Folklore 195 Southern Literature and the Oral Tradition

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Folklore 195 Southern Literature and the Oral Tradition

    Folklore 560: Southern Literature and the Oral Tradition

    Tuesday/Thursday: 8:00 a.m. - 9:15 a.m.

    Love House & Hutchins Forum, 410 E. Franklin Street

    Professor William Ferris

    Office Hours: By appointment

    Love House & Hutchins Forum


Long before I wrote stories, I listened for stories. Listening for them is something more acute than

    listening to them. I suppose it‟s an early form of participation in what goes on. Listening, children know

    stories are there. When their elders sit and begin, children are just waiting and hoping for one to come out, like a mouse from its hole.

     Eudora Welty


     One Writer‟s Beginnings

    Negro American folk tradition became precious as a result of an act of literary discovery. Taken as a whole, its spirituals along with its blues, jazz and folk tales, it has…much to tell us of the faith, humor and adaptability to reality necessary to live in a world which has taken on much of the insecurity and blues-like absurdity known to those who brought it into being.

     Ralph Ellison

     “Change the Joke and Slip theYoke”

     Shadow and Act

The art of telling a humorous storyunderstand, I mean by word of mouth, not printwas created in

    America, and has remained at home.

     Mark Twain

     “How to Tell a Story”

    I have often been awakened at the dawn of day by the most heart-rending shrieks of an own aunt of mine, whom he used to tie up to a joist, and whip upon her naked back till she was literally covered with blood….The louder she screamed, the harder he whipped;…He would whip her to make her scream, and whip her to make her hush;…It was a most terrible spectacle. I wish I could commit to paper the feelings with which I beheld it.

     Frederick Douglass

     The Life of Frederick Douglass

    I just get in the crowd with the people and if they sing it I listen as best I can and then I start to joinin‟ in with a phrase or two and then finally I get so I can sing a verse. And then I keep on until I learn all the verses and then I sing „em back to the people until they tell me that I can sing „em just like them. And then I take part and I try it out on different people who already know the song until they are quite satisfied that I know it. Then I carry it in my memory….I learn the song myself and then I can take it with me wherever I go.

     Zora Neale Hurston

     Interview with Alan Lomax

Folklore 560: Southern Literature and the Oral Tradition 2

    Ferris, Spring 2010

Course Description:

    This course focuses on Southern writers and explores how they use oral traditions in their work. We will discuss the nature of oral tradition and how its study can provide a methodology for understanding Southern literature. We will consider how specific folklore genres such as folktales, sermons, and music are used by Southern writers, and we will discuss how such genres provide structure for literary forms such as the novel and the short story.

    The seminar begins by exploring the nature of folklore and how its study has been applied to both oral and written literature. We will then consider examples of oral history and how they capture the southern voice. We will discuss how nineteenth century slave narratives by Harriet Ann Jacobs and Frederick Douglass and works by Tennessee Williams and Mark Twain deal with local color and black and white southern voices. After these readings, we will consider a rich selection of twentieth century Southern writers and discuss how they use folklore in their work.

Texts: The following texts for the class are available at Student Stores:

    Ralph Ellison, The Invisible Man

    Walker Evans and James Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

    William Faulkner, The Hamlet

    William Ferris, Mule Trader: Ray Lum's Tales of Horses, Mules and Men

    Ernest Gaines, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

    Zora Neale Hurston, Mules and Men

    Randall Kenan, Let the Dead Bury Their Dead

    Theodore Rosengarten, All God's Dangers

    Lee Smith, Oral History

    Elizabeth Spencer, The Light in the Piazza and other Italian Tales

    Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

    Alice Walker, The Color Purple

    Eudora Welty, Selected Stories

    Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

    Richard Wright, Native Son

Course Requirements:

    Each student will choose a writer and will present a 15-minute oral report that will include a dramatic reading of the writer‟s work. Students will also write a research paper that discusses

    how oral tradition is developed in the work of a Southern writer. The length of the paper should be 12 pages for undergraduate students and 24 pages for graduate students and is due before the end of exams. Final grades will be based on: topic assignment (10%), working bibliography assignment (5%), the term paper (60%), class presentation (10%), and class participation (15%).

    Folklore 560: Southern Literature and the Oral Tradition 3

    Ferris, Spring 2010


A one-paragraph description of your topic and reason for choosing this topic (hard copy) are thdue in class on Thursday, February 18. This portion of your project is worth 10% of your

    final grade.

    Your paper topic should take a piece of literature we have studies or will study in this class and link it to a Southern oral tradition or an element of an oral tradition. Be creative with your topic and feel free to bring in your Southern, literary, and/or storytelling experience. The optional readings included for each unit in the syllabus provide an excellent source for paper ideas. A document detailing grading criteria for the final project will be provided early in the semester.

Some simple examples include:

    Huckleberry Finn and the Element of Travel in Country Music Lyrics

    Hurston‟s Mules and Men and African American Folk Humor

    Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and the Southern Art of Conversation

    Ray Lum, Mule Trader and the Memorate as Folkoric Form

    All God’s Dangers and the Epic Hero in the Southern Storytelling Tradition

    Let Us Now Praise Famous Men and My Grandfather‟s Sharecropping Memories

    The Color Purple and the Role of Women in Shaping Southern Folklore


     ndBring a hard-copy list of potential and explored sources to class on Tuesday, March 2. This

    should be a working list of at least 5 sources you will reference for your final paper. This portion of your project is worth 5% of your final grade. Office Hour meetings will be scheduled around this time to discuss working paper outlines, as well.


If you would like Vincent to carefully review your first draft, bring a hard copy of this final ththpaper draft to class on Thursday, April 8. It will be returned to you on Tuesday, April 13

    with comments. No draft reading will occur after this time. This exercise is recommended, but not required.


     ndYou will sign up to share your research in an eight-minute presentation on April 22 and thApril 27. Power Point presentations and the use of outside materials are encouraged. (Power Point presentations should be saved to a CD-R to avoid technical problems). This portion of your project is worth 10% of your final grade.

Folklore 560: Southern Literature and the Oral Tradition 4

    Ferris, Spring 2010


     thYour final papers (hard copy) are due on the last day of class, April 27, by 5pm in the Love

    House & Hutchins Forum. There will be no extensions granted for the final paper. The final

    paper will be worth 60% of your grade.


    Class participation will be measured by: participation in class discussion and lecture,

    attendance, and submission of weekly reading questions on Blackboard (this process will

    be explained in class), and will represent 15% of your grade.

    Folklore 560: Southern Literature and the Oral Tradition 5 Ferris, Spring 2010


The Nature of Oral Literature (January 12, 2010)

Required Readings:

    Gene Bluestein, “Folklore and the American Character” in the Voice of the Folk, pp. 65-90. T.S. Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent”

    William Ferris, “Folklife,” Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, pp. 451-457. Charles Reagan Wilson and William Ferris, “Introduction,” Encyclopedia of Southern Culture,

    pp. xv-xx.

    Francis Lee Utley, “Folk Literature: An Operational Definition” in Alan Dundes, The Story of

    Folklore, pp. 7-24.

Optional Readings:

    Antti Aarene and Stith Thompson, The Types of the Folktale.

    Jan Harold Brunvand, The Study of American Folklore.

    Alan Dundes, “The Study of Folklore.”

    William Ferris, Local Color.

    ------------------“The Collection of Racial Lore: Approaches and Problems” in New York

    Folklore Quarterly, Sept. 1971, pp. 261-279.

    Melville and Frances Herskovits, Dahomean Narrative, pp. 1-80.

    Daniel Hoffman, Form & Fable in American Fiction, pp. 1-98.

    Melville Jacobs, The Content & Style of An Oral Literature, pp. 1-70.

    Lord, Singer of Tales

    Stith Thompson, The Folktale.

    Stith Thompson, “Myth and Folktales,” in Myth: A Symposium.

    Butler Waugh, “Structural Analysis in Literature and Folklore,” Western Folklore, 1966. Rene Wellek & Austin Warren, Theory of Literature, pp. 46-47.

    Sol Worth, Through Navajo Eyes.

     “The Writer‟s Sense of Place,” South Dakota Review, Autumn 1975, vol. 13, no. 3. Don Yoder, “Folklife Studies in American Scholarship,” in American Folklife, ed. Don Yoder.

Folklore and the Writer (January 14, 2010)

Required Readings:

    David W. Blight, “Southerners Don‟t Lie; They Just Remember Big,” in Where These Memories

    Grow, W. Fitzhugh Brundage, editor (Chapel Hill, 2000), pp. 347-354.

    Sterling Brown, “Background of Folklore in Negro Literature,” in Motherwit, Alan Dundes, ed.,

    pp. 39-44.

    W. Fitzhugh Brundage, “Introduction: No Deed but Memory,” Where These Memories Grow

    (Chapel Hill, 2000), pp. 1-28.

    William Ferris, “Folklore and the African Novelist: Achebe and Tutola,” Journal of American

    Folklore, vol. 86, no. 339, January-March 1973, pp. 25-36.

    -----------, “Folklore and Folklife in the Works of John M. Synge,” New York Folklore Quarterly,

    vol. XXVII, no. 4, pp. 339-356.

    Folklore 560: Southern Literature and the Oral Tradition 6 Ferris, Spring 2010

Pierce Lewis, “Defining a Sense of Place,” Sense of Place: Mississippi, Peggy W. Prenshaw and

    Jesse O. McKee, editors, pp. 24-46. Jerry W. Ward, “Folklore and the Study of Black Literature,” Mississippi Folklore Register, Fall

    1972, Vol. VI, No. 3, pp. 83-90.

Optional Readings:

    Henning Cohen, “American Literature & American Folklore” in Tristam Potter Coffin, ed., Our

    Living Traditions, pp. 238-250.

    Stanley Edgar Hyman, “The Folk Tradition,” in Motherwit, pp. 46-55. Gershon Legman, “Folk Literature and Folklore,” in The Horn Book, pp. 289-335. Gershon Legman, “The Merry Muses as Folklore,” in The Horn Book, pp. 170-238. Constance Rourke, American Humor.

    Paul C. Sherr, The Short Story and Oral Tradition.

Folk Autobiography (January 19, 2010)

    Theodore Rosengarten, All God’s Dangers.

Optional Readings:

    Carlos Castaneda, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge.

    William Chafe, Raymond Gavins, and Robert Korstad, Remembering Jim Crow.

    Marcel Griaule, Conversations With Ogotemmeli.

    Walker Evans and James Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (January 21, 2010)

Optional readings:

    Walker Evans (New York Graphic Society, Greenwich, CT). William Ferris, “The Dogtrot: A Mythic Image in Southern Culture.”

    William Ferris, “Interview with Walker Evans.”

    Henry Glassie, Pattern in the Material Folk Culture of the Eastern United States.

    Interview with Walker Evans, in Yale Alumni Magazine, February 1974, pp. 12-16. Michael Lesy, Wisconsin Death Trip.

    Tom Rankin, Sacred Space: Photographs from the Mississippi Delta.

    Thomas J. Schlereth, Material Culture Studies in America.

    William Scott, Documentary Expression and Thirties America

    John Michael Vlach, Back of the Big House: The Architecture of Plantation Slavery.


    Walker Evans: America

Folklore 560: Southern Literature and the Oral Tradition 7

    Ferris, Spring 2010

Folk Autobiography (January 26, 2010)

    William Ferris, Mule Trader: Ray Lum's Tales of Horses, Mules and Men

Required Reading:

    William Ferris, “Southern Literature and Folk Humor,” Southern Cultures, vol. 1, no. 4, Summer


    Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (January 28, February 2, 2010)

Optional readings:

James Axtell, “Scholastic Philosophy of the Wilderness,” William and Mary Quarterly, July


    Jocelyn Chadwick-Joshua, The Jim Dilemma: Reading Race in Huckleberry Finn.

    Leslie Fiedler, “Come Back to the Raft, Huck Honey.”

    Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Lighting Out for the Territory: Reflections on Mark Twain and American


    Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Was Huck Black? Mark Twain and African-American Voices.

    Daniel Hoffman, “Mark Twain” in Form and Fable in American Fiction, pp. 317-352. Mark Twain, “How to Tell a Story and Other Essays,” Oxford Mark Twain. Edited by Shelley

    Fisher Fishkin.

    Victor R. West, Folklore in the Works of Mark Twain.

Zora Neale Hurston, Mules and Men (February 4, 9, 2010)

Optional readings:

Valerie Boyd, Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston.

    Henry Louis Gates, et al., eds. Zora Neale Hurston: Critical Perspectives Past and Present

    (Amistad Library).

    Robert E. Hemenway, Zora Neale Hurston: A Literary Biography.

    Zora Neale Hurston, “Hoodoo in America,” Journal of American Folklore, vol. 44, October-

    December 1931, no. 174, pp. 317-417.

    Carla Kaplan, Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters.

Slave Narratives (February 11, 2010)

Required Readings:

    William L. Andrews, General Editor, Minrose C. Gwin, Trudier Harris, and Fred Hobson,

    editors, The Literature of the American South: Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of

    Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself, pp. 169-219, and Harriet Ann Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, pp. 125-152.

Optional readings:

    Folklore 560: Southern Literature and the Oral Tradition 8 Ferris, Spring 2010

Ira Berlin, Mark Favreau, et al., eds. Remembering Slavery: African Americans Talk About

    Their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Freedom.

    William H. Chafe, Raymond Gavins, Robert Korstad, eds. Remembering Jim Crow: African

    Americans Tell About Life in the Segregated South.

    Jennifer Lynn Ritterhouse and Robert Gavins, eds. Behind the Veil Project.

    Randall Kenan, Let the Dead Bury Their Dead (February 16, 2010)

Optional readings:

W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk. With a New Introduction by Randall Kenan.

    Randall Kenan, “James Baldwin: American Writer.” Lives of Notable Gay Men and Lesbians, ed.

    Martin B. Duberman.

    ----------, A Visitation of Spirits: A Novel.

    ----------, Walking on Water: Black American Lives at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century. Norman Mauskopf and Randall Kenan, A Time Not Here: The Mississippi Delta.

    Ralph Ellison, The Invisible Man (February 18, 23, 2010)

Optional readings:

Kimberly W. Benston, ed. Speaking for You: The Vision of Ralph Ellison.

    Robert A. Bone, The Negro Novel in America, pp. 197-212.

    Harold Bloom, ed. Ralph Ellison (Modern Critical Views).

    Gene Bluestein, “The Blues as a Literary Theme,” The Voice of the Folk, pp. 117-140. Robert Butler, ed. The Critical Response to Ralph Ellison: Critical Responses in Arts and Letters. John Callahan, et al., eds. The Collected Essays of Ralph Ellison. (Modern Library) John F. Callahan, Ellison's Invisible Man (Bradley Lecture Series Publication).

    Jacqueline Covo, The Blinking Eye: Ralph Waldo Ellison and His American, French, German,

    and Italian Critics, 1952-1971; Bibliographic Essays and a Checklist.

    Charles Davis, “The Heavenly Voice of the Black American,” in Anagogic Qualities of

    Literature, ed. Strelka.

    Julia Eichelberger, Prophets of Recognition: Ideology and the Individual in Novels by Ralph

    Ellison, Toni Morrison, Saul Bellow, and Eudora Welty.

    Ralph Ellison, “Change the Yoke and Slip the Joke” in Motherwit, pp. 56-66. ----------, Conversations With Ralph Ellison.

    ----------, Shadow & Act.

    ----------, “A Very Stern Discipline,” Harper‟s Magazine, March 1967, pp. 76-95. “Ralph Ellison: His Literary Works and States” (Special Issue) Black World, December 1970. William R. Ferris, “Black Prose Narrative in the Mississippi Delta: An Overview” in Journal of

    American Folklore, vol. 85, no. 336, April-June 1972. Henry L. Gates and Kwame Anthony Appiah, eds. Ralph Ellison: Critical Perspectives Past and

    Present (Amistad Literary Series).

    John Richard Hersey, Ralph Ellison: A Collection of Critical Essays.

Folklore 560: Southern Literature and the Oral Tradition 9

    Ferris, Spring 2010

Dorothea Fischer-Hornung, Folklore and Myth in Ralph Ellison's Early Works.

    R. Jothiprakash, Commitment As a Theme in African American Literature: A Study of James

    Baldwin and Ralph Ellison (American Black Studies).

    Kerry McSweeney, Invisible Man: Race and Identity (Twayne's Masterwork Studies, No 17).

    Albert Murray, ed. Trading Twelves: The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray.

    Larry Neal, “Politics as Ritual: Ellison‟s Zoot Suit” Black World, December 1970, pp. 31-52.

    John O‟Brien, “Ralph Ellison,” Interviews With Black Writers, pp. 63-78.

    Robert G., O'Meally, The Craft of Ralph Ellison.

    Robert G. O'Meally, ed. Living With Music: Ralph Ellison‟s Jazz Writings. (Modern Library.)

    Robert G. O'Meally, ed. New Essays on Invisible Man.

    Constance Rourke, American Humor, pp. 70-90.

    Edith Schor, Visible Ellison: A Study of Ralph Ellison‟s Fiction.

    Eric J. Sundquist, ed. Cultural Contexts for Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man: A Bedford Documentary Companion (Bedford Documentary Companion).

    Joseph F. Trimmer, A Casebook on Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man.

    Jerry Gafio Watts, Heroism and the Black Intellectual: Ralph Ellison, Politics, and Afro-

    American Intellectual Life.

Richard Wright, Native Son (February 25, March 2, 2010)

Optional readings:

    William L. Andrews, et al., eds. Richard Wright's Black Boy American Hunger: A Casebook

    (Casebooks in Criticism).

    Houston A. Baker, Twentieth Century Interpretations of Native Son; A Collection of Critical


    Harold Bloom, ed. Richard Wright (Modern Critical Views).

    Robert A. Bone, The Negro Novel in America, pp. 140-159.

    ----------, Richard Wright.

    R. Corrigan & Charles Davis, Richard Wright: His Work, His World, and His Influences (4 vol.).

    Michael Fabre, The Unfinished Quest of Richard Wright.

    ----------, The World of Richard Wright (Center for the Study of Southern Culture Series).

    Michel Fabre and Ellen Wright, eds. Richard Wright Reader.

    Henry Louis Gates, ed. Richard Wright: Critical Perspectives Past and Present (Amistad Literary


    Addison Gayle, Richard Wright: A Biography.

    Joyce Hart, Richard Wright: Author of Native Son (World Writers).

    Keneth. Kinnamon, The Emergence of Richard Wright: A Study in Literature and Society.

    Keneth Kinnamon, ed. Conversations With Richard Wright (Literary Conversations Series


    Keneth Kinnamon, ed. Critical Essays on Richard Wright's Native Son (Critical Essays on

    American Literature).

    Keneth Kinnamon, ed. New Essays on Native Son.

    Richard MacKesey, ed. Richard Wright: A Collection of Critical Essays.

    Edward Margolies, The Art of Richard Wright

    Folklore 560: Southern Literature and the Oral Tradition 10 Ferris, Spring 2010

James A. Miller, ed. Approaches to Teaching Wright's Native Son (Approaches to Teaching

    World Literature (Paper), No 58).

    Hayley R. Mitchell, ed. Readings on Native Son (The Greenhaven Press Literary Companion to

    American Literature)

    Arnold Rampersad, ed. Richard Wright: A Collection of Critical Essays (New Century Views). John M. Reilly, ed. Richard Wright: The Critical Reception.

    Hazel Rowley, Richard Wright: The Life and Times.

    Margaret Walker, An Interview with Margaret Walker.

    Margaret Walker, Richard Wright: Daemonic Genius: A Portrait of the Man a Critical Look at

    His Work

    Constance Webb, Richard Wright: A Biography.

    Robin Westen, Richard Wright: Author of Native Son and Black Boy.

    John A. Williams, The Most Native of Sons.

    Richard Wright, Bigger Thomas (Major Literary Characters). Designed by Harold Bloom.

    ----------, Black Boy.

    ----------, The Long Dream.

    ----------, Uncle Tom‟s Children.

    ----------, White Man Listen.


    Richard Wright: Black Boy

    For My People: The Life and Writing of Margaret Walker

Lee Smith, Oral History (March 4, 16, 2010) [Spring Break takes place between these two


Optional readings:

    Dannye Romine Powell, “Lee Smith,” Parting the Curtains: Voices of the Great Southern

     Writers, pp. 395-414.

    Lee Smith, The Last Girls.

    ----------, Fair and Tender Ladies.

    ----------, The Christmas Letters.

    ----------, The Day the Dogbushes Bloomed.

    ----------, The Devil‟s Dream.

    ----------, Cakewalk.

    ----------, Fancy Strut.

    ----------, Family Linen.

    ----------, Me and My Baby View the Eclipse.

    ----------, Black Mountain Breakdown.

    ----------, Something in the Wind.

    SPRING BREAK: March 5-14, 2010.

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