By Alan Dundes
Runner-up, the Wayland Hand Award for Folklore and background, 2009
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Additional resources for Meaning of Folklore: The Analytical Essays of Alan Dundes
He used music, too, to contrast Western and “primitive” music, in which “ternary time is not common . . and thus its presence in Western and American music is all the more striking” (148). ” If scholars made this connection, Dundes opined, they would realize that the ballad was not universal, as it tended to appear when they equated it with the folk-narrative text, but was culturally limited to Indo-European areas (1996b, ix–x). When Dundes entered Yale, he declared music as his major. But a job in the library, working with the fiction collection, piqued his interest in literary classics, and he switched to English literature, to his mother’s chagrin.
He contended that this pattern was a reaction to the “female-centered conditional experience from birth through early childhood until adolescence” (1997e, 42). His implication was that such a behavior pattern constituted a cause of war. Claiming this as a “new argument,” he wrote: “Those who may be skeptical of my attempt to offer a plausible rationale underlying male behavior in such activities apparently as diverse as games, hunting, and warfare will probably be pleased to hear that in none of the vast literature devoted to the psychology or sociology of sport—or for that matter in the even vaster scholarship devoted to seeking to articulate the causes of war—will they find anything like the theoretical argument I have proposed in this essay” (1997e, 42).
This opening section established the significance of his query, and, on many occasions, his dispute. He strove to break new ground in each essay by either reconsidering a previous interpretation (for example, in essays in this volume on the cockfight and earth-diver myth); complaining of a monocultural limitation, which he addressed with cross-cultural comparison or contrast (as in his writing in this volume on the ballad of the “Walled-Up Wife,” and phrases using “bugger”); pointing out an action that had not been considered as a subject for inquiry (such as collecting as a praxis by folklorists); showing that an unlikely, usually learned or elite group was folk (among them scientists, mathematicians, trained musicians, and medical professionals); noting the effects of changing units of analysis (for example, etic to emic units); or correcting a nonfolkloristic treatment of folkloric material (such as Lévi-Strauss or Campbell on myth).