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Author Topic: John Rhys' "Celtic Folklore"?  (Read 6032 times)
veggiewolf
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« Topic Start: May 31, 2011, 09:52:34 am »

I picked this book up for $1 at a yard sale and wondered if someone could tell me if it is worth reading?  $1 for a book is nearly always a great price...but I'd prefer it be a great read rather than fluff.

Thanks!
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« Reply #1: May 31, 2011, 01:02:06 pm »

I picked this book up for $1 at a yard sale and wondered if someone could tell me if it is worth reading?  $1 for a book is nearly always a great price...but I'd prefer it be a great read rather than fluff.

Thanks!

What do you want to get out of reading the book?
It looks good to me Veggiewolf. Its a well known author and its on a rare subject

Its online if anyone wants to read it.
http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/cfwm/index.htm
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veggiewolf
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« Reply #2: June 02, 2011, 02:11:28 pm »

What do you want to get out of reading the book?
...

I know nothing about Celtic folklore and want to learn something new...and accurate.  Wink

Thanks!
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« Reply #3: June 02, 2011, 07:34:40 pm »

I know nothing about Celtic folklore and want to learn something new...and accurate.  Wink

Thanks!

Rhys is a well-known and well-respected scholar of early/medieval Celtic studies - proceed with confidence and enjoy!
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« Reply #4: June 03, 2011, 03:44:46 am »

I know nothing about Celtic folklore and want to learn something new...and accurate.  Wink
Then it may not suit you well; what you learn may be new to you, but it's definitely not new, and the scholarship, while good in its day, will be outdated.

OTOH, it is, IIRC, good scholarship for its time, and well-worth a buck, if you don't mind keeping a shaker of Outdated Scholarship Salt handy - it'll mostly be interpretation that you'll have to watch out for; the recording of lore and custom will likely be fine.

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« Reply #5: June 03, 2011, 07:22:36 am »

Then it may not suit you well; what you learn may be new to you, but it's definitely not new, and the scholarship, while good in its day, will be outdated.

OTOH, it is, IIRC, good scholarship for its time, and well-worth a buck, if you don't mind keeping a shaker of Outdated Scholarship Salt handy - it'll mostly be interpretation that you'll have to watch out for; the recording of lore and custom will likely be fine.

Sunflower

But Sunflower scholarship has no baring on folklore. All the academy does is translate folklore both linguistically and contextually to create a new subject. The only concern when looking at a collection of folklore is whether or not the collector altered the material as the travel journal folklorists did or whether they were held to a set of standards where altering the material was looked down on. In this case the author was held to the latter standards so there will be no better collection today then in the past.

If anything the collection then will be less interupted by contemporary media and more influenced by folk life.

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« Reply #6: June 03, 2011, 08:49:26 am »

The only concern when looking at a collection of folklore is whether or not the collector altered the material as the travel journal folklorists did or whether they were held to a set of standards where altering the material was looked down on.
Um, no.  There is also the concern about whether the collector engaged in theorizing about the folklore being collected - which was considered acceptable behavior for quite a long time, and certainly was acceptable at the time this book was published.

Catja once noted, w/r/t Celtic folklore specifically, "As with all the older material, take the stories, ignore the theorizing."  That's basically the advice I was trying to give Veggiewolf, only better-phrased.

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« Reply #7: June 03, 2011, 11:24:54 am »

...
Catja once noted, w/r/t Celtic folklore specifically, "As with all the older material, take the stories, ignore the theorizing."  That's basically the advice I was trying to give Veggiewolf, only better-phrased.

Sunflower

I appreciate the advice, Sunflower.  Thanks!
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« Reply #8: June 03, 2011, 12:02:52 pm »

Um, no.  There is also the concern about whether the collector engaged in theorizing about the folklore being collected - which was considered acceptable behavior for quite a long time, and certainly was acceptable at the time this book was published.

Catja once noted, w/r/t Celtic folklore specifically, "As with all the older material, take the stories, ignore the theorizing."  That's basically the advice I was trying to give Veggiewolf, only better-phrased.

Sunflower
Sunflower I dont understand where you are coming from when you say that theorizing was considered acceptable behavior... Can you explain it to me? Im sorry if Im missing the obvious its really hot and humid here today. Surely interpreting the data to gain an insight into the cultures in question is a necessity for folklore departments the world over? And disciplines llike ethnology and Ethnography...

I place a value in tradition for its own sake but for the academy that approach makes no sense to me. If folklore isnt interpreted in a way that tells us about the culture in question whats its value to the academy...?

Meh I dunno. I dont generally like the old folklorists myself but this lad seems to be solid.
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« Reply #9: June 03, 2011, 12:37:07 pm »

Sunflower I dont understand where you are coming from when you say that theorizing was considered acceptable behavior... Can you explain it to me? Im sorry if Im missing the obvious its really hot and humid here today. Surely interpreting the data to gain an insight into the cultures in question is a necessity for folklore departments the world over? And disciplines llike ethnology and Ethnography...

I place a value in tradition for its own sake but for the academy that approach makes no sense to me. If folklore isnt interpreted in a way that tells us about the culture in question whats its value to the academy...?

Meh I dunno. I dont generally like the old folklorists myself but this lad seems to be solid.
I'm not the best person to explain this - that'd be Catja.  I've already given her a nudge about this thread, so hopefully she'll be along fairly soon.  If she hasn't managed to get to this in a day or two, I'll give it a try.

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« Reply #10: June 03, 2011, 03:12:47 pm »

If folklore isnt interpreted in a way that tells us about the culture in question whats its value to the academy...?

The problem is that in most writing of that time the folklore isn't interpreted in a way that tells us about the culture in question - it is interpreted in a way that tells us about the culture of the interpreter.  Have a read through Campbell some time and see how the world and everything's place in it was interpreted by a Victorian armchair academic.  His mono-myth tends to speak to people of his own general background (Western, white, English, etc..) and they find it absolutely inspiring and fantastic.  To people of any of the cultures he took his parallels from the situation is entirely different.  He was not interpreting their culture through their myths, he was interpreting his own culture through the myths of others.

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« Reply #11: June 03, 2011, 03:43:47 pm »

The problem is that in most writing of that time the folklore isn't interpreted in a way that tells us about the culture in question - it is interpreted in a way that tells us about the culture of the interpreter.

Marilyn isnt that the nature of Anthropology? That what it presents is not the culture but an analysis of the culture from a number of perspectives that help us relate to the people we share the planet with?.

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 he was interpreting his own culture through the myths of others.

Are any of us capable of doing anything other then that?
I dont know that I could imagine ethnology coming into existance if people didnt look at other cultures and feel that we all have more thiings in common with one and other that unite us then we have differences that seperate us.

I had to crash out there with the heat... Im sorry if Ive missed the point.

In the vien of the last few posts. Would anyone consider it an issue that welsh and Irish folklore often has to be translated into english? In this instance its a proper academic doing the translation so we are likely to get a literal translation with correct etymologies that ignore the meaning you might find in an artistic translation?
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« Reply #12: June 06, 2011, 07:53:49 pm »

I'm not the best person to explain this - that'd be Catja.  I've already given her a nudge about this thread, so hopefully she'll be along fairly soon.  If she hasn't managed to get to this in a day or two, I'll give it a try.
Oookay.  No Catja, so here I go.

Fortunately, the direction another thread took gave me a bit more of a hook to hang this on, so I can probably do a better job explaining than I'd expected.  The relevant part of what I said there:

As Marilyn notes, archaeology/anthropo-archaeology isn't a field in which there's a unitary authoritative viewpoint, at least not one that stands opposed to a neoPagan POV - though there is possibly a closer parallel if one is speaking of colonialism across a range of academic disciplines and ways in which that colonialist POV is or has been privileged over internal Irish cultural viewpoints.  It wouldn't surprise me at all to see you bringing that up, but that doesn't appear to be the direction you're taking in this thread.

(Actually, I take that back:  in one respect, I would be surprised to see you bring it up; I'm not sure how aware you are of the phenomenon - this is closely related to our discussion in the Celtic Folklore thread, and gives me enough more of a place to hang my hat that I'm more confident of being able to answer.  I'll try to remember to get back there and post; if I seem to have forgotten, give me a nudge.)

The key phrase here is, ways in which that colonialist POV is or has been privileged over internal Irish cultural viewpoints..  In this thread, that extends to the internal cultural viewpoints of the Welsh and Manx (via Rhys), and of any other cultural grouping whose folklore was being collected and studied back then (which is pretty much everyone whose culture was not "Western educated class").

The basic assumption was that it was irrelevant what meaning a given culture found in its own folklore; they were presumed to be too close to it, and generally too uneducated, to be able to comprehend its deeper meanings.  The discernment of underlying Meaning could only be done by an educated, "civilized" outsider.

The folklorists of the day who remain most respected now are those who mostly confined themselves to collecting it, with minimal imposition of their own interpretations.  Over on the other end of the scale, you get folks like Campbell and Frazer, who merrily cherry-picked and pulled things out of context to use them in support of their own pet theories.  (This is also the methodology that gave rise to the Romantic view of what "Celtic" meant - discussed in this thread - and similar idealizations about ancient Egypt and other past cultures.)

Going back to the main topic of this thread, I'm by no means suggesting that John Rhys was particularly prone to this - I'm insufficiently familiar with his work to speak specifically to it, which is why I referred only to general principles of how to approach folklore studies of that vintage.  I note, though, that Catja does, in the thread I link in the previous paragraph, refer to him as "the pre-eminent Welsh folklorist of this period" without adding any caveats; I'd guess from that that he is one of those who remains respected.

I'm not sure how well this will clear it up for you, Nuadu; part of my problem in explaining it is that I'm too familiar with the overall concept of colonialism, but not familiar enough with the specifics of its application to Celtic peoples (if I knew more about that, and particularly about its application to the Irish, I might have been able to give examples with which you were familiar).

Sunflower
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« Reply #13: June 10, 2011, 12:38:51 pm »

The key phrase here is, ways in which that colonialist POV is or has been privileged over internal Irish cultural viewpoints..  In this thread, that extends to the internal cultural viewpoints of the Welsh and Manx (via Rhys), and of any other cultural grouping whose folklore was being collected and studied back then (which is pretty much everyone whose culture was not "Western educated class").

Ah I get what you mean Sunflower id say because of the advent of modernity coincided with european colonialism an argument could be made that some issues in modern folklore are a continuation of those found in the early folklore.

Quote
The basic assumption was that it was irrelevant what meaning a given culture found in its own folklore; they were presumed to be too close to it, and generally too uneducated, to be able to comprehend its deeper meanings.  The discernment of underlying Meaning could only be done by an educated, "civilized" outsider.

Ive found thats common enough in lots of area's early ethnographies suffered with it and even armchair anthropologists viewed other cultures as primative and savage. It makes for entertaining un-pc reading... "They could never get away with that now" vibe.

Quote
I'm not sure how well this will clear it up for you, Nuadu; part of my problem in explaining it is that I'm too familiar with the overall concept of colonialism, but not familiar enough with the specifics of its application to Celtic peoples (if I knew more about that, and particularly about its application to the Irish, I might have been able to give examples with which you were familiar).

Sunflower

I think you did a good job of explaining things Sunflower... I think I got it anyway.
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