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MFC-009: Approaches to Folklore

MFC-009: Approaches to Folklore

IGNOU Solved Assignment Solution for 2022-23

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Assignment Code: MFC-009 / TMA-01 / 2022-23

Course Code: MFC-009

Assignment Name: Approaches to Folklore

Year: 2022 - 2023

Verification Status: Verified by Professor


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


Q 1. Elucidate the fundamental hypothesis of solar mythologists and the myth-ritual approach to the study of folktale. How are mythological, anthropological, and historical-geographical approaches to folklore similar?

Ans) Two of the most influential schools of thinking in the field of mythology and folklore research are known as solar mythologists and myth-ritualists. Solar mythologists, who included prominent figures in the academic world such as James Frazer and Max Muller, held the belief that numerous mythological motifs and themes could be traced back to ancient practises of sun worship. They thought that myths were stories that were produced to explain the movements and properties of the sun, which was a prominent part in many of the earliest faiths. According to this hypothesis, a great number of legends from various civilizations that at first glance seem to have no connection to one another actually have their roots in the worship of the sun. For instance, both the Greek myth of Apollo and the Hindu myth of Surya represent the sun in their respective cultures.


On the other hand, the myth-ritual approach to the study of folklore concentrates on the relationships between myth and ritual rather than the individual aspects of either. Myths and rituals, according to the beliefs of some academics like Jane Harrison, Gilbert Murray, and James George Frazer, were not two distinct occurrences but rather were intricately intertwined with one another. Myths, it is believed, were developed in order to explain and justify rituals, and rituals, in turn, were thought to re-enact the events that took place in myths. For instance, the myth of Persephone and Demeter is frequently cited as an explanation for the shifting of the seasons, and the Eleusinian Mysteries were a ritual re-enactment of this narrative. In addition, the seasons change because of the movement of the earth's axis.


The anthropological approaches to folklore centre their attention on the cultural setting that is responsible for the formation and transmission of myths and stories. Some anthropologists, such as Claude Lévi-Strauss and Bronislaw Malinowski, held the notion that cultural myths reflected deeply ingrained values and beliefs in a society. Myths, in Lévi-view, Strauss's were a society's way of resolving the tensions and contradictions that existed inside the civilization. One example of a reoccurring motif in Greek culture is the conflict that exists between an individual's desires and the expectations of society. This conflict is depicted in the myth of Oedipus.


Approaches to folklore that have a historical and geographical perspective place an emphasis on the historical and geographical setting in which myths and stories originate and are passed down. A number of academics, like Vladimir Propp and Stith Thompson, held the belief that folktales could be categorised and dissected according to the narrative structures and motifs that they included. Propp, for example, identified 31 distinct narrative functions that could be found in Russian folktales, whereas Thompson created an index of motifs that could be found in folktales from all over the world. Both of these researchers were interested in the similarities and differences between these two types of narrative functions.


Even though they are distinct from one another, the diverse approaches to the study of folklore all share some characteristics in common. One of the most important parallels is that they both place an emphasis on the cultural milieu in which myths and stories are conceived of and passed down. They are all aware that myths and stories are not conceived of in a void but rather are formed by the cultural and historical settings out of which they originate. This is something that is acknowledged by all of them. In addition to this, they are all aware that myths and stories are not fixed entities but rather are dynamic entities that are continually developing and changing over the course of time.


In conclusion, the approach to the study of mythology and folklore that solar mythologists and myth-ritualists use has helped to a better understanding of the fundamental patterns of human thought and how these patterns present themselves in the formation of myth and ritual. On the other hand, anthropological and historical-geographical approaches to the study of folklore have made it possible to conduct a more in-depth and culturally specific examination of the meanings and uses of myths and stories in a variety of societies. These many methods, when taken together, have allowed for a more in-depth comprehension of folklore and the role it plays in human civilizations.


Q 2. Discuss the arguments made by Jakobson to contest Saussure axioms.

Ans) Roman Jakobson was a linguist who made significant contributions to the field of structural linguistics. One of his most notable works was a critique of Ferdinand de Saussure's axioms, which are the fundamental principles that underpin the structuralist approach to language.


Three of the axioms given by Saussure that Jakobson contested are as follows:


Instead of speaking of the dichotomy between synchrony and diachrony that Saussure proposed, Jakobson preferred to speak of "permanently dynamic synchronisation." In order to make his case for the theory of poetic function, which recognises the simultaneous existence of several comparable terms, he rejected the linearity and sequentially of the semiotic chain (the one term that is chosen invokes the absence of those not chosen but are present on the parataxis). The axis of selection (also known as a metaphor or metaphorical axis) is projected onto the axis of combination in accordance with this function (syntaxis, metonymy). It is most obvious in poetry, but you may find examples of it in other kinds of writing and speech.


The semantic is linked to the acoustic or even dependent upon in utterances, references to phrases such as "kith and kin" or "time or tide," where the syntax of the sentence is partially determined by its rhythm or alliteration or by other poetic features. Jakobson also objected to Saussure's axiom about the arbitrary relationship between the signifier and the signified by pointing this out. This reasoning gave the impression that the selection of a phoneme or even a word may be based on its position in the acoustic paradigmatic structuralist chain, rather than just on its position in the semantic paradigmatic structuralist chain of signification. In contrast, Jakobson focused on the poetic quality of language and came up with a solution to the issue of onomatopoeia. Saussure, on the other hand, chose an approach to language that was very devoid of aesthetic value.


Peirce divided signs into three types: symbols, indexes, and icons. Jakobson pointed out that some words, which he called "shifters" because they can't be understood without reference to both the message and the speaker, work even as indexes and have an existential relationship with the thing they represent. Peirce had shown that words are symbols because they follow a standard and arbitrary code. On the other hand, indexes and icons are pictures, not words or letters. An arrow that points is an example of an index because it shows by proximity. A picture is an example of an icon because it shows by resemblance. Peirce made an exception for "indexical symbols," but Jakobson, using Peirce's semiotic formulation as a starting point, refutes Saussure's claim that the relationship between the sign and the signified is arbitrary by pointing out that shifters have both symbolic and indexical qualities. Jakobson went on to say that linguistic signs must also be iconic. He did this by referring to Peirce and other American linguists like Benjamin Lee Whorf, Leonard Bloomfield, and Edward Sapir. Jakobson uses Peirce to explain his theory of the iconicity of language. Peirce said, "Every algebraic equation is an icon insofar as it shows the relationships of the quantities involved by using algebraic signs." "The rules of commutation, association, and distribution of the symbols" make it look like every algebraic formula is an icon. So, "algebra is just a kind of diagram," and "language is just a kind of algebra." Peirce "vividly conceives" the iconicity of syntax, that "the arrangement of the words in the sentence must serve as icons in order for the sentence to be understood." Jakobson says this to show that, if not each word, at least the way the words are put together is iconic. He also says that the syntax itself doesn't follow the law of pure linearity.


Overall, Jakobson's critique of Saussure's axioms helped to open up new avenues of inquiry in linguistics and paved the way for later developments in fields such as sociolinguistics and historical linguistics.


Q 3. Discuss the folk theories introduced by the following scholars:


a) Lévi-Strauss

Ans) Claude Lévi-Strauss was a French anthropologist who did a lot to make structural anthropology what it is today. In his book "The Savage Mind," he came up with the idea of "folk theories." This was one of his most important contributions. Folk theories, according to Lévi-Strauss, are the unspoken ways that people make sense of the world around them. People aren't always aware of or clear about these theories, but they still affect what they believe and how they act. Lévi-Strauss said that folk theories are important to the way societies work and are closely linked to language and culture.


Lévi-Strauss found several things that folk theories have in common. First, he said that they are binary, which means that they divide the world into two opposite groups, like nature and culture, raw and cooked, or male and female. Second, he said that these groups are not made up at random, but instead are based on patterns and structures. Third, he said that folk theories are universal, which means that they can be found in all cultures, even though their details may be different. The idea of folk theories that Lévi-Strauss came up with has had an impact on anthropology, linguistics, and cognitive science. It has also been used to study a wide range of topics, such as gender, family, and mythology. Some scholars have said that Lévi-approach Strauss's is too structured and doesn't take into account the free will and creativity of individuals and groups. Other scholars, on the other hand, have praised it for showing how the structures of human thought and culture work.


b) Rolland Barthes

Ans) Roland Barthes was a French philosopher and literary theorist. He made important contributions to the fields of semiotics and cultural theory. Barthes also wrote a lot about how cultural stories and myths affect how we understand the world, including how "folk theories" do this. Barthes said that cultural stories, which he called "myths," work like a "second order semiological system" that shapes how we see and understand the world. Myths are not just individual stories; they are stories that everyone in a culture talks about themselves and others. For example, the "American Dream" myth shapes how many Americans think about moving up in society and being successful, while the "noble savage" myth shapes how we think about cultures outside of the West.


Barthes said that myths work through a process called "naturalisation," in which people treat them as if they were "natural" or "obvious." Folk theories are the unspoken assumptions and categories that form the basis of how we see the world. They are used in this process. For example, the myth of the "self-made man" normalises the idea that success comes from individual effort and hard work, not from structural inequality or social privilege. Barthes said that it was the job of the cultural critic to show how myths and folk theories shape how we think about the world. By looking at how myths are made and the assumptions and categories they are based on, critics can figure out what their ideological purposes are and try to stop certain beliefs and values from becoming accepted as normal. Overall, Barthes's idea of folk theories focuses on how unstated assumptions and categories shape how we think about the world and how cultural stories help make certain beliefs and values seem normal.


c) Jonathan Culler

Ans) American literary critic and theorist Jonathan Culler has made many important contributions to the study of literary theory and criticism. Folk theory, which he first wrote about in his book "Framing the Sign: Criticism and Its Institutions," is one of his most important ideas. Culler says that folk theories are the common-sense ideas we use to understand and explain the world around us. Folk theories are not formalised or clear-cut ways of knowing. Instead, they are the assumptions and categories we use to make sense of the world around us. For example, we have a folk theory about what it means to be a good friend or a good employee. This is not a set of formal rules or guidelines, but rather an implicit understanding of what is appropriate behaviour in these situations.


Culler said that folk theories are especially important in literary criticism because they shape how we read and understand literary works. For instance, our folk ideas about what makes a good novel or what counts as literature affect how we judge literary works. Culler also said that literary critics may have their own folk ideas about what literature is and what criticism is for, which can affect how they do their work. Culler's idea of folk theory shows how our understanding of the world is shaped by assumptions and categories that we don't say out loud. It also shows how these assumptions affect how we understand literary works. By making these assumptions clear and analysing them critically, Culler says we can learn more about how we read and understand literary texts and what role criticism plays in how we think about literature.


d) Sigmund Freud

Ans) Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist who came up with the idea of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis is a theory about the mind and behaviour of people that has had a big impact on psychology, psychiatry, and cultural theory. Freud also came up with the idea of "folk psychology," which is how people use common sense to explain and make sense of their own and other people's behaviour. Freud said that "psychic mechanisms" like repression, projection, and identification are used in folk psychology to explain how it works. These mechanisms are unconscious processes that happen below the level of consciousness and shape how we see and understand the world. For example, when we repress a traumatic memory, we push it out of our conscious awareness and into our unconscious, where it continues to affect how we act and feel.


Freud thought that cultural stories and social norms shape folk psychology and provide the framework for understanding and making sense of human behaviour. For example, one of Freud's most important ideas, the Oedipus complex, is a cultural storey that shapes how we think about family life and relationships. Freud's idea of "folk psychology" has had an impact on many different fields, such as psychology, psychoanalysis, and cultural theory. It has been used to study things like gender, sexuality, and power dynamics in human relationships. It has also been used to look at how unconscious processes shape how we see and understand the world. Overall, Freud's idea of "folk psychology" shows how our understanding of the world is shaped by assumptions and categories that we don't say out loud. It also shows how cultural stories and social norms affect how we understand how people act.


Q 5. Discuss the significance of symbols in psychoanalytical study of folk forms with example.

Ans) Psychoanalytic study of folk forms, which includes folklore, mythology, and traditional tales, recognizes the significance of symbols in shaping the collective and individual psyche. Symbols are images or concepts that have an intuitive and emotional resonance beyond their literal meanings. They convey cultural beliefs, values, and experiences, and provide a way to express and process unconscious material.


Psychoanalytic theory, developed by Sigmund Freud and later elaborated by Carl Jung, posits that the psyche is composed of conscious and unconscious components. The unconscious is a reservoir of repressed material, such as desires, fears, and memories, that shape our behavior and experience without our awareness. Folk forms are a rich source of symbols that reflect the contents of the collective unconscious. For example, fairy tales often feature archetypal characters such as the hero, the villain, and the helper, as well as images of transformation, such as the metamorphosis of a frog into a prince. These symbols capture universal themes and conflicts that resonate with people across time and culture.


One of the primary functions of symbols in folk forms is to express and process taboo material. Psychoanalytic theory suggests that the unconscious is organized around the principle of pleasure and that it seeks to gratify forbidden desires that are repressed by social and cultural norms. Folk forms provide a safe and sanctioned outlet for these desires by expressing them through symbolic language. For example, the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood represents the dangerous, but seductive, aspects of sexuality that are taboo in many cultures. The wolf, who is dressed in grandma's clothes, can be seen as a metaphor for sexual seduction and betrayal, which the heroine must overcome in order to achieve maturity and safety.


Symbols also reveal the workings of the psyche by reflecting its archetypal structures. Archetypes are universal patterns of behavior and experience that are inherited from our ancestors and are expressed in folk forms through symbolic images. One of the most prominent archetypes is the mother, who represents the nurturing and protective aspects of the psyche. In many cultures, the mother is personified as a goddess or a queen who embodies maternal power and authority. For example, the Egyptian goddess Isis is often depicted with a child on her lap, symbolizing her role as a mother and protector. The archetype of the mother is also reflected in fairy tales, where the heroine is often aided by a fairy godmother or a wise old woman who provides guidance and protection.


Symbols also function as a way to integrate the unconscious with the conscious mind. Psychoanalytic theory suggests that the psyche is organized around a conflict between the pleasure principle and the reality principle, which seeks to reconcile our desires with the demands of the external world. Folk forms provide a way to mediate this conflict by creating symbolic images that reflect the tension between the two principles. For example, the story of the Ugly Duckling reflects the conflict between the child's desire to belong and the reality of social exclusion. The ugly duckling represents the rejected, but ultimately triumphant, aspect of the psyche that overcomes adversity to achieve self-acceptance and fulfilment.


In conclusion, symbols are a fundamental component of the psychoanalytical study of folk forms. They reveal the contents of the collective unconscious, express and process taboo material, reflect archetypal structures, and mediate the conflict between the pleasure and reality principles. Symbols are a universal language that transcends time and culture and provide insight into the workings of the human psyche. The study of folk forms can help us to better understand the deep-seated beliefs and values that shape our behavior and experience and provide a way to connect with our own unconscious material.


Q 6. How can folkloristics serve as a useful tool in bringing visibility to marginalized discourses.

Ans) The field of study known as folkloristics, which focuses on the study of folklore and traditional culture, can be an effective instrument for bringing visibility to underrepresented discourses. Marginalized discourses are ones that have been excluded or censored from mainstream culture. These discourses are frequently connected with groups who lack authority and privilege, such as LGBTQ+ communities, women, and people of colour. Folklore, which includes traditional tales, music, dance, and material culture, reflects the experiences and values of these communities and provides a way to celebrate and preserve their cultural heritage. Folklore can be broken down into four categories: traditional tales, traditional music and dance, and traditional material culture. In this article, I will explain how folkloristics can be used to bring visibility to oppressed discourses and present examples of how it has been utilised in practise. I will also discuss how folkloristics can be used to bring visibility to marginalised discourses.


Documenting and evaluating the cultural practises of these communities is one of the keyways that folkloristics offers visibility to underrepresented discourses. Ethnographic research methods are utilised by folklorists for the purpose of data collection on the beliefs, values, and experiences of these groups, as well as for the purpose of comprehending the cultural significance of their traditions. Folklorists are able to construct an archive of cultural legacy that is frequently ignored or disregarded by mainstream culture if they document the practises that make up this heritage. Zora Neale Hurston, an anthropologist and folklorist, was one of the first people in the early 20th century to capture the folklore and cultural traditions of African American groups living in the American South. She did this throughout that time period. Her body of work, which includes the publication of the book titled "Mules and Men," was essential in bringing exposure to the singular cultural manifestations of these communities and in challenging the prevalent notion of African American culture as being backward and unequal.


By underlining the importance of storytelling in underrepresented populations, folkloristics also has the potential to offer visibility to previously marginalised discourses. Oral tradition is frequently how folklore is preserved, and it is through this medium that tales, songs, and proverbs are handed down from one generation to the next. These tales provide a means of preserving and passing on the cultural legacy of these communities by reflecting the experiences and values that are held by those communities. Folklorists are able to detect the distinctive cultural manifestations of these communities and bring them to the notice of a wider audience by conducting an analysis of the themes, motifs, and structures of the stories in question.

For instance, towards the middle of the 20th century, the author and folklorist Americo Paredes documented the oral traditions and folklore of Mexican Americans living in the American Southwest. His efforts, particularly the book "With His Pistol in His Hand," brought attention to the important role that storytelling plays in the cultural traditions of these communities and challenged the preconceived notion that Mexican American culture is demeaning and associated with the criminal underworld.


By highlighting the aesthetic manifestations of underrepresented cultures, folkloristics can help increase the prominence of underrepresented forms of speech. The songs, dances, and objects of material culture that are a part of folklore frequently reflect the experiences and ideals of the communities that produced them. Folklorists are able to identify the distinctive cultural manifestations of these communities and bring them to the notice of a larger audience by doing research on the structure and the subject matter of the creative expressions in question.


For instance, towards the middle of the 20th century, the ethnomusicologist and musician Alan Lomax chronicled the music and dance of African American communities that were located in the American South. His efforts, which included the documentary film "The Land Where the Blues Began," brought prominence to the rich cultural manifestations of these communities and challenged the prevalent narrative of African American culture as being barbaric and unsophisticated.


In conclusion, folkloristics has the potential to be an effective tool in the process of bringing visibility to underrepresented discourses. Folklorists are able to construct an archive of cultural legacy that is frequently ignored or disregarded by mainstream society by documenting and studying the cultural practises, storytelling, and artistic representations of these communities. Folkloristics has the potential to contradict the dominant narrative that their culture is inferior or primitive by drawing attention to the distinctive cultural expressions of these communities. Additionally, it can give a way to commemorate and conserve the cultural heritage of these groups. The study of folklore has the ability to increase the visibility and acknowledgement of previously excluded discourses, as well as to produce a cultural environment that is more welcoming of diversity and inclusion.

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