Late-Victorian Folklore Studies and Fairy-Lore

Bihet, Francesca (2019) Late-Victorian Folklore Studies and Fairy-Lore. In: Betwixt and Between, 18-19 May 2019, Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, Boscastle.

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Abstract

Victorian academic folklore often had a complicated relationship with fairy-lore, especially those who believed in fairies. The strictly scientific Folklore Society members rationalised accounts of fairy-belief or explain them as fragmented remnants of an ancient belief system still existing among the ‘peasants’. The Folklore Society during the late nineteenth century attempted to forge a science of fairy origins, a cultural archaeology, using collected folklore and printed folk-tales to reconstruct supposed pre-historic beliefs. Edwin Sydney Hartland’s The Science of Fairy Tales (1891) using a comparative methodology traced common themes in tales to reconstruct a ‘primitive’ supernaturalised mind-set. David MacRitchie in Testimony of Tradition (1890) claimed that pre-historical burial mounds were the houses of an early short statured race. Fairy-lore was a legendary, fantastical folk-memory of this group. The Society struggled to reconcile this model of fairy-lore with contemporary supernatural accounts. Andrew Lang, a folklorist and psychical researcher, fiercely debated with colleague Edward Clodd over ‘Psycho-folklore’ a strand of the discipline which aimed to connect folklore folklore with psychical research. Folklorists continued to view contemporary supernatural accounts as problematic resulting in the Society surprisingly ignoring the famous Cottingley fairy photographs and theosophical fairy beliefs even in the early 1920s.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary history > PN905 Folk literature
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary history > PN905 Folk literature > PN980 Fables
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: Research Centres > Centre for Folklore, Fairytales and Fantasy
Departments > English and Creative Writing
Event Title: Betwixt and Between
Event Location: Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, Boscastle
Event Dates: 18-19 May 2019
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Angela Roberts
Date Deposited: 23 May 2019 15:45
Last Modified: 23 May 2019 15:45
URI: http://eprints.chi.ac.uk/id/eprint/4685

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