2011 Summer Seminar in Literary and Cultural StudiesRead more about it and find contact information here.
The Department of English, the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, and West Virginia University present the 2011 Summer Seminar: “American Magic: The Fates of Folk & Fairy Tales in the Appalachians”
Seminar Leader: Carl Lindahl, University of Houston
Dates: June 9-12, 2011
The Europeans who migrated to the Appalachians in the 18th century brought with them extensive traditions of oral fiction, including the marchen, the oral equivalent of the literary fairy tale. By the 19th century, the Europeans who had stayed behind were drawing upon oral works to fashion a new literature: the tales of the Brothers Grimm (first ed., 1812) inspired imitators throughout the continent. In the United States, however, oral fiction went underground, and it was not until 1943 that the first anthology of British-American fairy tales (Richard Chase’s The Jack Tales) appeared. This American anthology was based exclusively on performances by Appalachian narrators; since the book’s appearance, notions of an American marchen tradition have centered on Appalachia.
This seminar addresses several issues in the history and conceptions of Appalachian oral fiction. Why did American marchen go almost totally undocumented for two centuries, between the time it was first attested and the publication of The Jack Tales? Why did American marchen collectors concentrate almost exclusively upon male narrators and tales in which the protagonists were males? Why has the collection and study of marchen thrived in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, but not in fifth core Appalachian state, West Virginia? Most importantly, what is the nature of the marchen tradition as it has actually been practiced, and largely ignored, in recent generations?
To assess Appalachia’s oral marchen traditions, the seminar will draw upon the collections of Leonard W. Roberts (1912-1983), who assembled the nation’s largest corpus of field-recorded marchen (now housed at Berea College) as well as Lindahl’s own collection, recorded in the same region where Roberts worked and sometimes from the same narrators whom Roberts recorded. The vast majority of Roberts’s published tales were recorded in southeastern Kentucky near the Virginia border, but Roberts conducted substantial unpublished research at West Virginia Wesleyan University, and that work will be discussed in the seminar. Seminar participants will read historical and critical pieces by Bill Ellis, Carl Lindahl, W.B. McCarthy, Charles Perdue, Joseph Sobel, and others, as well as published tales, including Chase’s literary Jack Tales and Roberts’s South from Hell-fer-Sartin, his earliest and most extensive print collection of oral marchen. We will also read unpublished transcriptions of oral marchen and listen to audio-recorded tales.
The seminar will begin with a public lecture at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 9th and conclude at noon on Sunday, June 12th. There are five, two-hour sessions during the seminar. By mid-May, registered participants will be provided with a list of readings to be completed before arrival at the seminar.
West Virginia University is located in scenic north central West Virginia about 75 miles south of Pittsburgh, PA and 200 miles west of Washington, DC. Housing will be available on campus, and one local hotel is close by for those who prefer non-dormitory housing.
And on that note, I picked up a copy of South from Hell-fer-Sartin: Kentucky Mountain Folk Tales at the AFS annual meeting over the weekend. It is still in print from University Press of Kentucky if Appalachian fairy tales interest you--this collection contains many variants of popular European tales. Somehow it hadn't been added to my own library yet.