The Cloak of Dreams: Chinese Fairy Tales

Balázs, Béla. The Cloak of Dreams: Chinese Fairy Tales. Trans. Jack Zipes. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010. Pp. ix+177. Illus., two appendices, bibliography. $24.95 hardcover.

Brittany Warman
The Ohio State University

The Cloak of Dreams: Chinese Fairy Tales is a collection of literary fairy tales penned by the Hungarian author, film critic, filmmaker, and political activist Béla Balázs in the early 20th century. A complex man who experienced great suffering and isolation, Balázs was able to find comfort and beauty in the fairy tale form and often turned to it throughout his life. These particular tales were written in response to a collection of odd and often unsettling illustrations done in a Chinese style by the artist Mariette Lydis – Balázs produced what would become Der Mantel der Träume: Chinesische Novellen (The Cloak of Dreams: Chinese Fairy Tales) in 1922. This new translation is by prominent fairy tale scholar Jack Zipes and part of his new series entitled “Oddly Modern Fairy Tales.” As such, this edition includes introductions to both the author and the illustrator, two appendices – one an early and very positive review by Thomas Mann and the other an additional, earlier Taoist-inspired fairy tale by Balázs – and a bibliography. Continue reading “The Cloak of Dreams: Chinese Fairy Tales”

78 Blues: Folksongs and Phonographs in the American South

John Minton, 78 Blues: Folksongs and Phonographs in the American South. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. (American Made Music Series), 2008. x+288 pp. (ISBN: 9781934110195) (cloth).

Yves Laberge, Ph.D.   
Québec

John Minton is a professor of folklore at Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne and his third book, “78 Blues: Folksongs and Phonographs in the American South”, is taken from his Ph.D. thesis from 1990.

Unlike most scholarly written books, this essay is written in the first person. In seven thematical chapters, Minton reflects on his own initiation into the musical world in his youth (occuring mainly during the 1970’s) and his personal experience of discovering the various musical genres from the previous decades, being aware of the social background of the American music and the impact of the manufacturing of the records he used to listen to. He questions why, say, during the early seventies, almost everybody seemed to enjoy Robert Johnson’s songs as interpreted by contemporary rock groups like Cream, The Rolling Stones and The Allman Brothers, but most of that same audience could not stand (or even have access to) the original recordings of these same works made by the composer in 1937 and 1938, even on LP reissues. The old folk and blues repertoire was revisited for the old folk and blues repertoire (from Woody Guthrie to Mississippi John Hurt) that was “revisited” or rediscovered during the 1960’s by various white artists like Bob Dylan or The Beatles and many British groups (20). In other words, Minton’s awareness and (re)discovery of roots American music was made backwards in chronological terms: “Even then, I knew enough of Southern culture and history to realize they drew breath from a vast rural underclass and a vanished way of life” (20). Back in the 1920’s, most folksongs were not made by professional artists and performers borrowing various identities for every song, but rather by “ordinary people” whose identities were either “workmate, neighbor, church member” when they recorded their music (21). Continue reading “78 Blues: Folksongs and Phonographs in the American South”

Folklore and the Internet: Vernacular Expression in a Digital World

Blank, Trevor J., ed. Folklore and the Internet: Vernacular Expression in a Digital World. Logan, UT, Utah State University Press, 2009. p.272. $24.95pb or free .pdf at http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/usupress_pubs/

Monica Foote
Indiana University

If folklore is a form of artistically heightened communication, then it must necessarily arise in the course of most forms of human interaction. How these interactions are mediated changes over time, and the most recent seismic shift in how we mediate our communicative world has been the shift towards interaction in the space of distant co-presence that has been created by the advent of the Internet. On message boards, in social media, in email attachments and on Wikipedia, folklore is everywhere. Online communities develop their own modes of communication and methods of producing knowledge, along with verbal and visual art, that mark them as a community and heighten the discourse and practices with which they engage.
Scholarly attention has only lately been turning towards this type of folkloric production, but offline forms of folklore that also occur online are becoming seen as legitimate expressions of culture rather than as pale copies of real cultural work going on elsewhere. Folklore that is ‘born-digital’, as one could say, is also being increasingly recognized. Folklore and the Internet: Vernacular Expression in a Digital World does the important work of discussing how folklorists have dealt with technological shifts in the past, and how we can thus accommodate this shift, establishing the Internet as a field site like any other. Continue reading “Folklore and the Internet: Vernacular Expression in a Digital World”

“Symbolic Ethnic Conflict”: Ethnicity and Trinbagonian Identity

“Symbolic Ethnic Conflict”: Ethnicity and Trinbagonian Identity

Tricia Ferdinand
Indiana University

Ethnicity is a key site of symbolic conflict in Trinidad and Tobago because of its role in the hegemonic practices promulgated by the nation’s former colonizers. However, there are a few cultural symbols including types of music and other artistic forms that can be seen as forms of mediation, in as much as they (consciously or otherwise) promote a nationalistic Trinbagonian identity. By briefly outlining the historical tenets that resulted in Trinidad and Tobago’s particular ethnic and social stratification and foregrounding the arenas in which ethnic cultural intermixing exists, this paper aims to garner an understanding of the role artistic creation can play in mediation. Continue reading ““Symbolic Ethnic Conflict”: Ethnicity and Trinbagonian Identity”

Wild Games: Hunting and Fishing Traditions in North America

Dennis Cutchins and Eric A. Eliason, Eds. Wild Games: Hunting and Fishing Traditions in North America. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2009. Pp. xxi + 230, black and white photographs, index. $48.00 cloth.

 Danielle Quales
Indiana University

This book is a collection of essays from a wide variety of academic contributors who deal with the cultural, psychological, and physical ways in which contemporary North American people interact with, shape, and are impacted by their natural surroundings.  As the authors of the individual articles reveal, interactions between man and nature occur for reasons of both sustenance and sport.  Editors Cutchins and Eliason have chosen to include articles on such diverse topics as the development of a new species of coyote-hunting dog in South Dakota and the many important rituals and traditions associated with seasonal hunting camps throughout North America.  Another interesting story included in this volume is about the implementation of outdoors skills programs for at-risk women that equip them with basic survival and camping skills, while at the same time raising their own self-esteem in all realms of their everyday life.  The great variety of interesting topics addressed by a multitude of voices in this volume keeps the articles engaging, while at the same time providing specific information that falls under the broader scope of hunting, the outdoors, and humans’ roles in these areas.   Continue reading “Wild Games: Hunting and Fishing Traditions in North America”

The Mothership Connection: Mythscape and Unity in the Music of Parliament

The Mothership Connection
Mythscape and Unity in the Music of Parliament

Kurt Baer
Indiana University

Due to Afro-centric and Afro-futurist themes and the lyrical content of some of their songs, the music of funk musician George Clinton and his band Parliament has been referred to by scholars (e.g. Brown 2008; Nama 2008; McLeod 2003) as linked to the Black Nationalist movement. Other sources, including song lyrics and interviews with Clinton, emphasize themes of promoting unity among people of all races. Although these themes of racial solidarity and unity without regard to race may at first be seen as contradictory, I argue that both interpretations arise from Parliament?s creation of what I am calling a ?unified place.? Through images of places set in outer space and at the bottom of the ocean that are disseminated through the lyrics, album covers, liner notes, costumes, advertisements, and performances of their songs, the band provides the means to turn these abstract spaces into familiar places filled with over-the-top characters and their mythologized stories. These places, constructed from particular and often romanticized landscapes by the individual through such decontextualized images?what Andy Bennett (2002) refers to as ?mythscapes??are then ?brought to life? in performance through devices such as enactment to create this sense of unity. I argue that it is because this enacted mythscape is individually constructed through decontextualized and often ambiguous images that scholars have found such apparently contradictory themes of unity within the same body of music. Continue reading “The Mothership Connection: Mythscape and Unity in the Music of Parliament”

Corridos in Migrant Memory

Chew Sánchez, Martha I. Corridos in Migrant Memory. Albuquerque, N.M.: University of New Mexico Press, 2006. pp. 246 34 halftones, 4 maps, index. Paper $29.95.

Heather A. Vrana
Indiana University

Since the informal declaration of war between the drug cartels and the U.S. and Mexican states, the border zone at El Paso and Ciudad Juarez has become the obsession of gangs, federal police, local police, civilian vigilantes, NGOs, journalists, and academics. Corridos in Migrant Memory apprehends this border region not by spatial practice but by representational space and the song form of the corrido. Following earlier work on Mexican folk song by Américo Paredes, Vicente Mendoza, John McDowell, and Guillermo Hernández, Martha I. Chew Sánchez considers the function of corridos in migrant experience.

Continue reading “Corridos in Migrant Memory”