My blog was established in conjunction with my participation in FOLK-F121 "World's Arts and Cultures" at Indiana University, Fall 2007.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ch. 6 Reflection

As Chapter 6 of our textbook explains, there are many approaches to interpreting folklore. Many of these approaches may overlap each other, but they still have traits that are their own (Sims and Stephens p# 174). I actually really enjoyed reading this chapter, and have two favorite approaches to interpreting folklore.

The first process of interpreting folklore that I enjoy is structuralism. I really appreciate the flow of conversations, stories, jokes, riddles, etc, and how each can relate to each other, or be tweaked very slightly to tell another story. As the book says, structure is more than a plot; it includes characters with settings, actions, and words (Sims and Stephens p. #179). Like that, the structuralist approach does more than help describe or understand one aspect of a story (Sims and Stephens p. #179). After reading the section of structuralism, I came to realize and understand that words can have a completely different meaning and interpretation from story to story, or riddle to riddle. I suppose that this is one of my favorite ways of interpretation because I like the power of words, and much of the structuralist interpretation done my folklorists was geared toward verbal genres (Sims and Stephens p. #183).

The other form of interpretation that I like is psychoanalytic interpretation. I used to want to be a psychology major, so this form of interpretation was right down my alley. Psychoanalytical analysis involves the interpretation of symbolic meanings within texts that illuminate shared development and life experiences of all humans (Sims and Stephens p. #187). I love reading stories and fairytales that are made to symbolize topics much deeper than the actual story touches on. One big example for myself is the Chronicles of Narnia series. I love the religious symbolism that is behind the novels, but never talked about throughout them.

This is my response to Reflection Question for Chapter 6.
Sims, Martha C., and Martine Stephens. Living Folklore An Introduction to the Study of People and Their Traditions. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 2005

Sunday, November 25, 2007


For my next encounter project, I decided to do an album review. Since my boyfriend is Iranian, I decided to do my review on a Persian artist. I figured that this could be a good way for his parents and I to connect on something that is familiar to them. As I have mentioned in previous blog entries, I attended an Iranian concert with his family, which was when I was really introduced to this type of music. The album I decided to review was Esfahan, by Moein.
The first song on the album is his big hit, as well as the title of the album, Esfahan. I really like the use of the flute in this song. Usually, in the music that I listen to, the flute is not present. Also, the flute was used repeatedly throughout the album, which shows that the flute is an important instrument in Persian culture.
My favorite song on the album was track 4, Asfoon. I like it because Moein’s voice is basically the only instrument used throughout the track. Also, his voice sounds different from the vocals that I am used to listening to. He can actually make his voice sound like an actual instrument.
I actually really loved this album and would definitely recommend it to any of my friends. The use of symbols, flutes, and drums made the tracks fun to listen to. I would describe it as very middle-eastern and mostly upbeat. Persian music is really all about celebrating life to the fullest.
This is my Encounter project.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Before reading chapter five, I just thought of performance as a regular form of entertainment. The only things that came to my mind were plays, musicals, and dace recitals, and even when thinking of these examples, I never delved into all of the parts that make it a performance. I never thought that simply just having a conversation with someone is also an example of a performance. I suppose that makes sense, since songs and plays are generally made up of words and conversation, but I had never really thought that me talking to my mother could also be considered a performance. I gave a presentation the other day for another class and didn’t even realize that I was giving a performance at that very moment for my class.

One important aspect of performance is setting. Since I always thought of performance as a play, I imagined that a characteristic of most performances is a big, lavish set meant to catch the audience’s eye. Now I know this is not true. The scenery can be anything from the living room of my house to, like my earlier example, the classroom. It doesn’t have to be something hand made to get a reaction from an audience. It is just a place where the performance happens.

Probably the biggest thing that changed my aspect of performance was the audience’s role. From my perspective, I used to think that the audience was the least important part of a performance. I figured that it didn’t matter, as long as you had actors and a play, they could put it on for fun and it could still be considered a performance. After reading this chapter, I realized that I couldn’t be more wrong. The audience is by far the most important part of the performance. They are why the performance is even taking place, and their interaction with the performers is what helps make many performances work.

I would say that the way I looked at performances has been changed greatly by reading chapter five.

This is my response to reflection question 5.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pottery making

Over the weekend I had the perfect opportunity to be able to watch my uncle make a clay pot from scratch. It’s something he’s been doing for about thirty years. He learned when he was ten years old from watching his father. Back then they lived in Illinois on a farm where clay was very plentiful. About one time out of the year, my grandfather and my uncle would walk out to the edge of the farm where the clay was, dig it up, and come back to my grandfather’s workshop to make the pots. It was only a hobby for my uncle and grandfather, not a way they made a living. It was just something fun for them to do together about one or two times a year. This weekend, I went to Illinois with my family to visit my grandparents for their fiftieth anniversary party. While we were there, my uncle decided that he wanted to make a clay pot as a gift to them. I realized that this would be the perfect opportunity to watch someone make something from scratch for the encounter project that has to do with material culture. I asked my uncle if I could follow him around while he made the pot.

The first thing we did was walk to the edge of their plot of land where the clay is prominent. It had just rained their, and according to my uncle that was a good thing because it made it easier to dig the clay out of the ground. We only took about 1/4th of a wheelbarrow worth of clay back to my grandfather’s workshop to make the pot. The first thing he did was put the clay in this huge tub of warm water. My uncle explained to me that it helps soften the clay, making it easier to mold. He said the key was to not leave it in there for too long, otherwise it would get too soft, and be unable to be sturdy. The next step was to put the clay through a machine that my uncle called the wedger. This mixes the clay to give it the same consistency.

The next thing my uncle did was take the clay out of the wedger and play with it. He was trying to make sure that it was the perfect consistency it needed to be for his next step, which is molding the pot. He took the clay he wanted to use and put it on the electric spinner. He said that when he and my grandfather made pots, they had to use a manual spinner that they had to keep spinning by pushing on a pedal at the bottom, but now they make electric spinners that you plug in and can control how fast they spin by turning a knob. Needless to say he likes the electric spinner better. He uses water and the spinner to mold the shape of the pot he wants. In this case, he just wanted a simple pot, so it didn’t take him any time at all to mold it. Once the pot was formed, my uncle glazed it with a formula that he and my grandfather made up to help keep the in the pot form. Finally, he put the pot in this storage heater overnight. The next day, we came back out and the pot was finished. I asked if he was going to color it, but my uncle said that he and my grandfather were never interested in dying the clay to make it nice colors. They just liked the process of making a pot.

I asked if they ever sold the pots or jars they made, and my uncle said no. He said that they didn’t do this often, and that when they were done making pots, they wanted to keep them for sentimental value. So, in my grandfather’s workshop there is a collection of pots, jars, and milk jugs.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Rituals through Initiation

Rituals have always been a difficult thing for me to understand. I could never distinguish the difference between ritual, custom, and tradition. I always thought that they were three different words meaning basically the same thing. In order to view a ritual from my own life, I needed to fully understand what ritual really was. Chapter four defines ritual as a particular type of tradition that many folklorists study as a distinct category of folklore. It continues to say that rituals are performances that are repeated, patterned, and frequently include ceremonial actions that incorporate symbols, action, repetition, and have a frame that indicates when the ritual begins and ends (Sims and Stephens p. #95).

Initiation is used as an example of ritual numerous times throughout chapter four. While looking back on my experience with rituals, I decided that my initiation into the thespian club at my high school was a ritual that truly meant something to me. The book mentions that initiation rituals may include reciting promises or pledges, performing embarrassing acts to prove ones willingness to be in the group, or being presented with ceremonial artifacts or clothing that shows others one is a member (Sims and Stephens p. #119). All of these were incorporated in my initiation into my high school’s thespian club. At the initiation I had to memorize and recite the thespian pledge, perform 3 embarrassing tasks given to my by the council members, and received a thespian pin to show my membership in the club.

Initiation rituals are used to create a cense of unique, shared experience with a particular group, setting them apart from others who haven’t had that experience (Sims and Stephens p. #120). This holds true for my initiation into the thespian club. It made our group closer, knowing that we had all been through the same experience that we could share with each other.

This blog entry is my response to Reflection Questions for Chapter 4.Sims, Martha C., and Martine Stephens. Living Folklore An Introduction to the Study of People and Their Traditions. Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 2005