4 credits / F 2:00 – 4:45pm
Taught by Christopher Wood.
The concept of the “people” is so politically charged that for at least a generation, research into premodern European vernacular or unofficial cultures has been paralyzed. This course aims to convert this impasse into an opportunity, reopening the dossiers of folklore, folk literature, folk religion, and folk art. The technologized mass culture enveloping our lives today, as well as the virulent new modes of political populism, are the inevitable frameworks of this investigation.
The course will have several objects of study: antiquarian and proto-scholarly study of popular customs and literary forms, for example the collecting of proverbs or fairy tales already in the sixteenth century; the establishment in the nineteenth century of the "wisdom" of the people, or "folklore," as an object of systematic scholarly study as well as the museological enshrinement of material popular culture; and the twentieth-century theoretical discourses on folk or popular cultures, and the entanglement of those discourses with the mass media and with nationalist politics. Among twentieth-century theorists and historians we will read Riegl, van Gennep, Benjamin, Bakhtin, Propp, Auerbach, Löwenthal, Ginzburg, Davis, Blumenberg, Foucault, Certeau, Anderson, Rancière, Didi-Huberman.