Books: Encyclopedia of women's folklore and folklife by Locke, L., Vaughan, T. A., & Greenhill, P.
Encyclopedia of women's folklore and folklife by Locke, L., Vaughan, T. A., & Greenhill, P.
Locke, L., Vaughan, T. A., & Greenhill, P. (2009). Encyclopedia of women's folklore and folklife. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press. 872 pp. Hardcover, ISBN: 9780313340505, $199.95, FOLKLORE
Table of contents, topic list, introduction, index, bibliography, author bios.
Folklore is one of the most diverse, universally applicable and marginalized academic disciplines in existence. Within this field, as has been true for most areas of academia until recently; women's lore was undervalued and understudied. While this lack is being remedied by an increasing number of studies on specific areas of women's folklore and related issues and the rare encyclopedia-type works dealing with folklore coming into the world have increased their own cover of the subject matter, this two-volume work is the first of its kind, incorporating an almost dizzying array of subjects on which women make their mark, and mark the women in turn.
It should be noted that this not a feminist manifesto, nor a work which is so heavily geared to the academic language of its subject that only the Folklorist or Women's Studies Scholar will find it of value. The contents deal with the mundane as well as the esoteric, making it a useful jumping-off resource for any liberal arts scholar. Even men. For example, one of the more esoteric topics dealt with is couvade, which deals with male customs regarding pregnancy and the lore of the pregnant man.
The scholarship is fairly rigorous with strong editing, clear bibliographic citations and additional bibliography and list of related web-sites. However, this attention to detail in covering the subject at hand does not equal boring, as an effort has been made to keep up-to-date and inclusive by incorporating real-world, popular culture and cross-cultural sources into the entries. Additionally, there appears to have been an effort to minimize the use of incomprehensible academic jargon, thus broadening the encyclopedia's accessibility without reducing the level of scholarship.
While both folklore (narratives, ballads, etc.,) and folklife (customs, traditions, behaviors) are covered within this encyclopedia, the entries are not divided between the two. As demonstrated in the above paragraph, both custom and story can be and often are incorporated in a single entry. As a result of this, the editors chose to organize it in a simple alphabetical format supplemented with an entry list at the start and a subject index near the end. There are also four introductory essays to help define women's folklore and its scope for the novice and reiterate its value for the jaded.
The contributors are as catholic as the subject; there are even several men. They range from the established folklorists teaching at universities in a plethora of disciplines, to public folklorists working for museums, archives, state organizations or other public fields and incorporates work from current and relatively recent MA and Ph.D. graduate students, and those working completely outside the discipline. While this diversity leads to a range of writing styles, and some pieces are better written/more rigorous than others, the quality of scholarship is high.
There is a little too much pink in the cover; it seems to belabor the feminine, but overall, this work will be a valuable addition to any library.
Julia Kelso MA, University of Washington.