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MFC-007: Theories and Pedagogy of Folklore

MFC-007: Theories and Pedagogy of Folklore

IGNOU Solved Assignment Solution for 2022-23

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Assignment Code: MFC-007 / TMA-01 / 2022-23

Course Code: MFC-007

Assignment Name: Theories and Pedagogy of Folklore

Year: 2022 - 2023

Verification Status: Verified by Professor


Answer any 5 questions. All questions carry equal marks. (20 x 5 = 100)


Q 1. Highlight the salient features of different schools in folklore studies.

Ans) Folklore studies are an interdisciplinary field that encompasses a wide range of theoretical and methodological approaches. Over the years, several different schools of thought have emerged within folklore studies, each with its own unique perspective on the study of folklore. Described below are some of them:


The Indianist School

The Indianist School in folklore studies emerged in the early 20th century in India and was primarily concerned with the study of Indian folklore and culture. This School emphasized the importance of studying Indian folklore as a means of promoting nationalistic sentiments and building a sense of pride in Indian culture. It believed that the true essence of Indian folklore lay in its oral traditions. They saw the preservation and study of these traditions as a means of understanding the unique aspects of Indian culture. It also believed in the importance of studying and preserving the knowledge of the indigenous communities of India and that this knowledge was integral to understanding the social, cultural, and historical context of Indian folklore.


The Indianist School placed great importance on fieldwork and collecting folklore directly from the people who practiced it. They believed that this was the only way to truly understand the nuances of Indian folklore and culture. The School believed in a holistic approach to folklore studies, which involved studying all aspects of folklore, including myths, legends, folktales, songs, rituals, and customs. It also believed in studying Indian folklore in its historical context, tracing its evolution over time and its connections with other cultures and traditions.


The Mythological School

The Mythological School in folklore studies is a theoretical framework that focuses on the study of myths, which are traditional stories that typically involve gods, goddesses, heroes, and supernatural beings. The Mythological School places a strong emphasis on the study of myths as a means of understanding the cultural, social, and psychological dimensions of human experience. This school sees myths as universal patterns that reflect fundamental human experiences and desires, such as birth, death, love, power, and knowledge. These universal patterns are expressed through various cultural and regional myths.


The Mythological School uses a comparative approach to the study of myths, which involves analysing and comparing myths from different cultures and regions to identify common themes and patterns. This school sees myths as being rich in symbolism, which is used to convey deeper meanings and insights into human experience. This school often uses the method of symbolic interpretation to analyze and understand myths. The Mythological School identifies archetypes as recurring symbols, characters, or motifs that are present in myths from diverse cultures and regions. These archetypes are seen as reflecting fundamental aspects of human nature and experience. The Mythological School sees myths as being closely linked to the human psyche and often uses psychological interpretation to analyze and understand them. This involves exploring the symbolic and archetypal aspects of myths and their relationship to human consciousness and experience.


The Ritualist School

The Ritualist School in folklore studies is a theoretical framework that focuses on the study of rituals, which are formalized actions that are performed within a social or cultural context. The Ritualist School places a strong emphasis on the study of rituals as a means of understanding the cultural, social, and psychological dimensions of human experience. This school takes a functionalist approach to the study of rituals, which involves analysing the purpose and function of rituals within a given culture or society.


The Ritualist School sees rituals as being rich in symbolism, which is used to convey deeper meanings and insights into human experience. The symbolic aspects of rituals are often used to reinforce social norms, values, and beliefs. This school sees rituals as being performative, meaning that they are enacted by individuals within a social context. The performance of rituals is seen as a means of reinforcing social bonds and creating a sense of community. The Ritualist School takes an anthropological perspective to the study of rituals, which involves understanding the cultural and historical context of rituals and their relationship to social structure and organization. This School uses a comparative approach to the study of rituals, which involves analysing and comparing rituals from different cultures and regions to identify common themes and patterns.


In conclusion, the field of folklore studies is a rich and diverse area of inquiry, encompassing a wide range of theoretical and methodological approaches. Each of these schools of thought brings a unique perspective to the study of folklore, and each has made significant contributions to our understanding of the role of folklore in shaping cultural identity and social relations. By studying these different schools of thought, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the complexity and richness of folklore as a mode of cultural expression, and for the ways in which it reflects and shapes the societies in which it is practiced.


Q 2. What are the major methods and theoretical tools that are applied to folklore studies?

Ans) Folklore studies, as a multidisciplinary field, employs a variety of methods and theoretical tools to investigate the diverse forms of folklore expressions.

Some of the early methods that were applied to understand the nature, identity, and significance of folklore in life and society may be summarised in the following ways.


At the tail end of the 19th century, researchers from Finland established a methodology known as the diffusionist historical-geographical technique. Under this idea, each and every recorded version of a narrative type (or a ballad or a riddle) was analysed in order to pinpoint the location of its oldest characteristics (and, in theory, the story's place of origin as well). In this manner, the collection of comparison data led in the compilation of enormous indexes and catalogues, which are still cited in comparative folklore studies today.


The term "psychoanalysis" refers to a method that was developed as a result of an academic movement aimed at better comprehending the influence of folklore on human cognition. Folklore was considered by many prominent thinkers, including Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), Carl Jung, Otto Rank and others, to be a fundamental representation of the individual or collective human unconscious mind. Folklore, in their view, was a "socially sanctioned" form of fantasy that legitimised certain behaviours that were otherwise frowned upon by society and made them possible.


The 'local context' method held the belief that the various forms of folklore were not only widely dispersed but also firmly localised, and as a result, they needed to be studied with proper reference to their immediate social contexts. 4. The 'global context' method believed that the various forms of folklore were not only widely dispersed but also firmly For example, Franz Boas made a significant contribution to the development of a format for the research of folklore in local contexts.


By examining the different ways in which indigenous people told stories, Bronislaw Malinowski's "functionalist" methodology left an indelible mark not just on the discipline of folklore but also on the world at large. The primary point that was being made was that folklore does, in fact, serve a number of important societal roles, such as moulding identity and determining the best course of action for the continuation and development of indigenous social cultures, practises, and traditions.


A niche was carved out for itself in the field of folklore research by the "structuralist" method. One strategy relied significantly on Russian formalism and placed an emphasis on the component of plot sequence that is characteristic of folk narratives. The alternative method was taken from the writings of Claude Levi-Strauss and focused on the manner in which the logical linkages found within myths and tales mirrored the fundamental mental processes that are shared by all people.


Theoretical Tools for Folklore Studies

Folklore studies employs a range of theoretical tools and approaches that help scholars to analyze and understand the cultural and social significance of folklore.

Some of the key theoretical tools that are applied in folklore studies include:

  1. Historical-Comparative Method: This method involves comparing different versions of a folktale or song to identify similarities and differences in order to trace its historical evolution.

  2. Performance Theory: This theory focuses on the way that folklore is performed within a specific cultural context, such as in rituals or festivals. It examines the ways that performers and audiences interact with folklore and how it is transformed through the act of performance.

  3. Structuralism: This approach looks at the underlying structures and patterns that exist within folklore. It involves analysing the relationships between different elements of folklore, such as characters, symbols, and themes.

  4. Feminist Theory: This theory explores the ways that gender shapes folklore and its interpretation. It examines the roles of women in folklore, as well as how gender stereotypes are reinforced or subverted through folklore.

  5. Psychoanalytic Theory: This theory examines the psychological dimensions of folklore, particularly in terms of how it reflects and shapes human desires and anxieties.

  6. Postcolonial Theory: This theory examines the ways that folklore is shaped by colonialism and how it has been used to assert cultural identity and resist colonial oppression.

  7. Semiotics: This approach examines the symbolic and communicative aspects of folklore, particularly in terms of how meanings are conveyed through signs and symbols.


These theoretical tools and approaches are not mutually exclusive and can be combined and applied in various ways depending on the specific research questions being addressed.


Q 4. Elaborately discuss any animal centric folk tale which is similar to any tale from Jataka Tales or/and Panchatantra.

Ans) The narrative of "The Clever Fox" is one of the most well-known animal-centered folktales in India. It is very similar to the storey of "The Lion and the Hare," which can be found in both the Panchatantra Tales and the Jataka Tales. Both of these collections of stories can be found in India. The narrative focuses on an astute fox who, in order to obtain food for himself, must outwit and outsmart a variety of different creatures.


In one telling of the fable, the fox connives a bunch of crows into giving up their food by praising the crows' singing abilities and making them feel good about themselves. The crows, who are flattered by the fox's praise, start to sing, and in their enthusiasm, they lose their food, which the fox then steals away quickly. In a different telling of the storey, the fox plays a trick on a group of goats by impersonating a religious figure and persuading them to take part in a ceremony that requires them to jump into a deep pit. The fox, who had been observing from a distance, eventually jumped into the pit where the goats were kept in order to have a meal.


The storey of the "Lion and the Hare," which can be found in both the Panchatantra and the Jataka Tales, is comparable in that it, too, tells of a cunning animal triumphing over a larger and more powerful animal via cunning and deception.


A storey is told of a hare that fools a lion into thinking that he is the leader of all the creatures in the forest. The lion, who is the king of the forest, falls for the hare's ruse. This is accomplished by the hare issuing a challenge to the lion, asking him to show him his reflection in a pond, and then pointing out to the lion that the reflection actually contains not one but two lions. The lion, who did not recognise that he was looking at his own mirror, became frightened and ran away, allowing the hare to assume his position as the new leader of the forest.


The folktales "The Clever Fox" and "The Lion and the Hare" have a number of parallel themes, including those pertaining to intelligence and cunning, as well as the concept that the less capable can outwit the more capable. These stories are not only entertaining but also instructive, demonstrating how one may thrive in a harsh environment despite the odds being stacked against them. Both the fox and the hare are able to emerge victorious in the end by making use of their wit and brains to compensate for the inherent advantages that neither animal possesses.


The animal-centered folktales that may be found in Indian folklore, such as the narrative of the "Clever Fox" and the storey of the "Lion and the Hare," are frequently used to teach young readers important life lessons and values. Not only are readers entertained by these stories, but they also learn valuable life lessons about the repercussions of greed, the importance of being honest and working hard, and the significance of employing one's brain to triumph over challenges. As a consequence, the moral and ethical standards that have been upheld by Indian civilization throughout the ages have been significantly influenced by these stories.


To summarise, the animal-centered folktales that can be found in Indian folklore are not only entertaining but also teach significant life, morality, and ethics-related teachings. The narrative of the "Clever Fox" is comparable to the storey of the "Lion and the Hare," which can be found in both the Panchatantra Tales and the Jataka Tales. In all of these stories, cunning animals demonstrate their superior intelligence by outsmarting more formidable adversaries. These stories have played a significant part in the formation of the cultural values that are held by members of Indian culture because they instil in children valuable lessons about the power of intelligence to triumph over challenges.


Q 5. Do you believe authors of written folk literature should be held accountable for appropriation of the original sources into their own work? Give reasons for your answer.

Ans) In the realm of folk literature, the authorship debate as well as the appropriation debate are both complicated issues. Folklore and traditional tales are frequently handed down from one generation to the next, and they are not typically attributed to any particular writers or inventors. On the other hand, modern authors who draw on folklore and traditional tales in their works frequently assert authorship and ownership over the adaptations or interpretations of these types of stories that they write. This brings up the topic of whether or not authors of written works of folk literature should be held accountable for borrowing the work of others and using it in their own works.


On the one hand, one may argue that authors have the right to use folk literature as a source of inspiration for their work. On the other hand, one could argue that authors should not use folk literature. As a form of cultural heritage that is commonly held, folklore is considered to fall under the purview of the public domain. Throughout the course of history, numerous folktales and myths have been repeated and altered, and this process of modification is regarded as a natural component of the progression of cultural norms. Therefore, modern authors should have the liberty to draw inspiration from these tales and rewrite them in a manner that is unique to them. This enables a rich interplay between the past and the present, which can lead to the creation of new works that push the boundaries of innovation.


On the other side, there are many who believe that contemporary authors who appropriate elements of folk literature are engaging in a type of exploitation. Oftentimes, traditional tales have a strong connection to the cultures and groups from where they originated. These tales may also contain significant meaning on a cultural or spiritual level. When authors appropriate these stories and modify them to fit their own needs, they may be taking advantage of the original sources for their own financial gain. In addition, authors who do not acknowledge the cultural background of the stories they are exploiting may be contributing to the perpetuation of damaging stereotypes or misrepresentations of the communities from which the stories originate.


For instance, throughout the course of history, the fairy tale of Cinderella has been repeated and reimagined a great number of times, and as a result, it is today considered to be one of the most well-known and extensively read fairy stories. However, the genesis of this tale can be traced back to the oral traditions of Europe, and it has significant implications for both culture and society. When modern authors use this tale in their work, they could overlook or gloss over the cultural circumstances in which it was first told. This can, in certain instances, lead to detrimental misrepresentations of the cultures from where the myth originated. [Case in point:]


As a result, it is essential for authors to be conscious of the cultural and historical context of the stories they are borrowing and to acknowledge their obligation to the original sources. In addition, it is necessary for authors to acknowledge the stories' debt to them. This can be accomplished through the use of citations or acknowledgments, as well as by the joint effort of working with cultural specialists or members of the communities from whom the stories originate. If authors follow this practise, they can contribute to ensuring that the tales they draw inspiration from are portrayed in a manner that is both true and respectful.


To summarise, the question of authorship and appropriation in folk literature is a complicated issue, and both sides of the debate have fair points to make. Authors have the right to draw upon ancient tales and utilise them as a source of inspiration for their own works, but they also have the responsibility to recognise the cultural and historical context in which these tales were originally told. They may help to guarantee that the stories are conveyed in an authentic and respectful manner by doing so, and they can contribute to the continued evolution of folk literature through their participation in this process.


Q 6. How do folklores pertaining to healing and redemption serve as tools of power?

Ans) There are many different ways in which healing, and redemption folklore can be utilised as instruments of power. Because it is widely held in many traditional cultures that illnesses and misfortunes are caused by supernatural forces or ancestors, it is also commonly held that healing and redemption require the involvement of the spiritual or supernatural. In these kinds of societies, individuals who are knowledgeable about and skilled in matters pertaining to the supernatural realm are in a position to wield healing and redemption-related tales as potent tools. These people have the ability to use their knowledge to heal those who are ill and to provide spiritual advice to those who are in need. As a result, they have a significant degree of authority in the communities in which they live.


It is a common belief throughout many different societies that some types of healers or shamans have the capacity to converse with supernatural beings or to go between different realms. They make use of rituals, songs, and symbols in order to establish a connection with the supernatural and to ask for advice or assistance in redeeming themselves and becoming better. In some societies, it is widely held that those who practise healing have a unique connection with a specific animal, which endows them with superior knowledge and power. For instance, in certain Native American communities, the bear is seen as a sign of healing, and it is thought that the bear healer possesses the ability to treat a variety of illnesses.


When there is an imbalance in the power relations between different social groups, folklores that are related to healing and atonement can also be employed as tools of power to exert influence over those groups. For instance, in historical circumstances involving colonialism, settlers frequently carried with them new diseases to which the native inhabitants lacked immunity, which led to high mortality rates. In these kinds of circumstances, healers who were knowledgeable about traditional healing practises had a significant amount of authority since they were able to provide treatments for illnesses that colonial medicine was unable to cure. Because the colonial rulers saw traditional healing techniques as a potential danger to their power and control over the colonised population, in certain instances they attempted to eradicate them because of this perception.


In addition, folklores that are concerned with healing and redemption can be utilised to undermine pre-existing power structures and advance the cause of social transformation. These folktales may, in some instances, tell the tales of people who are marginalised or oppressed and who seek healing or redemption from their circumstances. These narratives have the potential to be wellsprings of motivation and a source of self-empowerment for individuals who are battling to triumph over their own adversities. In this sense, folklores that are tied to healing and atonement might provide a mechanism for individuals or groups who are disenfranchised to challenge and reject prevailing power structures.


The storey of the Hoodoo Doctor in African American folklore is an example of a folktale that functions as a tool of power in regard to healing and atonement. This particular folktale comes from African American culture. The southern parts of the United States are home to many practitioners of the African American folk magic known as hoodoo. Within the context of this practise, a "Hoodoo Doctor" is an experienced healer who is able to treat a variety of ailments and offer defence against potential dangers. Because of the widespread belief that the Hoodoo Doctor possesses the ability to inflict suffering on others, he or she is both feared and respected.


In African American societies, there is a figure of power known as the Hoodoo Doctor. This is because the Hoodoo Doctor holds knowledge and skills relating to the domain of the supernatural. In addition to this, he is able to subvert pre-existing power systems by developing treatments for illnesses that can't be cured by medicine practised in colonial times. In addition, the Hoodoo Doctor is a symbol of defiance and empowerment for African Americans, who have been marginalised and subjected to injustice for decades. African Americans now have a way to assert their cultural identity and to oppose established power systems thanks to the practise of hoodoo.


In conclusion, folklores that deal with healing and atonement function as strong instruments in a variety of different contexts. Those who are knowledgeable and skilled in matters pertaining to the supernatural realm are able to wield them to their advantage in order to exercise control over other people. They can also be utilised to undermine pre-existing power structures and advance the cause of social transformation. In this sense, folklores that are tied to the concepts of healing and redemption are not only sources of cultural identity and spiritual direction, but also methods of resistance and empowerment.

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