What is Folklore

Folklore is the body of material — the stories and songs, the customs, traditions, and beliefs — that weave the fabric of common culture.  It is the knowledge that we share, from fairy tales, to foodways, to fashion, that allow us to form friendships, communities, and ultimately institutions.

Traditional Smithing at Conner Prairie

As a scholarly discipline, Folklore is the study of creativity within the constraints of this material.  It is the study of how people use common knowledge to interact, and how they configure and reconfigure it not just to make art, but to live artistic lives.  Folklore studies the particular traditions, and genres of traditions, that people know and cherish.  It examines their shape and history, and how they diffuse across time and space.  And it also takes an ethnographic approach — it uses methods like participant observation and interviewing to study how people live with their traditions, and how art in its various forms becomes the binding material that allows people to live in community at all.

See what the American Folklore Society has to say about the material, the discipline, and its history by clicking here.