Sunday, January 27, 2008


So, I'm teaching a class this semester called "Folk Literature"--great title, terrible course description: “The folk ballad, its origin, history, and literary significance.” That's it. Nothing else.

Since what I know about the Child ballads would take me all of about ten minutes to impart to students, I was a little stymied about what to do with the other hour and fifteen weeks. (Plus, as Don Yarman once brilliantly noted, "folk music is annoying," plain and simple.)

As the picture to the right illustrates, I decided to go straight for the jugular on the first day of class and implode the idea that folk literature is only about the ballad. We talked about internet fan fiction (which I believe is what I was discussing when a student snapped this photo) and "lolcat" pictures and language, among other topics.

So, as I said, the student apparently took this picture during class (unbenownst to me) and ran it through a "lolcat builder" page at to create this image, then e-mailed it to me.

It's either the creepiest or most flattering tribute I've ever gotten from a student. (At any rate, it's way better than the lilac-scented-teddy-bear-in-a-tulip-shaped-mug that I got from a student once.) Either way, it was very reassuring: you know you're back in a real folklore class when all the wack jobs turn up. As George Bush famously said, they're my "base." Then there's the student who claims to be a traditional ballad singer. Oh yeah! And away we go...

Anyway, the student who mocked up this shot suggested that perhaps there should be a "lolprofs" website, which I think is a fabulous idea. Maybe I'll try to put together some other pics of unsuspecting colleagues and get a start on that...nah. I'm enough of a wack job as it is without going that route.


yarmando said...

I believe, when I made that comment about folk music, there was something particularly annoying going on, wasn't there? Some shrill fiddle and penny whistle thing? Or perhaps someone singing something epically long in Finnish?

Rosemary said...

Yes, it was that dreadful joint meeting with the ethnomusicologists. I told that story in the folk lit class, and described the sound as some jarring blend of animal sounds and human singing. But I think I was mixing it up with the panel on Tonya Rodham Bobbitt jokes, when the all-too-apt sound of squealing pigs drifted in from the room next door.

"Shrill" seems right--either way, it wasn't something ignorable, which--the more of these traditional ballad singers I listen to--seems to be the primary aesthetic: they *demand* your attention, much like when toddlers find that particularly piercing frequency for their shrieking. (Or, as one of my students noted, much like a bad "American Idol" audition.)

…Or like that guy who played the mandolin at Dan's parties, and you could always tell who hadn't been to one before, because they'd be the only one left in the room with him eventually. What was that guy's name?

saffo said...

there *is* a lolprofs page on facebook


saffo said...

(i think this one is the best)