BSC Folklore

BSC Folklore Project

During BSC's Interim term, I sponsor a student project in collecting and interpreting campus folklore. This website brings their findings together and makes them available to the campus community. It also allows us to solicit more contributions to an ever-growing archive that will provide material for students to catalogue and analyze for years to come.

So what do I mean by “Folklore”?

  • Folklore can take verbal form, such as stories, songs, jokes, or nicknames of professors. It can be customary, such as superstitions or “pinning” rituals. Or folklore could be material—the objects or places that have significance to a folk group. The study of folklore is important because it is through such material that group identity is expressed, group boundaries are established, and group values are passed on.
  • Folklore is passed from one generation to the next through the oral tradition and has no known originator or author. Sometimes specific people or places are named, but these are markers of a particular type of folklore, legend, in which events from the past continue into the present—such as a haunted house in which the legendary murderer or victim may still reside. This distinguishes folklore from other forms of expression (like rumor and gossip) which tend to involve specific people and recent events.
  • Folklore should be distinguished from institutionalized customs; for instance, songs sung by Greek organizations are institutional if they are part of the national organization's songbook, while traditional songs that are part of a local chapter's repertoire are “unofficial,” and therefore can be considered folklore.

A college campus is an interesting site for collecting folklore since one could say that each freshman class represents a new “generation.” They may hear tales or expressions that seem to have been around forever, but “forever” may simply mean three years. This means that alumni contributions can help us determine just how long these tales, expressions, and customs have been around.

The BSC Folklore website will provide opportunities for interactions among alumni and current students, as future Interim projects continue the process of collecting, cataloguing, and analyzing the unofficial life of the college.

Tynes Cowan
Asst. Prof. of English
Class of 1985