Mudcat Café message #3939822 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162666   Message #3939822
Posted By: GUEST,Pseudonymous
27-Jul-18 - 08:18 AM
Thread Name: New Book: Folk Song in England
Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England

Your family documents sound wonderful. In my own family I know that in the 19th century literacy was in the family, and one man could read but his own son could not. Crosses on certificates and job descriptions are clues. A parish clerk has to be literate. If a person could not even write their own name their skills were limited.

I'm thinking maybe blacksmiths might in some earas have been more likely to be literate, but not sure about this.

I also know from studies of the places where my ancestors lived that richer people would leave the income from specified fields towards the cost of a local school. So if you lived in that area you might get to go to the school. Date 18/19 century.

I think though that it is more complicated than this. I found it hard to grasp/accept this at first, but it seems people in some eras could read but not write.

A lot of protestant sects taught literacy as they believed reading the bible was important. Maybe they did not believe writing was so important.

I have several times come across assertions that once a society has literacy, even if not all its members have it, then that affects the whole society. Which is why I said that England has not been non-literate for a long time.

Vic Gammon referenced a book on the history of literacy once, showing we are not of course the only ones to be exercised by this question.

The best example I can think of to show that non-literate people knew stuff that literate people got from books might be stories of scripture. This example comes to me because Gerould comments that no English folk songs are about the lives, even though they must have been to the forefront of the minds of medieval people. He blames the protestants who he says must be the cause of this. And a lot of these saints' lives were written down. In the bible. As well as in stained glass windows.

In medieval times plays were performed by travelling groups, using scripts which have come down to us. Interchange between literate and non literate.

I don't think it would be right to imagine a non-literate sub-section of society completely cut off from what was in print and maintaining over centuries a tradition that arose orally and was transmitted without interaction with written materials. The 'truth' for me has to be somewhere in between.

I am sorry, Jim, but it does seem to me as if at times Lloyd did behave like a charlatan, though I might have chosen a less polite word. Maybe we all do. I'm with whoever said that so much has been shown to be false that you have to take everything with a pinch of salt.

Brian comments that he finds Lloyd's FSE entrancing. I think it is, but, at the risk of upsetting Jim again, for me, speaking as a person coming to it looking for information, I can only be 'entranced' if I turn off my critical faculties and let the rhetoric wash over me. Otherwise I get frustrated by his lack of sources for his ideas, especially when they are what you might call on the grandiose side.

Arthur includes some comments on Lloyd's prose style, and again, if reading the book for information, this can, in parts, be frustrating. There seems to be to be a lot of 'waffle'. Arthur comments, rightly, on Lloyd's idiosyncratic choice of adjectives, saying that some of them come across as dated. I agree completely with this thought. It almost comes across as 'camp' in places, in the old sense of somewhat 'theatrical' in style. There is also a lot of metaphor. A lot of it is subjective aesthetic opinion, and in my view, often highly romantic.

For me, it would be the prose style and the rhetorical features of this that produce the enchantment, rather than closely argued theories based on evidence. Lloyd presents stuff more as fact when it seems clear that it is a 'theory', and one cannot always be sure when it is the source that Lloyd may or may not be relying on as an authority who came up with the theory or Lloyd himself.

A good example might be the section on Lady Isabel and the Elfin Knight discussed above. P144. We're back to delousing. Lloyd writes 'A fold-plated sword-scabbard ornament in the Hermitage collection shows that as long ago as 300 BC the imagination of Siberian craftsmen had been struck by precisely the same scene'. How one would know from this ornament that the woman was delousing the warrier I do not know. How we know that the craftsmen were 'imaginatively' struck as opposed to churning out something traditional automatically I do not know. And I cannot check what Lloyd says as he gives no reference other than 'Russian scholars'.

Then after what seems to me to be at best a suppositional and theoretical account, Lloyd throws in a rhetorical question ( and simultaneously begs the question) 'How many English ballads are based, in whole or in part, on such venerable and far-travelled stuff?'

'venerable' is an emotive word; the question is a rhetorical device.
I admit to chuckling when reading in Arthur that Harker described FSE as 'megalomaniac', even though this was taken somewhat out of context, because it summed up for me how Lloyd was happy to make sweeping statements, almost about the whole of human history.

Here's another bit: 'What ancient Shamanistic duel suggested the theme of the amorous metamorphosis of man and maid, wizard and witch, known in Britain through the rare ballad ...'? I can only read so much of this. This idea about a Shamanistic duel being the source of the ballad strikes me as 'Jackanory', as does much of the book. Sorry, and not denying that the book may have inspired many people, but it doesn't really do it for me.

If you publish a book like FSE then it is only to be expected that people will want to read it analytically, and so I for one don't feel any guilt about doing this, while accepting that Lloyd played an important part in a 'revival'.

The idea that he did this wholly out of altruistic motives, or purely for love of the songs, or even wholly because of instructions from Moscow (see Arthur on this, and also see Arthur on the apparent blindness of the 'Stalinists' within the revival to how Traveller culture was treated in Hungary, a country still not always highly noted for its cultural liberalism), would to me to be unconvincing. He is said in Arthur's biography to have made a deliberate decision, at a time when he had no work, to try to make a living out of folk music. He was forever 'pitching' ideas to the media, mostly but not always about folk.

I think one can take a 'critical' view of something without acknowledging its strengths as well.

I don't think anybody could step into the shoes of Lloyd and MacColl because they were products of their time. Things move on.