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From Content to Context: Rethinking Relationships between Folklore and Literature in Nineteenth-Century France
October 5, 2015 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Resident Fellow (2015-2016)
French and Italian, UW-Madison
What does folklore have to do with literature? The usual answer would involve shared content: writers borrowing song, stories, or motifs from traditional materials. However, the history of folklore study or discourses surrounding it—what people thought folklore was and why it mattered—can be just as important for literature, indeed for how the very notion of the literary evolves at certain historical junctures. Considering the example of nineteenth-century France, I ask how failed efforts to document or collect popular traditions actually made questions of tradition, orality, and cultural preservation all the more important for French writers of the day and what this means for our own concepts of literary history.
Jennifer Gipson is Assistant Professor of French at UW-Madison. She holds a Ph.D. in French (2011) with a Designated Emphasis in Folklore from the University of California, Berkeley. Her research focuses on literature and folklore in nineteenth-century France as well as French in the United States, especially Louisiana and the Upper Midwest. Her article “‘A Strange, Ventriloquous Voice’: Louisiana Creole, Whiteness, and the Racial Politics of Writing Orality” is forthcoming in the Journal of American Folklore. She is currently preparing a book-length manuscript entitled “Phantom Storytellers: A Literary History of Folklore in Nineteenth-Century France.”