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Lynne S. McNeill’s Folklore Rules: A Fun, Quick, and Useful Introduction to the Field of Academic Folklore Studies is a great introduction for anyone interested in folklore. McNeill has a Ph.D. in folklore and is an assistant professor of English in the Folklore Program and director of online development for the folklore department at Utah State University as well as co-founder of and faculty advisor for the Utah State University Folklore Society. McNeill is also the co-founder of the Digital Folklore Project and co-editor of Slender Man is Coming.
Her book, Folklore Rules, is “designed to give essential background on the current study of folklore and some of the basic concepts and questions used when analyzing folklore” (McNeill). “This simple, straightforward handbook gives students essential background on the current study of folklore and its basic concepts and questions. It will be useful for a variety of classes that do not allow for a full introduction or focus solely on the field – film and folklore, literature and folklore, or introduction to cultural/comparative studies” according to Marth Sims from Ohio State University. While the book is a good textbook source for classes, it is also interesting and short (only 90 pages) to read for those interested in folklore in general, not necessarily for academic profit. Readers “are guided toward a working understanding of the field, learn basic terms and techniques, and learn to perceive the knowledge base and discourse frame for materials used in folklore" (McNeill).
The book is divided into five general chapters; What is Folklore, What Do Folklorists Do, Types of Folklore, Types of Folklore Groups, and What Do I Do Now. Each chapter gives a summary of key terms as well as examples and information on each term offered. Throughout the 90 pages of writing, McNeill truthfully and personally connects to her readers, instead of bombarding them with information and statistics as many other textbooks tend to do. "Recapturing the "fun" of folklore—not just for students, but for instructors as well—drives McNeill's book, and is ultimately where it succeeds the most…McNeill has put forth an engaging and concise but deceptively detailed text that will surely find its way into syllabi across the country. For instructors and the students they teach, Folklore Rules will be a valuable new addition to their pedagogical toolbox, and one that will surely be useful in scholars' ongoing efforts to expand the scope and reach of folkloristics to new generations of learners” (John E. Price, New Directions in Folklore).
Now you may be asking yourself, so what? Why do I care about folklore or this book? Well, start with the definition of folklore offered by McNeill, “informal traditional culture” (McNeill 14). This means that folklore is a lot broader than most people expect. It isn’t just old stories, antiques, or myths, but current traditions as well; memes, chain mail, current songs, etc. So next time you’re on the computer and see a funny meme that you debate sending to a friend, remember that you are creating folklore in the present. Amazing, right? Doesn’t that make you want to learn more about it? Folklore “will help us gain a more balanced understanding of life, the universe, and everything” (McNeill 14).
McNeill is giving readers a chance to learn more about the world around them in a concise, shortened form that will be able to hold a student, teacher, or ordinary person’s attention. Folklore Rules is a great addition to any folklorist, professor, student, or person’s library of information.
Available on a variety of platforms, Folklore Rules is readily available for any interested teachers or even just the curious observer of folklore.
"Folklore Doesn't Meme What You Think It Memes"—Lynne McNeill
If you are interested in more information on current folklore, watch McNeill's TED talk at Utah State University above. Then hunker down and learn about folklore with McNeill's Folklore Rules.