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For more information about Folklore and Folklife,at UPenn, contact Professor Dan Ben-Amos at dbamos@sas.upenn.edu.

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FOLK 082 401 Ritual in American Life

F. Paxton
Freshman Seminar: Thursday 2:00-5:00

Cross Listed: WSTD 082

Starting with birth and working chronologically through a series of case studies, this course invites students to examine the centrality of rituals that celebrate the human life cycle as well as overtly competitive sporting and political rituals. We will explore rituals that unfold at the local level a well as those that most Americans experience only via the media. Rituals under examination include birthday parties, Bat Mitzvahs, Halloween, Quinceaneras, Proms, graduations, rodeos, Homecomings, weddings, Greek initiations, beauty pageants, reunions, and funerals. Students will be encouraged to critically examine their own ritual beliefs and practices and consider these and other theoretical questions: What is the status of ritual in post-industrial culture? What distinguishes popular culture from official ritual and secular from religious ritual? How do sociological variables such as race, class, gender, sexuality, and religion shape people's understanding of, and participation in, modern family life? How do contemporary rituals bond Americans at the local and/or national level? All students will be expected to conduct original research on a ritual of their own.

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