Deep Down in the Jungle...

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9780202308470: Deep Down in the Jungle...

With the growth of interest in folklore, it becomes increasingly evident that the presentation of a collection needs some rationale more than the fact that traditional materials have been collected and properly annotated. Much has been gathered and is now accessible through journals, archives, and lists. If a corpus of lore is not presented in some way, which bears new light on the process of word-of-mouth transmission, on traditional forms or expressions, or on the group among whom the lore was encountered, there is little reason to present it to the public. This work represents an attempt to present a body of folklore collected among one small group of Black Americans in a neighborhood in South Philadelphia. The author's approach toward collection and presentation has been intensive. He has tried to collect "in depth," and to recreate in his presentation the social background in which the lore was found, and to relate the lore with the life and the values of the group. Abraham's work is a departure from any past methods of analyzing folklore, and therefore a description of the author's point of view and his method will be given first. The majority of this work was written before his methodology was actually formulated. However throughout the project û the object was to illuminate as fully as possible the lore of one small group of African Americans from urban Philadelphia. The methodology, which developed, did so because of this objective more than anything else. Though the formulation of this theory may seem ex post facto, it is included because it clarified much during the rewritings of this book, and more importantly, because it will clarify many matters for the lay reader and for the professional folklorist.

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About the Author:

Roger Abrahams recently retired as director of the Center for Folklore and Ethnography at the University of Pennsylvania.

Review:

“Looking at the revised and slightly enlarged second edition of this book, it is not too difficult to see why it was considered such a pioneering work six years ago. It took discussion of the traditional oral performances of American Negroes from the rural to the urban context, wresting contentious and often obscene material from the tentacles of racism by adopting the approach of a scholarly report.”

—Michael K. Wallington, Man

“This is one of the most important American folklore collections yet published, and the first (excluding American Indian) to subject its materials to throughgoing psychological, sociological, and stylistic analysis.... This is a book dense with ideas and hypotheses. Abrahams concludes with a tentative theory of folklore tropisms to account for the structures, text forms, and values characteristic of Camingerley oral expression. If folklore studies have been charged with lacking theory, Abrahams has freighted his ship with the heaviest possible load it can carry and still float.”

—Richard M. Dorson, American Anthropologist

“Abrahams’ work serves as a model for in-depth studies that could be made in other cities and towns.”

—Charles Blaney, Negro American Literature Forum

“The dust jacket of this book tells us that in its first (1964) edition it was an “underground classic,” a nice way of reminding us that it went totally unreviewed the first time around but had considerable influence nonetheless. Now, in a substantially revised form, we are given a second chance.... [T]his book... is the first in many years which takes the leap from the sociology of pathos toward recognizing Afro-Americans as culture bearers and creators.... Deep Down in the Jungle must be required reading for all who would attempt an understanding of lower-class Afro-American life. Hopefully, the book, underground no more, will become simply a classic.”

—John F. Szwed, American Journal of Sociology

“Abraham’s editorial work is carefully done, and his contention that his texts, gathered from a down-at-the-heels neighborhood in south Philadelphia, reveal a good deal about the ideas and standards of the residents is clearly supported.”

—John T. Flanagan, Western Folklore

“Primarily, this study pivots on a sociological perception: urban Negro society is matriarchal and the folklore the society produces and maintains is to a large extent conditioned by, and reflective of, this condition. Though mentioned by numerous social scientists, the concept of matriarchal influence is, to my knowledge, previously undeveloped in folklore studies dealing with the American Negro, perhaps because folklore and sociology have maintained for some years now a successful repulsion for one another’s virtues and activities. The concept works, however, and its application is long overdue.... Not only is Abrahams to be commended for having produced this suggestive and informative work, but so are the University of Pennsylvania and Folklore Associates for having encouraged its production.”

—Bruce Jackson, Journal of American Folklore

 “A second edition of Deep Down in the Jungle is now available. Not only is this edition less expensive than the previous volume, but it is also a very changed book from the one Bruce Jackson reviewed in this journal six years ago.... All of these modifications are to be applauded, for they have made this work a better document on urban Negro folklore, and the book has become even more readable.”

—John M. Vlach, The Journal of American Follklore

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