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Studies & Degrees in Folklore

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Folkloristics is the study of the culture of a particular group of people that are usually transmitted down generations orally. These would include legends, music, dance, jokes, customs and even popular beliefs which are usually gathered under the umbrella term, Folklore.

The term Folklore was coined in the 1800s by an antiquarian named William Thoms while talking about what was then called ‘popular antiquities’. During these times, information about different traditional practices have been gathered and written down to be reshaped in a way that would serve the ideas and practices of the 19th century. It was only one hundred years later that Folklore has been recorded without political reasons.

The first person to suggest that all manner of folkloric information needs to be preserved was Johann Gottfried von Herder, who believed that these would help in the documentation and further understanding of the traditions of the different people in the world. Because of these standpoints, the study of traditional culture, or Folklore, became an established discipline that sought to save the customs and vernacular tales of a group of people from being forgotten.

Folkloristics then became a discipline in the 19th century when the American Folklore Society was founded in 1888. This was partly owing to the interest of literary scholars during those times in the works of Chaucer and Shakespeare and the traditions surrounding the period in which such works of literature had been written. On the other hand, the study of Folklore meant somewhat differently in continental Europe and even Latin America, where folkloristics was viewed as a way to establish unity among the different people living in said countries. Traditional culture then was seen as proof of uniqueness among different societies and as evidence that a culture can be based on oral traditions.

On the other hand, folklore studies can also be taken as a way to raise one’s awareness about the culture that one is coming from. Some students of Folklore are also involved in movements concerning societal formations as well as struggles against colonialism.

The term Folklore is really all-encompassing in a way that it includes both spiritual and material aspects of a traditional culture. These are usually transmitted orally among people and although there have been studies and records written about the different traditional cultures of the world, it is still the folklorist’s concern to gather information first-hand. This means that students of Folklore would usually work in the field, gathering data in the very places where the traditions and beliefs they are studying are being practiced. Another choice for students of Folklore to pursue after their studies is to stay in the academe to teach a new set of folklorists about the discipline. That doesn’t mean that a folklorist cannot do both, of course. Studying Folklore in colleges in different countries would also give students of a unique look at the traditional and oral practices of different cultures.