practice of Ewan MacColl.” In Russell & Atkinson.
Complete List of Materials on
Andersen, Flemming G., Otto
Thomas Pettit. The Ballad as Narrative:
Studies in the Ballad Traditions of England,
Scotland, Germany and Denmark.
Odense: Odense University
Mtg. 2. Fleming G.
Andersen: "From Tradition to Print: Ballads on Broadsides."
History: Chapters 1,
3, 4, 5
Atkinson, David. The
English Traditional Ballad: Theory, method, and practice. Ashgate, VT:
Mtg. 1. Introduction
Mtg. 3. “Incest and
Optional for Mtg. 3.
“Motivation, Gender, and Talking Birds”
Bronson, Bertrand Harris. The Ballad as Song. Berkeley:
Mtg. 1. “On the Union of Words and Music in the ‘Child’ Ballads.”
Buchan, David. The
Ballad and the Folk. East Linton,
Tuckwell Press, 1997. .
Mtg. 2. Part II
required for those taking 3 credits; chapters 8, 9, 12, 13 required for
taking 1 credit.
History: Part I
D. English Folk Songs from the
Southern Appalachians. NY: G.P. Putnam’s sons, 1917.
A source of
texts. No assigned readings.
Child, Francis James, editor. The
and Scottish Popular Ballads, 5 volumes. New
Publications, 1965 [1882-98].
Principle source of ballad texts,
brief but excellent notes.
Dugaw, Dianne, ed. The
Anglo-American Ballad: A Folklore Casebook. NY & London: Garland, 1995.
Fowler, David C. A
Literary History of the Popular Ballad. Durham: Duke University Press, 1968. One
copy on reserve, but library has at least one more copy.
History: Entire book
highly recommended. See annotation.
Hamish. “At the Foot of Yon
Excellin’ Brae.” Alias MacAlias: Writings
on Songs, Folk and Literature. Edinburgh:
Polygon, 1992. Photocopy
Lloyd, A.L. “The Big
Song in England.
Lawrence & Wishart, 1967. Photocopy
MacColl, Ewan and Peggy Seeger. Travellers’
Songs from England
and Scotland. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1977.
A landmark work of
field collection & musical notation. No assigned readings.
McCarthy, William Bernard. The Ballad Matrix: Personality, Milieu, and
the Oral Tradition. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.
Mtg. 2. Introduction
& Part II
You should read the entire book
McKean, Thomas A., ed. The
Thorn: International Ballad Studies. Logan: Utah
Porter, James, editor. The
Ballad Image: Essays Presented to Bertrand Harris Bronson. Los Angeles:
the Study of Comparative Folklore & Mythology, 1983.
Optional for Mtg. 2. Friedman,
Albert B. “The Oral-Formulaic Theory of Balladry: A Rebuttal.”
Optional for Mtg. 2. Shields,
Hugh. “Impossibles in Ballad Style.”
Porter, James and Herschel Gower. Jeannie Robertson: Emergent Singer,
Transformative Voice. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1995.
History & transmission: highly
recommended. Includes song texts w/ musical notation, sketch of her
life, extensive quotation from interviews, discussion of Robertson's
beliefs about ballad singing.
Renwick, Roger deV. English
Folk Poetry: Structure and Meaning. No city: University of Pennsylvania
Optional for Mtg. 2.
"The Semiotics of Sexual Liaisons."
Stewart, Susan. Crimes
of Writing: Problems in the Containment of Representation. New York: Oxford
Mtg. 1. “Scandals of the
Toelken, Barre. Morning
Dew and Roses: Nuance, Metaphor, and Meaning in Folksongs. Urbana: U Illinois
We will be referencing around 40 ballads. List
will be posted soon!
Master of Fine Arts, Poetry
Dr. Margaret Yocom
George Mason University