26 September 2013


Frank DeCaro. Folklore Recycled: Old Traditions in New Contexts. University Press of Mississippi, 2013.

The central theme of this book, that folklore, in the form of oral tradition, can be used by novelists, poets, artists, the heritage industry, is surely a truism, and a wide ranging account of these uses would surely provide much that would interest Magonia readers; the uses of ghost stories by the tourist industry for is one possibility. 
Another specific example would be the recycling of the oral folklore of West Virginia into John Keel's factoid The Mothman Prophecies and thence into the eponymous film.

Sadly this book does not really deal with its subject in this broad fashion, and there is only one chapter in it, Chapter 5, which deals with the uses of folklore by various kinds of “alternative historians” such as Erich Von Daniken and Immanuel Velikovsky, who appeal to euhemeristic interpretations of traditional myth and folklore.

The other chapters really appeal to a much more specialist audience, apart from perhaps Chapter 2, which deals with how Louisiana folklorists used lore to rebuild a sense of place, located in the (largely mythical) world of the plantation. Here the African-Americans take the place of the European peasantry as the imagined “rude unlettered folk”. Other chapters deal with the work of Lafcadio Hearn in Southern folklore, photographing folklife, the uses of folk art in the Mexican tourist industry, and the use of the John Henry myth by the novelist Colson Whitehead.

Doubtless an important academic study, but little that will be of real interest to Magonians or those interested in the broader impact of folklore on contemporary vision and belief. – Peter Rogerson.

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