Folklore course provides insight into cultural traditions

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Introduction to Folklore (Anthropology 326) is designed to introduce students to the study of folklore, and encourage them to open their eyes to the elements of folklore in and around their lives.

The majority of folklore beliefs have been transmitted through oral tradition for centuries, in an attempt to share and teach younger generations about customs, legends, beliefs, and superstitions.

“Folklore looks at the process by which you get there,” said Kerry Noonan, anthropology professor and instructor of the course. “People learn by watching and hanging around.”

The course is a lecture-based class that involves fieldwork assignments.

The class focuses on contemporary folklore and folklore in the United States, which includes stories from a wide variety of immigrant cultures.

The topic of discussion for the Feb. 25 class was “Foodways,” which is the study of the way certain cultures perceive food and the rituals that surround food.

“What is a tamalada?” Noonan asked the class.

Immediately, students chimed in with responses, saying that a ‘tamalada’ occurs during the Christmas season, when a group of people, usually made up of women, gathers to make tamales.

“The tamales part was great,” Gonzalez said. “I know what it’s all about, the whole Christmas gathering and stuff involved.”

Maritza Gonzalez, senior anthropology major, said she enjoyed the “Foodways” lecture because she could recognize certain topics that correspond to her own culture.

“This class is interesting,” said Donna Svetich, senior anthropology major. “It touches a wide variety of cultures and gives us a broad outlook on things.”

Svetich said the class recently watched a film about accents and the way people from different cultures and regions speak. Svetich said the film makes students see people differently, and that the way people speak does not reflect their intelligence level.

The hands-on part of the class, the fieldwork, involves collecting and analyzing items of folkloric value, such as folk speech, folk narrative, religion, food, and folk medicine.

“This course teaches us stuff we don’t typically learn of one subject or culture,” Gonzalez said. “One topic might go into different variations, which makes the class material fun.”