The tall tale tradition and the teller : a biographical-contextual study of a storyteller, Robert Coffil of Blomidon, Nova Scotia

Tallman, Richard Sensor (1974) The tall tale tradition and the teller : a biographical-contextual study of a storyteller, Robert Coffil of Blomidon, Nova Scotia. Doctoral (PhD) thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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    Available under License - The author retains copyright ownership and moral rights in this thesis. Neither the thesis nor substantial extracts from it may be printed or otherwise reproduced without the author's permission.
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Abstract

The tall tale has been extensively collected and studied in North America, yet this work has tended to focus on the tale Itself and on the tall tale heroes, men no longer living who are remembered by later generations as having been notable storytellers and whose first person stories of impossible exaggeration are now told in the third person by others. Rarely has the study of the tall tale focused on a living narrator or on the social context in whlch the tale is told. The intention of this thesis is to examine the tall tale and other personal experience narrative in terms of both text (i.e., the tale itself) and context (i.e., the social milieu of storytelling), with particular reference to one storyteller, Robert Coffil of Blonlidon, Nova Scotia. Thus, the tales .of Robert Coffil are included and analyzed, but so too is an extensive, orally recorded life history. Special attention is given to the complex interrelationships between Coffil's stories and storytelling and his world view, as reflected in the life history. -- The first section of this thesis (Chapters I-IV) consists mainly of an examination of the existing literature, both in the area of the tall tale and in the area of life history and biographical studies in folklore and anthropology. The second section is devoted to tape transcription of the collected material, and is divided into two parts. Chapter V, the life history, attempts a complete, chronological ordering of Coffil’s own account of his life with some guidelines as to the collection and presentation of such autobiographical material. Chapter VI consists of the more traditional collection of the tales themselves.. Variant tellings by Coffil of many of the sixty texts are included, and introductory sections and headhotes offer discussion of creativity and the sources of the stories, as well as comparative annotation. The final, section (Chapters VII-IX) is a unit of analysis and synthesis, in which the situations of storytelling are discussed and the aesthetic values of Coffil as a storyteller are considered. --This sense of an aesthetic is found to include an appreciation of both context --the appropriateness of tale to seating and, of course, to the teller himself —and text— that which in Coffll's eyes makes a good story. -- A final evaluation of the subject suggests that he will probably not become a tall tale hero to future generations in his community because of his lack of egocentricity as a storyteller and because of his successes at various occupations during his life as a sailor and vessel owner, a truck driver, a woodsman, a fisherman, and a ship's pilot. From a methodological point of view, this thesis suggests that a more complete understanding of performance-orlented genres of folklore is possible by the intensive study of the Individual in tradition.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral (PhD))
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/883
Item ID: 883
Additional Information: Bibliography: leaves 539-552
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Folklore
Date: 1974
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Coffil, Robert, 1903-; Tales--Nova Scotia; Folklore--Nova Scotia

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