Ben-Amos, Dan

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Now showing 1 - 10 of 96
  • Publication
    Review of Victor Turner, The Forest of Symbols: Aspects of Ndembu Ritual
    (1970-04-01) Ben-Amos, Dan
    The ten essays that comprise this volume deal with the ritual symbols of the Ndembu people of Zambia, south-central Africa. All except one were previously published within the last ten years. Most of them excel in analytical rigor, detailed ethnographic description, and provide stimulating theoretical suggestions. Now that these essays have been assembled in a single volume, Victor Turner's approach emerges as a fruitful research method. It could well be one of the most significant contributions any anthropologist has made to folklore studies in the past decade.
  • Publication
    Bettelheim Among the Folklorists
    (1994) Ben-Amos, Dan
    Psychoanalysis and folklore have been uneasy bedfellows. Any psychoanalytic interpretation of folktales makes folklorists twist and turn. Their reactions have ranged from ambivalent acceptance to unequivocal rejection. Psychoanalysts, on the other hand, are ever too ready to consider such a reaction as denial, or at least avoidance of the "true" meaning of fairy tales. As a psychoanalyst, Bruno Bettelheim could have bridged between the two disciplines with his book The Uses of Enchantment (1976). His valuation of orality, his erudite familiarity with the classical sources of European folktales, and his sheer love for the fairy tale, qualified him for mediating the two disciplines. Surely, Bettelheim did not conceive of himself as a broker between two intellectual fields. However, by writing such a book this role was inevitably thrust upon him. The assessment of his success or failure requires, first, the examination of the theoretical, methodological, and attitudinal conflicts between folklore and psychoanalysis. Secondly, there is a need to clarify the charges of plagiarism that were brought against Bettelheim, and finally a need to evaluate his methodological contribution to the psychoanalytic interpretation of the fairy tale.
  • Publication
    Story Telling in Benin
    (1967) Ben-Amos, Dan
    One of the most significant traditions of African artists is that of the storyteller. This traditional figure remembers the legends and history of the tribe and village and passes them on to later generations in a linking of oral continuity. Modern phenomena are destroying the social cohesion in which this art form flourished, and although linguists and anthropologists are now endeavoring to record as many stories as possible, many, it is feared, have already been lost.
  • Publication
    Meditation on a Russian Proverb in Israel
    (1995) Ben-Amos, Dan
    My father spoke in proverbs, but for many years I did not notice. Only after I completed my graduate studies in folklore and began teaching, did I become aware of the idioms in his conversation. Without being a religious person he interlaced his anecdotes and narratives with proverbs, biblical verses, and parables from the talmuds. I began to pay attention. A few years later, when I visited my parents in Israel, my father, who was a construction worker, told me that in retirement he tried to make a business deal but failed. Yet in spite of his naiveté in such matters, he came through that experience unscathed. "The Lord protects the simple [minded]" (Psalms 116:6). He concluded his story with a touch of self-irony, and then explained, "why 'the simple [minded]'? Because smart people can take care of themselves." When my mother's health declined, he tended to her at home, and at the same time struggled to maintain his regular busy schedule of volunteer activities in several local organizations. Not one to complain openly, he wrote me in a letter the following parable, hardly realizing its history. "A Jew has complained before God about his share of troubles. He complained so much until God got tired of him and showed him the troubles other people in the world had, and told him to select out of these any trouble that would suit him best. After observing all these afflictions the Jew chose his own old troubles—at least with those, he felt, he was familiar."1
  • Publication
    Review of David Assaf, The Regal Way: The Life and Times of R. Israel of Ruzhin
    (2000-01-01) Ben-Amos, Dan
    Hagiography and history tell their stories at cross-purposes. While hagiography glorifies, even sanctifies its heroes, history strips them of their traditional greatness, seeking to bare the factual truth to which documents and testimonies attest. Nowhere is this contrast more evident than in the history and study of Hasidism. Legends (shevahim) are the building blocks of the Hasidic tradition, in which the rabbi is a leader, a miracle worker and a storyteller. He is the narrating subject, who, in turn, becomes the object of stories subsequent generations tell.
  • Publication
    "A Performer-Centered Study of Narration: A Review Article", Review of Linda Dégh, Narratives in Society: A Performer-Centered Study of Narration
    (1998) Ben-Amos, Dan
    An Hungarian in America, Linda Dégh lives the ideal of a Malinowskian fieldworker. After immigrating to the United States and joining the faculty of the famous Folklore Institute at Indiana University in the 60s, she has become a participant in and an observer of American life, conducting research among native Midwesterners and Hungarian immigrants in towns like Bloomington, Evansville, Indiana, as well as the highly industrial Calumet Region, particularly in Gary, Indiana. Dégh arrived in the United States as a mature and accomplished scholar, after conducting extensive field research in her native Hungary, and winning the coveted Pitré Prize in 1963. Her books from that period are among the classics of ethnographic folklore (Dégh 1962, 1969, 1995a). In the United States she has extended her method and observed and analyzed her storytelling immigrants as they negotiate their social and narrative worlds between their old and new countries, between their rural beliefs and practices and their homes that are filled with electronic devices, telephones, and television sets. At the same time Dégh has been a major contributor to and a commentator on the changing trends in folkloristics, and in the last thirty years she has emerged as the leading Europeanist in American folklore studies.
  • Publication
    Review of Sarah Sorour Soroudi, The Folktales of the Jews from Iran, Central Asia, and Afghanistan: Tale-Types and Genres
    (2011-01-01) Ben-Amos, Dan
    Sarah Sorour Soroudi (1938-2002) was born in Tehran, Iran and immigrated to Israel in 1959, where she resumed at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem her academic studies that she had begun at the University of Tehran. She received her doctorate from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1972 and returned to Israel, joining faculty of the department of Indian, Iranian and Armenian studies of the Hebrew University. Persian literature and poetry was her primary scholarly concern, but over the years her interest in Persian culture and folklore evolved with a particular focus on the folklore of Iranian Jews. The present tale type index of tales told in Israel by narrators from Jewish communities in Iran, Central Asia, and Afghanistan is her first major folklore book, which, sadly, was published posthumously.
  • Publication
    Jewish Folklore as Counterculture
    (2014-01-01) Ben-Amos, Dan
    A literacy divide runs deep in Jewish society. The scribes, the priests, and the prophets who wrote the Bible referred to the folk on the other side of the divide as ha-'am (the people), and the sages, who taught the books that followed, called them 'olam (the world population). Both terms resonate in subsequent Jewish languages. The Yiddish word 'amkha (all the people), and its analogue in Judeo-Spanish, povlacho, have their roots in the Bible where the concept of the "people" is ubiquitous. It occurs in a variety of forms as kol ha-'am (all the people), 'am ha-'arez (the people of the land)—a term which already in the Bible, and certainly later, had furthered its semantic scope—and in supplications to God as 'amkha Yisra'el (Your people Israel). In some dialects of Judeo-Arabic the terms that draw upon postbiblical usages are 'amah, 'olam, or 'al-'olam 'al-kul. In the Bible the term refers to mindless multitudes, immense crowds, or a general population mass. While the writers of these texts shaped Judaism as we know it, the 'am, the folk, experienced Jewish life in a way that we had—and still need—to discover.
  • Publication
    Jewish Folk Literature
    (1999) Ben-Amos, Dan
    Four interrelated qualities distinguish Jewish folk literature: (a) historical depth, (b) continuous interdependence between orality and literacy, (c) national dispersion, and (d) linguistic diversity. In spite of these diverging factors, the folklore of most Jewish communities clearly shares a number of features. The Jews, as a people, maintain a collective memory that extends well into the second millennium BCE. Although literacy undoubtedly figured in the preservation of the Jewish cultural heritage to a great extent, at each period it was complemented by orality. The reciprocal relations between the two thus enlarged the thematic, formal, and social bases of Jewish folklore. The dispersion of the Jews among the nations through forced exiles and natural migrations further expanded the themes and forms of their folklore. In most countries Jews developed new languages in which they spoke, performed, and later wrote down their folklore.
  • Publication
    Old Yiddish and Middle Yiddish Folktales
    (1992) Ben-Amos, Dan
    History and Territorial Boundaries. The Yiddish language emerged around the tenth century among the Jewish communities in Lotharingia in the Rhine valley. From there it spread to Northern Italy, Northern France and Holland with newly established Ashkenazi colonies, and under the impact of the Crusades to Central Europe and then eastward, to Slavic countires.33 Old Yiddish (1250-1500), primarily a spoken language, functioned as the language of oral tales, songs, fables, and proverbs. From that period scattered glosses and phrases are extant, the earliest of them is a blessing inscribed in an illuminated prayer book of Worms dated from 1272. The earliest document of literary activity in Yiddish dates from 1382. It was discovered in a cachet of manuscripts (genizah) in Cairo, and now it is housed in Cambridge University library.