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_Haunting Experiences: Ghosts in Contemporary Folklore_
by Diane E. Goldstein, Sylvia Ann Grider, and Jeannie Banks Thomas (Utah State University Press, 2007)

This was a fascinating collection of articles exploring the intersection of folklore and media studies, specifically, folklore narratives about ghosts and mass media. There is a lack of academic writing concerned with this intersection, and the explanation for this was one of the parts which I found most intriguing in this book:

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[T]racing the more subtle consequences of cultural evolutionism and scientific rationalism on the study of belief, Gillian Bennett notes that of all types of folklore this is the one that seems least respectable and least believable in the so-called scientific age. The main trouble for folklorists is that we have got ourselves into not one, but no less than three vicious circles. Firstly no one will tackle the subject because it is disreputable, and it remains disreputable because no one will tackle it. Secondly, because no one does any research into present day supernatural beliefs, occult traditions are generally represented by old legends about fairies, bogeys and grey ladies. Furthermore, because published collections of supernatural folklore are thus stuck forever in a time warp, folklorists are rightly wary of printing the modern beliefs they do come across for fear of offending their informants by appearing to put deeply felt beliefs on a par with chain-rattling skeletons and other such absurdities. Thirdly, because no one will talk about their experiences of the supernatural there is no evidence for it and because there is no evidence for it no one talks about their experiences of it. (1987, 13)
Bennett's comments point out clearly the materialistic or rationalistic approach in the social sciences that has created a notion of supernatural belief as antithetical to modern thought and therefore destined for imminent demise. The usual expectation among North American intellectuals is that anyone who believes in "science" will not believe in such phenomena as ghosts, spirits, or witches. In fact the first paragraph of Garvin McCain and Erwin Segal's The Game of Science begins with the claim that we no longer believe in witches precisely because we believe in science... p. 64
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While the academics in this collection obviously are attempting to shrug off such intellectual elitism, there is still a lacuna in regard to really getting immersed in discussions of films and literary fiction, and most of the references which are used are pretty old ("The Amityville Horror"? seriously?). For that reason, I would describe this book as a great place to start for anyone interested in the overlap of ghosts in folklore and media, and it is even written in a very readable style accessible to the general reader who is willing to look up the occasional academic term.

As example of what I mean by lacuna, Chapter One discusses ghosts in bathrooms (hey, *I* didn't know this was a trope, either). The Bloody Mary urban legend is explored, but the film "Candyman" is never mentioned, despite this being based on a Clive Barker story about a couple of grad students researching a variation of the Bloody Mary legend.The story and the film both get into class and gender issues, and it would be great to find some folklorists discussing the mutual influence between urban legends and movies.

Chapter One introduced me right off


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