Women, folklore and communication : informal social gatherings in a Franco-Newfoundland context

Desplanques, Marie-Annick (1991) Women, folklore and communication : informal social gatherings in a Franco-Newfoundland context. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

As elsewhere in the world, Franco-Newfoundland women feel a need to socialize with their peers. They do this whenever the opportunity arises, although their role as wives, mothers or housekeepers is so demanding that they must actively create such social occasions. -- This doctoral dissertation focuses on the dynamics of verbal interaction which takes place during such informal women's gatherings. Verbal interaction in these contexts is often expressed in specific folklore genres and an examination of these genres in characteristic ethnographic contexts permits the delineation of patterns of women's communication and enables us to make an assessment of their significance. The data allowing for such an examination were collected during three summers spent in the community of Cape St. George, Port-au-Port Peninsula, Newfoundland. Tape-recorded interviews made as a participant observer were used to obtain biographical data from selected informants, and to record interaction in small groups of women, men, and mixed groups. Fieldnotes supplement the tape-recorded data, documenting the sociocultural context, ranging from concrete physical surroundings to abstract kinship patterns, in order to convey the full social ambiance. -- This study adopts the principles of ethnoscience, essentially an emic approach seeking to determine the folk's own definition of experience, as a method of classification and data organization utilizing folk taxonomy. The data is analysed and discussed following the theory of ethnography of communication, a method of analysis facilitating the examination of the organization and meaning of acts of communication in sociocultural contexts. The gatherings are considered as communicative events, whose participants are members of the same speech community. Folklore genres occurring in these events are examined in terms of the dynamics that govern and result from their expression. Because such gatherings recur with high frequency and exist in different but recognizable variants (according to time, setting, pretexts and participants), whether they are planned (usually through informal oral means of communication such as the telephone) or whether they are unplanned, these gatherings, in terms of their form and content, are seen as desirable customary activities by the participants. -- Scholarly attention has yet to be focused on women's informal gatherings as an aspect of customary tradition. Thus a particular focus on this aspect as a traditional though barely recognized context for ethnographic communication not only furthers but helps validate the study of women as members of several social subgroups of which gender is in each case a constant amongst varying defining factors such as age and marital status, geographic location, kinship, occupation, education and economic status, to name the most obvious. The members of these subgroups share a multidimensional sense of identity, while retaining their distinctive personality. It also demonstrates that in the context of exclusively women's gatherings, participants use specific expressive behaviours which are intrinsic to these situations. -- By defining and analysing the dynamics of these gatherings, it should be possible to provide answers to a series of problems deriving from interest in gender-specific studies in folklore: 1) What is the nature of women's discourse and its expression in folkloric terms? 2) How does it function in a specific context? 3) What consequences does gender- specific analysis have on the theoretical interpretation of ethnocultural data? While recent publications have shown a growing interest in the study of women and folklore, this domain still lacks theoretical perspective, especially regarding the ways in which gender affects performance. -- This dissertation attempts to fill a gap that will allow the social sciences in general and folklore in particular, to broaden their present perspectives in the specific area of women, folklore and communication. Moreover, although a few researchers have devoted substantial work to some aspects of Franco-Newfoundland culture, none has yet undertaken any research with a specific emphasis on women's traditions, perceptions and expressive behaviour in this culture.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/1379
Item ID: 1379
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves [338]-363.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Folklore
Date: 1991
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Canada--Newfoundland and Labrador--Cape St. George
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Women--Newfoundland and Labrador--Cape St. George--Social life and customs; Women--Newfoundland and Labrador--Cape St. George--Communication; Communication--Social aspects--Newfoundland and Labrador; Women--Newfoundland and Labrador--Cape St. George--Social networks

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