The presentation of folklife in the biographies and autobiographies of English rural workers

Lovelace, Martin J. (1983) The presentation of folklife in the biographies and autobiographies of English rural workers. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

This is a study of the information on folklife found in writings about English country life. It is also an attempt to describe the conventions of personal experience narration, spoken and written, among rural English working men. Its sources are biographies and autobiographies of rural workers, country journals and character sketches, journalists’ reports on social and economic conditions, antiquarian studies and village histories. The period surveyed is from approximately 1700 to the 1960's. Its contention is that in such sources lies a relatively unknown literature of folklore and folklife which can augment the record of folk tradition. In particular, it is suggested that such writings fill in some of the contextual background lacking in the text-oriented folklore studies of the nineteenth century. -- It is argued that several writers who created biographies of working people made valuable contributions to the tradition of ethnographic writing. George Sturt is taken as an exemplar and his works are considered in detail. Other writers discussed include Stephen Reynolds, W.H. Hudson, Alfred Williams, and Flora Thompson. Like Sturt they achieved a breadth and depth of contextual description through close attention to everyday conversation and personal experience narration among their rural neighbours. As amateur recorders of folk tradition their sense of what should be recorded was not limited by the narrower paradigms of the folklore science of their day; furthermore they gave detailed and humane descriptions of their informants as individuals. -- From these biographical studies and the passages of oral autobiography often incorporated in them together with autobiographies of rural workers, an attempt has been made to delineate an oral canon for personal experience narration. This takes the form of five story topics, all dealing intrinsically with a man’s competence in his life's work, which emerge with striking regularity in oral and written recollections from this society. In addition to revealing such preoccupations the oral canon is a means for testing the authenticity and representativeness of works purporting to be insiders’ views of rural working life.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/5509
Item ID: 5509
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 622-652.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Folklore
Date: 1983
Date Type: Submission
Geographic Location: Great Britain
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Folklore in literature--Great Britain; Folklore--Great Britain; Great Britain--Biography; Great Britain--Social life and customs

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