Western Folklore

Vol. 69, No. 3/4 – Summer/Fall, 2010

Folklore: Essays in Honor of Jay Mechling

Special Issue Edited by Simon J. Bronner,
      with the Assistance of Maria Teresa Agozzino


Introduction by the Guest Editor

Framing Folklore: An Introduction
Simon J. Bronner

[From the Introduction]: This volume contains essays inspired by Jay Mechling’s use of the concept of the “play frame” to explain the processes in daily and ceremonial life by which folklore becomes evident and conveys meaning.


Accounting for Jokes: Jocular Performance in a Critical Age
Gary Alan Fine and Christine Wood

ABSTRACT: In this essay, drawing on the research of Elizabeth and Jay Mechling, we focus on the politics of joking and examine the ways in which jokes and joke-telling serve complex political ends. To do this, we provide examples from focus groups, interviews, and popular culture. We attempt to draw lines between those jokes that contribute to a toxic racial environment and other jokes, referencing secondary racial characteristics, that have the potential for creating an integrated community of laughter. KEYWORDS: joking, humor, politics, civil society, poflular culture

The Athlete, the Doctor, and the Patient: Framing the Game Against the Odds
Richard Raspa

ABSTRACT: The action of an unknown physician who saved the life of an unknown cancer patient bears more than a little resemblance to the famous action of a celebrated athlete who hit the winning home run during a World Series game. The athlete played under scorching physical handicaps as the physician played another kind of game under bureaucratic handicaps. Both responded to a crisis in the same way: they framed their action as play. KEYWORDS: cancer, athlete, crisis, frame, play

Jay Mechling, Margaret Mead, Masculinities, and Me
Donna M. Lanclos

ABSTRACT: More than 10 years separates my initial research on playground folklore in Belfast, Northern lreland, from now. The process of teaching has generated fresh interpretations of research I thought had been thoroughly worked over. In the discussion that follows, in the use of folklore materials to support theoretical arguments, as well as my attention to themes of masculinity and contemporary culture, I pay tribute to Jay Mechling's work. KEYWORDS: childhood, folklore, frames, Margaret Mead, masculinity

The Political Lives of Avatars: Play and Democracy in Virtual Worlds
Kimberly J. Lau

ABSTRACT: Although the internet is no longer seen as a way of facilitating communications unfettered by the material realities of “identity,” alternative public spaces instantiated by MMORPGs might yet prove to be productive sites of democratic exchange. This article investigates how understandings of “real” and “make-believe”—together with the psychological and technological underpinnings of avatar identity—influence social commentaries and political discourses that contribute to a public sphere removed from the constraints of hegemonic identity formations. KEYWORDS: role playing games, democratic exchange, identity, avatar, political discourse

The Ape that Captured Time: Folklore, Narrative, and the Human-Animal Divide
Tok Thompson

ABSTRACT: Recent advances in animal studies have documented the widespread use of learned, symbolic communication in the animal kingdom. Meanwhile, Mechling (1989) has argued that folklore, as shared learned traditions, also exists in non-human animals. Considering that many scholars believe humans are unique in our ability to tell stories, this schism between human and animal, the story and other folklore, has a great deal to tell us about the outlines and origins of humanity. This article seeks to integrate arguments from linguistics, archaeology, primatology, folklore, and cognitive science from evolutionary perspectives. KEYWORDS: narrative, evolution, storytelling, play, animal language


Mark Allen Jackson, Prophet Singer: The Voice and Vision of Woody Guthrie
Reviewed by Guy Logsdon

William H. Beezley, Mexican National Identity: Memory, Innuendo, and Popular Culture
Reviewed by Sydney Hutchinson

Mikel J. Koven, Film, Folklore and Urban Legends
Reviewed by Gustavo Ponce

M. Heather Carver and Elaine J. Lawless, Troubling Violence: A Performance Project
Reviewed by Annie Tucker

Eric A. Eliason, The J. Golden Kimball Stories
Reviewed by Sally Haueter-Rampe

Frank de Caro, Editor, The Folklore Muse: Poetry, Fiction, and Other Reflections by Folklorists
Reviewed by Sandra K. Dolby

Jualynne E. Dodson, Sacred Spaces and Religious Traditions in Oriente Cuba
Reviewed by Lisa Rathje

Jonathan D. Hill, Made-from-Bone: Trickster Myths, Music, and History from the Amazon
Reviewed by John H. McDowell

Laurence A. Rickels, The Devil Notebooks
Reviewed by Bill Ellis

Lynn Salsi, The Life and Times of Ray Hicks: Keeper of the Jack Tales
Reviewed by Lucy M. Long

Domino Renee Perez, There Was a Woman: La Llorona from Folklore to Popular Culture
Reviewed by Norma E. Cantú

Jo-ann Archibald / Q’um Q’um Xiiem, Indigenous Storywork: Educating the Heart, Mind, Body, and Spirit
Reviewed by Margaret Read MacDonald