Understanding Folk Narratives in the Louisiana Context
2011 August 14 (Sunday). Overheard in the bathroom at Green Room last night: (girl on phone) “Hey. What’s up?
Wait, you're drunk. Like, Mamou drunk." -- from a 335 student's field notes.
English 335: Louisiana Folklore
10:00–10:50 MWF, HLG 202
Pr. John Laudun, HLG 356, MW 2:30-3:30, Tuesdays 9:00–12:00, and by appointment. 482-5493 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Someone once called Louisiana a “folklore land” and we do live in a state, and in a region of the state, where folklore not only abides in abundance but is the subject of a great deal of attention by scholars and citizens, tourists and natives. This course encourages students to take a closer look for themselves not only at the folklore that surrounds and shapes each of us but also at the various ways it has been and is currently being represented. Taking a closer look requires participants to go out and see for themselves, engaging in field research in order to observe, document, and analyze folk culture as they experience and know it. While our chief focus will be verbal culture, we will explore other forms.
Participants in this course will learn how to read scholarly and scientific definitions and analyses of human nature with a special emphasis on folk culture in general and narrative in particular and then apply those definitions or reproduce such analyses in their own thinking and writing. Writing is a significant component of any communication, be it scientific or professional, and participants in this course will be required to assume those voices necessary to accomplishing a particular task. In addition, as a course in folklore studies participants will also create documentation containing both metadata and data in appropriate markup, which may or may not include things like XML.
Texts & Materials
In addition to the book below, we will be reading a lot of articles available either through JSTOR, Project Muse, or through the course’s Moodle website. All will be in PDF form, so please make sure you understand how to access and have also set aside money to print these materials. (We can discuss possible uses of devices, but phones are not among them. Don’t even.)
Lindahl, Carl, Maida Owens, and C. Renée Harvison. 1997. Swapping Stories: Folktales from Louisiana. University Press of Mississippi and the Louisiana Division of the Arts.
Please note that all readings are sequenced/timed to make your understanding of particular lectures, discussions, or activities more profound and complete. Any and all materials found in the texts can, and will be, on any quiz or exam without necessarily having been directly addressed in class: if you have questions about anything you read, be sure to ask them in class.
Other course expenses include equipment and/or supplies for recording and producing various kinds of documentary projects. (See the project specifications for more information.) Most modern devices are sufficiently general purpose in nature to provide the ability to make audio and/or video recordings of reasonable quality, but it may require some proficiency on your part to do so. If you currently do not possess that proficiency, please make sure to set aside the time to acquire it, and do be sure that you are comfortable establishing your own needs and shepherding your education according to your resources. (This assumption of your competence is a requirement of this course.)
The books listed below offer a general background and some specific treatments of topics central to the study of south Louisiana’s folk cultures. Their being listed here does not certify their accuracy. They are offered simply as possible reading for those interested in the ways Louisiana folk cultures have been examined in the past.
Ancelet, Barry Jean. 1994. Cajun and Creole Folktales: The French Oral Tradition of South Louisiana. University Press of Mississippi.
deCaro, Frank and Rosan Jordan. 1998. Louisiana Sojourns: Travelers’ Tales and Literary Journeys. Louisiana State University Press.
Ancelet, Pitre, Edwards. 1986. Cajun Country. University Press of Mississippi.
Brasseaux, Carl. 2005. French, Cajun, Creole, Houma: A Primer On Francophone Louisiana. Louisiana State University Press.
To meet the course objectives enumerated above, students must attend both in-class lectures and discussions, keep up with the readings, and engage in a semester-long research project of their own devising and execution. Thus, this course is best enjoyed when taken by independent, self-motivated learners. In addition, this course also requires a reasonable level of emotional maturity, since folklore is “equipment for living” and materials we examine and discuss come from life itself, where things can be inflammatory or embarrassing. Participants must be prepared for this. No, really: if you are easily offended, then this course may not be for you.
PARTICIPATION & QUIZZES (20%). Regular participation means being in class (on time), prepared, and participating actively both through listening and through talking. No more than three absences will be excused without consent of the instructor. As noted above, the chief delivery vehicle for information in this course is in class.1
From time to time, to check for comprehension and currency, I give in-class quizzes, which are folded into your participation grade. Unlike the exams, which are scheduled in advance and can also be made up, quizzes are one-time-only affairs.
Part of the participation and quiz grade are small assignments, like the one where you collect a single story early in the semester. Like the grades on quizzes, a check mark means you got credit.
EXAMS (30%). There are two exams in this course, which cover materials from lectures, discussions, readings, and viewings. The purpose of the exams is for you to demonstrate to me and to yourself your knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical and historical material presented in class.
PROJECT (50%). This course has at its core an individual research project which you propose, plan, develop, draft, and submit over the course of the semester. The final submission includes a paper of 2500 words of polished prose and the appropriate documentation, and recordings, for the material analyzed in the paper. For a complete description, see the project page.
This topics and assignments in this class proceed in a sequence described in a separate document here.
Emergency Evacuation Procedures
A map of this floor is posted near the elevator marking the evacuation route and “Designated Rescue Area.” Students who need assistance should identify themselves to the instructor.
Immediately look around where you are sitting and get the name and number of two responsible-looking people. Write that information below so that when you do have to miss class, you can contact them about what you missed.
Please note that I take roll for the first few weeks of class in order to learn your names, after that, you will often see me taking roll as class begins and/or making notes about someone who has made a contribution to class, a plus (+), or someone who is clearly studying for the exam in their next class, a minus (–). (You would be surprised how much one can see while standing in the front of the room.) ↩