Title

Origin Stories: Forms and Expressions

Format

Oral Presentation

Abstract/Artist Statement

Folklore is a widespread and varied field. It includes everything from folk stories and fairy tales to jokes, proverbs and idioms of speech to song, dance, and art; in sum, objects produced by human groups that reflect their culture. Included in this are origin stories; that is, stories that describe the beginning of a world, a people, and event or a phenomenon. Folklore has been studied by different disciplines, all of whom had a unique view about what exactly folklore was, how it should be studied, and what it implies for humans. Folklorists have largely taken a comparative approach to the field, tending towards broad overviews of themes within folklore. Anthropologists tend towards single, in-depth case studies of how the folklore of one culture functions to reinforce or demonstrate aspects of that cultures worldview. This paper combines these approaches to answer the question of how relationships between human groups, between humans and the supernatural, and between humans and the natural world are naturalized within origin stories. Using 20 origin stories (ten from North America and ten from Oceania) collected at the UC Berkeley Folklore Archives as well as stories gathered by anthropologists and ethnologists in the 19th and early 20th centuries, this paper demonstrates how different story archetypes function to produce particular patterns of behavior and reactions for the different actors and forces in each story. It also reveals how the relationships between the human group concerned and other story actors are naturalized through the telling of these stories.

Location

DeRosa University Center, Room 211 A/B

Start Date

1-5-2010 9:00 AM

End Date

1-5-2010 12:00 PM

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May 1st, 9:00 AM May 1st, 12:00 PM

Origin Stories: Forms and Expressions

DeRosa University Center, Room 211 A/B

Folklore is a widespread and varied field. It includes everything from folk stories and fairy tales to jokes, proverbs and idioms of speech to song, dance, and art; in sum, objects produced by human groups that reflect their culture. Included in this are origin stories; that is, stories that describe the beginning of a world, a people, and event or a phenomenon. Folklore has been studied by different disciplines, all of whom had a unique view about what exactly folklore was, how it should be studied, and what it implies for humans. Folklorists have largely taken a comparative approach to the field, tending towards broad overviews of themes within folklore. Anthropologists tend towards single, in-depth case studies of how the folklore of one culture functions to reinforce or demonstrate aspects of that cultures worldview. This paper combines these approaches to answer the question of how relationships between human groups, between humans and the supernatural, and between humans and the natural world are naturalized within origin stories. Using 20 origin stories (ten from North America and ten from Oceania) collected at the UC Berkeley Folklore Archives as well as stories gathered by anthropologists and ethnologists in the 19th and early 20th centuries, this paper demonstrates how different story archetypes function to produce particular patterns of behavior and reactions for the different actors and forces in each story. It also reveals how the relationships between the human group concerned and other story actors are naturalized through the telling of these stories.