As we’ve seen in readings and in class discussion, folklore and stories can be powerful tools for social regulation and reflection. For your next essay, you’re going to explore a story that you believe qualifies as “folk culture” to consider how, in your experience, it has influenced social behavior, local knowledge, and/or the way a particular space is understood. You are welcome to use a story already explored in your reading responses, or a different story.
For instance, there might be a part of your hometown that is considered dangerous, and that danger — communicated through local stories — prevents it from being used. Maybe a story has been passed around a school, club, or camp for generations, shared by one generation with the next to perpetuate the culture of that institution. A story might exist in the form of a memorial, statue, “scar” on the landscape, or some other material trace representing a cultural narrative rather than being “told” in the usual sense. Or your story may not be grounded in a physical place at all, arising from the disembodied cultures of fandom or online communities. Whatever your story and wherever you find it, it should be one you have some personal connection to and have actually encountered in some direct way, not something you’ve merely heard of through commercial culture.
Your essay of ~1500 words should be written for an academic audience. You will use our recent readings to develop your interpretation and analysis. Don’t try to use all of them, though: you must use either Brunvand or Turner, and any one of the other texts along with it. Consider how the authors’ explanations of urban legends and/or creepypasta can be applied to YOUR example as a means of understanding it — you might begin by asking which model of analysis seems to best explain your example. This does not mean your story must itself be an urban legend, because arguments about that genre might also apply to your example. To construct a successful essay, you’ll need to use the readings in a more than cursory way. That means directly applying the ideas from the readings to your story for analysis and an original argument, not just quoting the essays and explaining how your story does or does not fit those models. Don’t be distracted by focusing on what your story is or is not (e.g., an urban legend), but consider instead what your story actually does for the community or place it comes from and why it is locally significant. Use the readings to help you explain how that occurs — in other words, make the experts and their ideas work for you rather than you working to support them.
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