|Dégh, Linda: Narratives in Society:
A Performer-Centered Study of Narration.
Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia (Academia Scientiarum Fennica). 1995. 401 pp.
ISBN 951-41-0748-9 (hardback)
34 euros (hardback)
|What distinguishes folklorists from representatives of related disciplines who do similar things – go to the field, collect intentional data and subject them to rigorous analysis and interpretation – for diverse disciplinary purposes? Folklorists are unique in their study of folklore for its own sake, as the folk creates, adapts, recreates stories, songs, dances and proverbs. The folklorist observes personal creativity as individuals shape traditional materials, assisted by a critical audience and sanctioned by a tradition-minded community.
The twenty essays in this book, divided into four sections, represent the author’s ideas, theories and methodological approaches to folk narrative. The first makes the case for narrator-orientation as field-ethnography-based humanistic approach; the second introduces the narrator’s personality and Weltanschauung as key to his/her motivation and art; the third discusses the intricacies and dynamics of story-transmissions and dissemination; and the fourth presents case studies that illustrate Linda Dégh’s method of analysis of narrative performance. She focuses on individual creators of variants that link up in processes of narrative development leading to dissemination, and the formation of types and subtypes. She shows how much more this method can reveal of the nature of folklore.
LINDA DÉGH is distinguished Professor of Folklore at Indiana University. She began her professional career in her native Hungary, with an interest in folk drama, historical epic poetry and traditional village storytelling. After teaching and publishing numerous works in Hungary, she was appointed to Indiana University’s Folklore Institute. She has expanded her field of research to include ethnographic observation of narration in traditional-agricultural as well as urban-industrial communities in Europe and North America, with particular attention to ethnic and subcultural relationships. Her current interest concerns the life of narratives in the modern technological world and the specific formation of prose genres under the influence of the mass media. Her 200 or so publications include Four Lives: People in the Tobacco Belt (1975), Folktales and Society (1969, revised edition 1989), and American Folklore and the Mass Media (1994).