The Scope and Method of Folklore Study

Edwin C. Roedder
1918 Monatshefte für deutsche Sprache und Pädagogik  
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Das gibt einen Wetteifer, einen frischen, flotten Zug in den Unterricht, der die Sprachstunden zu den liebsten Stunden macht. "Ein gewisses gesundes Selbstgefiihl ist bei allen Menschen die Folgeerscheinung des als Heiterkeit bezeichneten Gmiitszustandes. Dass die Heiterkeit den Sprachmechanismus giinstig beeinflusst, darf beim Sprachunterricht nicht unterschitzt werden." Flagstad weist nach, wie falsch ein Satz ist, wie der von Schweitzer in Paris aufgestellte, der zwar ein eifriger Verfechter der direkten Methode ist: "Pour apprendre une nouvelle langue, il faut commencer par oub ler sa langue maternelle." Die Sprachpsychologie zeigt, dass dieser Urzustand, dieser Nullpunkt des Bewusstseins nicht erreichbar ist. Die Muttersprache ist eben immer da, mit ihr muss gerechnet werden, aus ihr sollen miglichst viele praktische Vorteile gewonnen werden, sonst ist die ganze Rechnung falsch. lye 8rop aut etlib of 3iollore tubtU. By rotf. E~ 0. ~trb ly. B., Uni. of Wisconsin. The word folklore is little over seventy years old. The term was coined by William John Thorns, in an article in the Athenaeum, of August 27, 1846. The author there defines folklore as "embracing the traditional beliefs, legends, and customs, observances, superstitions, ballads and proverbs." What commonly used to be designated as popular antiquities, or popular literature, that, he says, is covered by a good Saxon compound, folklore, the lore of the people. He clearly means by this new coinage the learning and wisdom of, not about, the common people, and their traditions handed down by word of mouth, -"more a lore than a literature." The new word met with a ready acceptance, and Thomrns, who had signed the original article with the assumed name of Ambrose Merton, gratefully acknowledged the fact in a second article about a twelvemonth later, in which he expressly claimed for himself the honor of having introduced the word into the English vocabulary, -"as does Disraeli of introducing fatherland into the literature of this country." Folklore soon came to mean the new branch of learning as 97 Monatskefte fiir deutsche Sprache und Piidagogik. well as the popular traditions making up its subject-matter. As such it is defined, e. g., in the Encyclopedia Britannica. While the extremely happy designation was new, the thing itself as an object of scholarly research was not. Folk-tales had long since made their way into literature, even though the manner in which they were recorded did not nearly measure up to our present scientific standards. Folksong and folk-ballad had had to wait considerably longer for a recognition of their true value and a modest place in the written traditions of the European peoples. Edward Young, the author of the Night Thoughts, had, in his Conjectures on Original Composition (1760), laid stress on the songs of primitive races, and so given the first powerful impulse to a movement which soon after gathered the strength of a tempest in the writings of Rousseau with their passionate cry "Back to Nature !" And the "storm and stress" of a group of young German poets, rebelling against the artificiality and unnaturalness of the whole life of the period, swept away the dainty rococo poetry which, like the French gardens and parks of the time, resembled an exercise in plane and solid geometry. These poets desired no elegant and ornate imitations of classical and pseudo-classical models, but genuine products of artistic inspiration, no matter how crude they might be in form. Without this new development, it is questionable whether Thomas Percy's collection of Reliques of Ancient English Poetry (1765) would have received such a hearty welcome and exerted such a lasting influence. This book, to this day a veritable treasure-house, with its faithful reproduction of the old English ballads, quickened and stimulated especially the interest of Herder, and he, in an auspicious hour of the year 1771, invented the word Volkslied, which may, directly or indirectly, have prepared the way for Thorns' felicitous coinage. Many were the hands that during the next few decades bestirred themselves to garner the treasures thus suddenly brought to light. Herder himself was among the first to publish a collection of folksongs, to which Goethe contributed the texts of ballads and lyrics that he, at Herder's suggestion, had gathered in Alsace "aus denen Kehlen der iiltesten Miitterchens." Herder's book led directly up to Arnim and Brentano's Des Knahen Wunderhorm (1806-1808), and the latter stood sponsor to the Kinderund Hausmrchen collected by the Grimm brothers (1812-31815). These two glorious men were the pioneers of scientific folklore. While it was left to the younger of the two, Wilhelm, to bring out the later edition of the book, which at once enjoyed an enormous popularity, the original plan had been Jacob's; and it was a piece of rare good fortune for the new science that this incomparably greatest scholar of 98