- Articles, Notes, and Book Reviews by Jan Harold Brunvand -
 

 
 
  Beginning in 1957 with an article on Norwegian-American folklore appearing in the journal Midwest Folklore, I have published about 150 articles, notes, and book reviews in academic journals and popular periodicals. The subjects include American folklore (regional, immigrant, children, etc.), folk narratives (folktales, jokes, legends, local character stories, etc.), material culture, folklore and literature, folksongs, superstitions, minor verbal forms (proverbs, naming, graffiti, etc.), Shakespeare, Romanian folk traditions, the teaching of folklore, and, of course, urban legends. Several urban legend articles were incorporated into my books. A complete bibliography will eventually be posted on this website.  
   
  For the present, here is information about my six most recent articles:  
   
  "My Summer with Archer, and Some Unfinished Business. The 1999 Archer Taylor Memorial Lecture," Western Folklore, 58:1 (Winter, 1999), pp. 1-23.  
   
  Archer Taylor, a distinguished scholar from UC Berkeley who specialized in proverbs and riddles, is honored at the annual meeting of the California Folklore Society (now called the Western States Folklore Society) with the delivery of a lecture dedicated to his memory. My Archer Taylor lecture was given at the 1999 annual meeting, held in Fullerton, California.  
   
  Professor Taylor taught a course in the proverb and riddle at the Folklore Institute of America session, Summer 1958, at Indiana University, Bloomington. I was one of eleven graduate students in the class, several of whom went on to become either presidents of the American Folklore Society, editors of the Journal of American Folklore, or (like yours truly) both. My lecture described the course, Professor Taylor's teaching methods, and our class project-compiling a dictionary of proverbs and proverbial phrases from books published by Indiana authors before 1890. In lieu of a termpaper, I organized this project, annotated it , and saw it through publication. My "unfinished business" was an actual termpaper for the class, which I supplied in the form of a study of the expression "ride and tie," a method by which two people travel using only one horse, alternately riding, then tying the horse for the use of the second person. Besides the history of the expression in English and American tradition, I describe the revival of the custom in the form of a ride and tie race, originally sponsored by Levi's jeans in 1971 and subsequently spinning off many similar and ongoing races.  
   
  The article concludes with an imagined response via heavenly e-mail from Professor Taylor himself. Included in the article are four photographs from 1958.  
   
  "Folklore in the News (and, Incidentally, on the Net)," Western Folklore, 60:1 (Winter, 2001), pp. 47-66.  
  This was the Fife Honor Lecture delivered at the 2000 Fife Folklore Conference at Utah State University, Logan. The lecture and the conference honor USU folklorists Austin and Alta Fife who pioneered the study of folklore in Utah and worked for many years at USU.  
   
  Taking my cue from the opening line of the Beatles' song "A Day in the Life," ("I read the news today, oh boy!"), I drew on my large collection of folkloric references found in the media and on the Internet. These items ranged from folktales and jokes to superstitions, customs, games, material culture, and much more. The examples illustrated the survival of living folklore even in an age dominated by mass media and electronic communication. In a published interview Alta Fife had mentioned "young folklorists [who] get their information from newspapers and other published material." Without neglecting face-to-face collecting from oral tradition, I tried to demonstrate the value of documenting "folklore in the news," finding examples in sources as diverse as the New York Times and supermarket tabloids.  
   
  The proliferation of electronic "chat," e-mail, blogs, websites, and other communicative channels on the Internet keeps this sort of tradition alive. A few examples range from updated proverbs (i.e. "There's no place like www.home.com ") and mangled foreign quotations/translations (i.e., "Felix Navidad: Our cat has a boat") to rumors, warnings and urban legends.  
   
  "On Being a Folklorist," Missouri Folklore Society Journal, 25 (2003), pp. 1-17.  
  This was the keynote address given on November 7, 2003, at the Missouri Folklore Society annual meeting held at Truman State University in Kirksville. I began by describing how I got into folklore, first at Michigan State University as an undergraduate majoring in journalism, then a graduate student in English, and eventually becoming a PhD candidate at Indiana University. Next I presented a good part of my 1985 Presidential Address to the American Folklore Society which occurred "24 years after I received my degree from IU, 19 years after I came to the University of Utah, and 11 years before my retirement." This lecture, never published, was titled "Being a Folklorist: some Things They Didn't Teach us in Graduate School, and How AFS Might Help."  
   
  Concluding, I asked in retrospect, "How well did I perceive things back in 1985? What did I overlook or misjudge? What needs to be added?" I touched on how the role of public-sector folklorists has expanded, how popular culture has absorbed much of modern folklore, the "growing sophistication and challenge of folklore theory," and the influence of the Internet on contemporary life and folklore scholarship. I concluded, "The greatest pleasures I have had in being a folklorist have come from contacts with the wonderful people I have interviewed and studied, the ‘folk,' if you will." I mentioned four such contacts from my work in Indiana, Illinois, and Idaho.  
   
  "The Vanishing ‘Urban Legend,'" Midwestern Folklore, 30:2 (Fall 2004), pp. 5-20.  
  "Urban Legend" is in quotation marks because I am referring specifically to the canon of about 150 story types listed in my "Type Index of Urban Legends" (1993). These stories, as I put it, nowadays "[have] much less vitality as an oral-narrative genre. Instead [they have] started to vanish (like the ghostly hithchhiker) from the realm of oral tradition and have mostly migrated from folklore into popular culture where they became stereotyped, standardized, exploited, commodified, and repackaged. . . ." Even though the term "urban legend" has become a household phrase, much used (and sometimes abused) in the popular media, the actual genre of urban legends has declined as an oral-traditional type. (Similar trends occurred with other folkloric forms, such as fairy tales, old English ballads, and folk dances.)  
   
  This article provides voluminous documentation for these points, drawing from news stories, cartoons, films and TV, advertising, crossword puzzles, the Internet, professional storytelling, and more. Rather than expecting to find urban legends still being widely told in face-to-face situations, folklorists " . . . must instead pursue them where they have re-located-in popular culture and on the electronic grapevine."  
   
  "'The Early Bird is Worth Two in the Bush': Captain Jack Aubrey's Fractured Proverbs," in What Goes Around comes Around: The Circulation of Proverbs in Contemporary Life, edited by Kimberly J. Lau, Peter Tokofsky, and Stephen D. Winick. (Logan: Utah State University Press, 2004), pp. 152-170.  
  Captain Jack Aubrey is one of the two main characters in Patrick O'Brian's series of twenty maritime novels set during the Napoleonic War, also sometimes known as "the Aubrey-Maturin novels" with reference to the second main character, ship's surgeon Stephen Maturin. The series ran from Master and Commander (1969) to Blue at the Mizzen (1999). Captain Aubrey, "a huge, hearty, and ruggedly handsome man who had spent most of his life at sea," frequently misuses all kinds of "everyday expressions, allusions, quottins, and especially traditional proverbs." This article is a survey of 472 such errors and their functions in the novels. A typical example is "There's a great deal to be said for making hay while the iron is hot." The example quoted in my title, however, is actually from a parody of the Aubrey-Maturin series.  
   
  Captain Aubrey's particular friend Dr. Maturin, who accompanies him on most voyages, is a well-educated and cultured man who serves as a foil to Aubrey's misstatements, sometimes correcting or questioning them, although he himself has problems with some elements of British slang and sailors' jargon. Thus each man is partly characterized by the common and often proverbial speech he uses, adding a charming and comical dimension to the major characters in what one reviewer called "the best historical novels ever written."  
   
  "Nostalgia Ain't What it Used to Be: The Case of ‘Grandma's Washday,'" Overland Review, 32:1,2 (2005), pp. 7-19.  
  "Grandma's Washday" is my name for a written or printed set of directions for doing laundry in the backyard using rainwater heated over an open fire in a kettle and washing with lye soap. The steps in the process are often numbered, and the vocabulary, spelling, and punctuation are erratic. The text usually concludes "Put on clean dress, smooth hair with side combs, brew a cup of tea, set and rest and rock a spell and count blessings." Supposedly this was the description of an actual pioneer woman's washday routine, passed on in written form to her children and grandchildren.  
   
  I collected numerous versions of "Grandma's Washday" from all over the United States and in one case from New Zealand. Each text claims to be an original set of directions created locally, but no reliably dated text exists before the 1940s. The dialect usage is inconsistent, suggesting a deliberate but unsuccessful effort by the author (whoever he or she was) to simulate regional speech patterns. In the manner of typical oral folklore, the texts vary in details while preserving the same essential form and content. Typical dialect terms include "rench" for "rinse," "britches" for "pants," "receet" or "receipt" for "recipe," and the adjective "pert" to describe a strong breeze.  
   
  People who display or circulate copies of "Grandma's Washday" reveal their nostalgic attachment to hard work and old-fashioned virtues of pioneer life, without actually having experienced that life themselves. The remark "Nostalgia ain't what it used to be" is an apt slogan for this modern tradition. That particular witticism is found as early as 1930, but seems to have achieved its modern popularity because of its use in Peter DeVries's 1959 novel The Tents of Wickedness.  
     
  Dr. Brunvand's books are available at the major book stores worldwide near you, plus some large online stores including the following sites:  
  www.amazon.com   www.amazon.co.uk  
  www.barnesandnoble.com   www.wwnorton