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Folklore, Learning and Literacies

  • Friday 24 to Sunday 26 April 2020
  • UCL Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL

The Annual Conference of the Folklore Society, and Annual General Meeting 2020.

Keynote speaker: Prof. Michael Rosen: “‘Don’t say that!’ – how my parents negotiated Yiddish.”  (Friday 24th) In this talk, Michael Rosen explores how his parents who had both come from Yiddish-speaking households, retained many Yiddish phrases and words and passed them on orally. Michael explores why they didn’t speak it more, how aspects of their English were in fact ‘Yinglish’, and how that’s affected his own writing and performing. In the past, this sort of cultural and linguistic transition has been described as ‘assimilation’ but Michael suggests that other terms might be more useful such as ‘interculturalism’. He will refer to his memoir ‘So They Call You Pisher!’ (Verso), his book about his relatives in the Holocaust ‘The Missing’ (Walker Books) and will read several poems from e.g. ‘Mr Mensh’ (Smokestack Books).

The Folklore Society Presidential Address: Prof. Patricia Lysaght: “Collecting the Folklore of Ireland: The School Children’s Contribution” (Saturday 25th)

Lore is learning: folklore is a body of knowledge and a means of transmission. Vernacular knowledge, and vernacular transmission, each rooted in language.

Languages of sign, symbol and the body confront us daily, some time-honoured, some very new, and how we read them informs how we act, whether to conform, or to rebel. Folklore socialises us into a community of knowledge, but not all communities are generous. Modern media produce myths and reproduce memes; their speed and reach are unprecedented. Rumour, misinformation and conspiracy theories have results—from climate-change denial to vaccination scares—which are anything but imaginary.

Formal education and training are no more—or less—formative than the informal, everyday vernacular literacies that we absorb from our peer groups or families. A proverb is a condensed lesson; a ballad or a fairy-tale has a moral more often than not; a rite of passage may encapsulate a trade’s culture. And the landscape, whether rural or urban, is a theatre of memory and the backdrop of local legend.

So yes, lore is learning. But how do we learn folklore? How do we learn about folklore?

This conference will address issues such as:

  • The uses of traditional folklore in formal education
  • The relationship between formal education and vernacular practices
  • Informal learning structures in trades and professions
  • Family and kin as transmitters of songs and performance traditions
  • School idiolects, customs and costumes
  • Children’s games, lore and language: topical rhymes, parodies, the child’s calendar
  • Proverbs and how they are learnt…or mislearnt
  • Acquiring verbal fluency; for example, flyting and rapping
  • Schoolchildren in folklore, from Little St. Hugh to the Worst Witch….
  • Supernatural beings who impart skills and knowledge
  • Folklore in children’s literature, television, films, and computer games.

The conference will begin at 2 pm on Friday 24th April (registration from 1 pm) and will end at lunchtime on Sunday 26th.

Conference fee:  Standard rate: £160

Concessions: £110 (speakers, Folklore Society members, students)

Fee includes lunches on Saturday and Sunday. Single day rates available.

Accommodation: is not provided but a list of nearby hotels can be supplied on request.

Download the Conference Booking Form 2020