Folklore & Folklife
Logan Hall
Center for Folklore and Ethnography
Graduate Program
Undergraduate Minor
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FOLK 082 401 Ritual in American Life

F. Paxton
Seminar: Wednesday 2:00-5:00 p.m.

Cross-Listed with WSTD 082
Distribution Requirement: Arts & Letters


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 lifecycle as well as overtly competitive sporting and political rituals. We will explore rituals that unfold at the local level as 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 to 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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