Western Folklore

Vol. 72, No. 3/4 – Summer/Fall, 2013

From Word to Print—and Beyond
Special issue edited by John D. Niles

Introduction by the guest editor

From Word to Print—and Beyond
John D. Niles

ABSTRACT: Perhaps no problem faced by folklorists is more pervasive and more profound in its implications than how to represent verbal arts on the printed page, as well as in emergent electronic media. Many aspects of this problem, however, remain relatively unexamined by specialists, while as for the more popular books that claim to present “folklore” or “oral tradition” to the reading public, they often impress one as much by their freedoms or frauds as by their fidelities to a real-world source. The magnitude of this problem is daunting, given how massive a share of the world's literature falls into a “Third” category that is distinct from either elite writings or oral performance. The articles included in this issue of Western Folklore help theorize the process of Verschriftlichung (“textualization”) while at the same time offering hands-on guidance to responsible practices in editing and translating. KEYWORDS: textualization; editing; hybrid forms;fakelore; “Third-domain” literature.


From Performance to Text: A Medievalist's Perspective on the Textualization of Turkic Oral Poetry
Karl Reichl

ABSTRACT: In this article problems of editing oral poetry are discussed with reference to Turkic oral epics. Special attention is paid to the rendering of extra-textual aspects of performance in both printed and digital editions. It is argued that, as with the edition of medieval texts, editorial choices have to be made and editorial responsibility has to be assumed when converting oral poetry from the spoken/sung to the written medium. KEYWORDS: transcription and textualization, minstrel romances, Turkic oral epics, Uzbek epic Alpamysh, Karakalpak epic Edige

Editing Johan Turi: Making Turi's Muitalus Make Sense
Thomas A. DuBois

ABSTRACT: The challenges of creating a new translation of Johan Turi's 1910 Muitalus sámiid birra (An Account of the Sámi) are described, with particular reference to folklore theory. The original text’s lack of formal punctuation, reliance on a nuanced culturally-embedded lexicon, and apparent ambiguities present difficulties for the translator that parallel those faced by an ethnographer in trying to represent the culture of another person or community. KEYWORDS: Sámi, Sweden, Johan Turi, Muitalus sámiid birra, translation

Foreign Words and Folksongs: Field Recordings from America's Upper Midwest
James P. Leary

ABSTRACT: America›s foreign-language folksongs are little known, for practical and ideological reasons, hence many folksongs performed in polyglot America have been hidden from view. This essay introduces non-English-language field recordings made from 1937 to 1946 for the Library of Congress by Sidney Robertson Cowell, Alan Lomax, and Helene Stratman-Thomas in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota; examines the challenges of translating three representative songs; and previews a project intended to present the full extent of field-recorded folksongs in America's Upper Midwest. KEYWORDS: folksongs, field

Class War and Laborlore
Special issue edited by James P. Leary

Introduction by the guest editor

Class War and Laborlore
James P. Leary

This special issue was conceived amid the 2011 “Wisconsin Uprising” and born against the backdrop of the far-flung “Occupy Wall Street” movement. The former endures on a daily basis, most visibly as shifting participants in the Solidarity Sing Along have gathered every weekday in the state capitol since March 2011, risking increasing arrests, to croon defiance of the anti-democratic, oligarchic administration of Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker; the latter involved direct action emphasizing the ever-widening gap between the super-rich and everybody else, between the 1% and the 99%. Whether proponents, observers, or opponents of such uprisings and movements, folklorists cannot deny the prolonged reality of stark class divisions and periodic class warfare, be it cold or hot, in American life and worldwide; nor can they disregard the degree to which the cultures of work and occupational folklore or laborlore figure expressively in our collective lives.


Rough Stuff: Family Lore on CIO Organizing in Chicago
Richard March
ABSTRACT: Parents’ life experience anecdotes are a common means of conveying values to children. The most engaging anecdotes told to me by my parents concerned their experiences in the 1930s and 1940s when my father was a union organizer in the Chicago packinghouses. Accounts of the two assassination attempts upon my father were among the most gripping. Pa’s understated and Mom’s dramatic narrative style conveyed their differing but in both cases heroic responses to this danger, stressing the importance of standing up for one's beliefs in the face of threats. KEYWORDS: Union organizing, CIO, Herbert and Jane March, family folklore, labor/ore

Ironworker Blues: Workers› Songs, Workers› Voices
James P. Leary

ABSTRACT: Workers› songs, singing workers, and their work-related compositions have compelled folklorists for more than a century. This essay examines one such song, “Ironworker Blues,” its maker, its musical roots, its meaning, and its resonance with present day ironworkers. In keeping with concepts of oral literary criticism and reciprocal ethnography, the critical voices of ironworkers emerge alongside that of the folklorist. KEYWORDS: ironworkers, workers' songs, oral literary criticism, reciprocal ethnography, laborlore

“There's Nothing Funny About Prisons”: Corrections Workers, Laughter and Unlaughter
Claire Schmidt

ABSTRACT: In contrast to well-studied medical humor, prison worker humor remains understudied and frequently offensive to outsiders. Drawing on Ted Conover’s Newjack, this essay argues that occupational laughter and conspicuous unlaughter can predict long-term occupational success in prison work. Refusal to laugh is at times motivated by social class, and the ambivalence of prison worker humor reflects the ambivalent social position held by these professionals. KEYWORDS: Correctional officers, occupational folklore, humor, unlaughter, practical jokes recordings, translations, Upper Midwest, ethnicity

Revitalization, Radicalization, and Reconstructed Meanings: The Folklore of Resistance During the Wisconsin Uprising
Tim Frandy

ABSTRACT: The Wisconsin Uprising is a watershed event in Wisconsin’s history, which has politicized and radicalized a state which once prided itself on clean politics and collegial disagreement. This essay explores a sampling of protesters’ personal anecdotes and expressive forms, and it examines what the folklore of the Uprising reveals about the paradigm shift that occurred during the occupation of the Wisconsin State Capitol. KEYWORDS: Wisconsin Uprising, labor/ore, political folklore, resistance, revitalization

Badgers vs. Weasels, and Snowmen for Democracy: Folklore and Embodiment in the 2011 Wisconsin Budget Bill Protests
Casey R. Schmitt
ABSTRACT: This essay examines the use of folklore and regional identity performance during the protests against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s highly controversial 2011 Budget Repair Bill. Documenting a variety of examples, it discusses how use of such folklore contributed to group identity for pro&labor demonstrators through the act of embodiment. KEYWORDS: laborlore, embodiment, Wisconsin, community, protest


Victor H. Mair and Mark Bender, editors, The Columbia Anthology of Chinese Folk and Popular Literature
Reviewed by Jing Li

Stephen Wade, The Beautiful Music All Around Us: Field Recordings and the American Experience
Reviewed by Jessica A. Schwartz

Dan Ben-Amos, editor, Folktales of the Jews, Volume III: Tales from Arab Lands
Reviewed by Steve Siporin

Joseph Sciorra, editor, Italian Folk: Vernacular Culture in Italian-American Lives
Reviewed by Maria Kaliambou

Michael Kinsella, Legend-Tripping Online: Supernatural Folklore and the Search for Ong's Hat
Reviewed by Lynne S. McNeill

Tracey E. Hucks, Yoruba Traditions & African American Religious Nationalism
Reviewed by Donald Cosentino