The folklore of kinship in the British traditional ballads.
Sellers, William Edward
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Ever since Francis Barton Gummere called attention to its peculiarities, the ballad of domestic situation has held the attention of critics. Gummere's observations were keen and sensitive, but his explanations of the peculiarities of the ballads of kinship were based on the premises of the "anthropological" school of folklorists, who attempted to account for social development in terms of a unilinear and practically universal evolutionary process beginning in totemic tribalism and characterized by an early "matriarchal stage" of social organization. Gummere's theory of the communal origins of the ballads illustrates his dependence upon this evolutionary framework. Critics of the evolutionary school have pointed out that the evidence of anthropology does not support the idea of uniform social evolution, that the historical reconstructions of the evolutionists are highly speculative, and that the notion of a "primitive matriarchate" has no validity. Folklorists also point out that many of the motifs of balladry are of such wide diffusion that they cannot be taken as reliable indices of specific customs and beliefs in every area in which they are found. Nevertheless, some historical explanation of the British ballads dealing with kinship is possible in view of what is presently known about the social history of medieval times. [TRUNCATED]
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University
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