Humble Theory

Humble Theory

Folklore's Grasp on Social Life
Dorothy Noyes
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 10/03/2016
Format: Paperback 4 b&w illus., 13 tables
ISBN: 978-0-253-02314-8
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Celebrated folklorist, Dorothy Noyes, offers an unforgettable glimpse of her craft and the many ways it matters. Folklore is the dirty linen of modernity, carrying the traces of working bodies and the worlds they live in. It is necessary but embarrassing, not easily blanched and made respectable for public view, although sometimes this display is deemed useful. The place of folklore studies among modern academic disciplines has accordingly been marginal and precarious, yet folklore studies are foundational and persistent. Long engaged with all that escapes the gaze of grand theory and grand narratives, folklorists have followed the lead of the people whose practices they study. They attend to local economies of meaning; they examine the challenge of making room for maneuver within circumstances one does not control. Incisive and wide ranging, the fifteen essays in this book chronicle the "humble theory" of both folk and folklorist as interacting perspectives on social life in the modern Western world.

Author Bio

Dorothy Noyes is Professor in the Departments of English and Comparative Studies, a faculty associate of the Mershon Center for International Security Studies, and past director of the Center for Folklore Studies, all at the Ohio State University. Her books includeFire in the Plaça: Catalan Festival Politics After Franco and the forthcoming Sustainable Interdisciplinarity: Social Research as Social Process, coauthored with Regina Bendix and Kilian Bizer. A Fellow of the American Folklore Society, she teaches courses in folklore and performance theory, American regional cultures, fairy tale, poetry and politics, the cultural history of trash, and cultural diplomacy.


Humble Theory is a big book. From a small scholarly field, it announces the most substantial, far-seeing insights into the world’s social life. By writing it, Noyes becomes the kind of public intellectual the United States needs.”
 — Journal of American Folklore

“Tying folklore to larger trends in Western cultural thought, leaving behind narrow concerns with genre or fossilized expressive forms, Humble Theory showcases the potential of folkloristics to contribute meaningfully to interdisciplinary conversations about culture.”
 — Journal of Folklore Research

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Table of Contents

Part I: The Work of Folklore Studies
1. Humble Theory
2. Group
3. The Social Base of Folklore
4. Tradition: Three Traditions
5. Aesthetic is the Opposite of Anaesthetic: On Tradition and Attention

Part II. Histories and Economies of Tradition
6. Voice in the Provinces: Submission, Recognition, and the Birth of Heritage
7. The Work of Redemption: Folk Voice in the Myth of Industrial Development
8. Festival Pasts and Futures in Catalonia
9. Hardscrabble Academies: Toward a Social Economy of Vernacular Invention
10. Cultural Warming? Brazil in Berlin
11. Fairy-Tale Economics: Scarcity, Risk, Choice

Part III. Slogan-Concepts and Cultural Regimes
12. On Sociocultural Categories
13. The Judgment of Solomon: Global Protections for Tradition and the Problem of Community Ownership
14. Heritage, Legacy, Zombie: How to Bury the Undead Past
15. Compromised Concepts in Rising Waters: Making the Folk Resilient

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