Date of this Version
The Journal of American Folklore
Definitions of folklore are as many and varied as the versions of a well-known tale. Both semantic and theoretical differences have contributed to this proliferation. The German Volkskunde, the Swedish folkminne, and the Indian lok sahitya all imply slightly different meanings that the English term "folklore" cannot syncretize completely.1 Similarly, anthropologists and students of literature have projected their own bias into their definitions of folklore. In fact, for each of them folklore became the exotic topic, the green grass on the other side of the fence, to which they were attracted but which, alas, was not in their own domain. Thus, while anthropologists regarded folklore as literature, scholars of literature defined it as culture.2 Folklorists themselves resorted to enumerative,3 intuitive,5 definitions; yet, while all these certainly contributed to the clarification of the nature of folklore, at the same time they circumvented the main issue, namely, the isolation of the unifying thread that joins jokes and myths, gestures and legends, costumes and music into a single category of knowledge.
Published as Ben-Amos, D. Toward a Definition of Folklore in Context. The Journal of American Folklore 84(331), 3-15. © 1971 by the American Folklore Society.
Ben-Amos, D. (1971). Toward a Definition of Folklore in Context. The Journal of American Folklore, 84 (331), 3-15. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/539729
Date Posted: 22 September 2017
This document has been peer reviewed.