folklore, mythology, cultural studies and related disciplines
revival and continuity in folklore
Over the last century much heat – but rather less light – has arisen among British folklorists about the 'revival' of folk customs, dances and songs. Nigel Pennick has observed (1998: 229) that modern day ballroom dancers performing the foxtrot or tango are not regarded as 'revivalists'. Indeed, the differences between 'authentic' Argentinian tango of the early twentieth century and the forms displayed on Come Dancing are substantial, and might reasonably be considered as evidence that this is a 'living tradition' rather than misguided 'revival'.
That modern day morris or molly dancing also differs substantially from what we know about the 'authentic' forms is, however, less rarely seen as evidence of a thriving tradition and more frequently castigated as inappropriate revival. Unravelling this contrast of views perhaps says more about the prejudices introduced during the folk dance revival than it does about the nature of transmission and mutation of folk traditions.
In the studies of folk crafts, as with folk customs and folk music, a contrast is made between 'traditional' and 'revived' activities. The intention is to privilege those styles, processes or customs that are believed to have been practised continuously since an unrecorded origin, and to subtly disparage activities that have been reinstated after a lapse, however brief.
Rather than debate 'revival' and 'continuity', the American folklorists' precedent of putting this all under the umbrella term of 'transmission' is often all that is needed.
PENNICK, Nigel, 1998, Crossing the Borderlines: Guising, masking and ritual animal disguises in the European Tradition, Capall Bann.
copyright © Bob Trubshaw 2003