My Folklore Conference Keynote!

My Folklore Conference Keynote! April 8, 2016
It’s a fancy flier for the conference! It has my picture on it!

In just over two weeks, I’m giving my first ever keynote address at an academic conference. In the event that I’m less responsive online than usual, I thought I’d share the topic and abstract with y’all, so you can enjoy ruminating over it in my absence.

The Body in Folklore: History, Theory, and Experience through the Lens of Embodiment

The human body is the vehicle for and agent of all folklore expression, regardless of whether it’s verbal, customary, or material. However, English-language folklore scholarship has historically ignored the body’s primacy, instead treating the body as an interesting motif that occasionally pops up in folk narrative, or proposing the possibility that ballads arose from the communal swaying of a peasant horde. Recent scholarship has done somewhat better, with the publication of Bodylore in 1993 and numerous conference and special journal issue themes signaling more awareness of cultural formations of the body. In this talk, I examine the ways in which bodies have been historically and theoretically represented in key folklore genres such as folk narrative, dance, and body art. Based on my research in these areas and in my experiences navigating the alt-ac waters as an adjunct and sex educator, I describe the interconnections between mind-body dualism, sex negativity, neoliberalism, and sympathetic magic that impact both the academic study of folklore and the formation of folklore at the vernacular level. From the ideal body in fairy tales to the corrupted and dangerous bodies of urban legends; from decorated and dancing bodies to professional academic bodies; and from the construction of students’ bodies as rational neoliberal consumer bodies to inappropriately sexy bodies hence requiring policing, we as scholars of expressive culture must be attuned to the historical and contemporary formations of bodies.

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  • Sophia Sadek

    But what about the body politic?

    • Jeana Jorgensen

      Oh, it’s getting a mention or two. It’s been a concept that some folklorists have worked with, but we’ve also explored other metaphorical ways of conceptualizing the social body.

      • Sophia Sadek

        “The Girl with no Hands” comes to mind. The king’s hand shows up in the TV series “Game of Thrones.” There is also the hand of the baptist which shows up in “Iron John.”

        • Jeana Jorgensen

          I’ll be mentioning the tale type “The Maiden Without Hands,” because I have a brief segment about disability in fairy tales (I’ve been meaning to write up a review about the fantastic book on that topic by Ann Schmiesing)… but yeah, there’s a lot going on with hands in folk narrative!

  • Til

    This is really interesting. Is the talk going to be available to the general public in some form afterwards?

    Mythology is sort of my hobby and I am a L.M.T. by trade, so this approach rocks my world!