Dundes, Alan 1934–2005

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Dundes, Alan 1934–2005

PERSONAL: Surname is pronounced "Dun-deez"; born September 8, 1934, in New York, NY; died March 30, 2005; son of Maurice (an attorney) and Helen (Rothschild) Dundes; married Carolyn Browne, September 8, 1958; children: Alison, Lauren, David. Education: Yale University, B.A., 1955, M.A.T., 1958; Indiana University, Ph.D., 1962.

CAREER: University of Kansas, Lawrence, instructor in English, 1962–63; University of California, Berkeley, assistant professor, 1963–65, associate professor, 1965–68, professor of anthropology and folklore, beginning 1968. Military service: U.S. Navy, 1955–57; became lieutenant.

MEMBER: International Society for Folk Narrative Research, American Folklore Society (president, 1980), American Anthropological Association, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, California Folklore Society.

AWARDS, HONORS: Second place, Chicago Folklore Prize competition, 1962, for The Morphology of North American Indian Folktales; Guggenheim fellowship, 1966–67; senior fellowship, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1972–73; first place, Chicago Folklore Prize competition, 1976, for La Terra in Piazza: An Interpretation of the Palio of Siena; Pitrè Prize, Sigillo d'Oro (Seal of Gold), for lifetime achievement in folklore, 1993; distinguished teaching award, 1994.

WRITINGS:

The Morphology of North American Indian Folktales, Academic Scientarium Fennica (Helsinki, Finland), 1964.

(With Alessandro Falassi) La Terra in Piazza: An Interpretation of the Palio of Siena, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1975.

(With Carl R. Pagter) Urban Folklore from the Paperwork Empire, American Folklore Society (Austin, TX), 1975.

Analytic Essays in Folklore, Mouton (Hawthorne, NY), 1975.

(Compiler) Folklore Theses and Dissertations in the United States, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1976.

Essays in Folkloristics, Manohar Book Service (New Delhi, India), 1978.

Modern Folklore (sound recording), National Public Radio (Washington, DC), 1979.

Interpreting Folklore, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1980.

(With Claudia A. Stibbe) The Art of Mixing Metaphors: A Folkloristic Interpretation of the "Netherlands Proverbs," by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Academia Scientarium Fennica (Helsinki, Finland), 1981.

Mother Wit from the Laughing Barrel: Readings in the Interpretation of Afro-American Folklore, Garland Publishing (New York, NY), 1981.

Life Is like a Chicken Coop Ladder: A Portrait of German Culture through Folklore, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1984.

(With C. Banc) First Prize: Fifteen Years!: An Annotated Collection of Romanian Political Jokes, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press (Rutherford, NJ), 1986.

(With Carl R. Pagter) When You're Up to Your Ass in Alligators: More Urban Folklore from the Paperwork Empire, Wayne State University Press (Detroit, MI), 1987.

Cracking Jokes: Studies of Sick Humor Cycles and Stereotypes, Ten Speed Press (Berkeley, CA), 1987.

Parsing through Customs: Essays by a Freudian Folklorist, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1987.

Folklore Matters, University of Tennessee Press (Knoxville, TN), 1989.

Life Is like a Chicken Coop Ladder: A Study of German National Character through Folklore, Wayne State University Press (Detroit, MI), 1989.

In Quest of the Hero, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1990.

(With C. Banc) You Call This Living?: A Collection of East European Political Jokes, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 1990.

Essays in Folklore Theory and Method, Cre-A (Madras, India), 1990.

(With Carl R. Pagter) Never Try to Teach a Pig to Sing: Still More Urban Folklore from the Paperwork Empire, Wayne State University Press (Detroit, MI), 1991.

(With Carl R. Pagter) Work Hard and You Shall Be Rewarded: Urban Folklore from the Paperwork Empire, Wayne State University Press (Detroit, MI), 1992.

(With Carl R. Pagter) Sometimes the Dragon Wins: Yet More Urban Folklore from the Paperwork Empire, Syracuse University Press (Syracuse, NY), 1996.

From Game to War and Other Psychoanalytic Essays on Folklore, University Press of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 1997.

Two Tales of Crow and Sparrow: A Freudian Folkloristic Essay on Caste and Untouchability, Rowman & Littlefield (Lanham, MD), 1997.

Holy Writ as Oral Lit: The Bible as Folklore, Rowman & Littlefield (Lanham, MD), 1999.

(With Carl R. Pagter) Why Don't Sheep Shrink When It Rains?: A Further Collection of Photocopier Folklore, Syracuse University Press (Syracuse, NY), 2000.

Bloody Mary in the Mirror: Essays in Psychoanalytic Folkloristics, University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MS), 2002.

The Shabbat Elevator and Other Sabbath Subterfuges: An Unorthodox Essay on Circumventing Custom and Jewish Character, Rowman & Littlefield (Lanham, MD), 2002.

Fables of the Ancients?: Folklore in the Qur'an, Rowman & Littlefield (Lanham, MD), 2003.

EDITOR

The Study of Folklore, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1965.

Every Man His Way: Readings in Cultural Anthropology, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1968.

Mother Wit from the Laughing Barrel: Readings in the Interpretation of Afro-American Folklore, Prentice-Hall (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1973.

Varia Folklorica, Aldine (Chicago, IL), 1978.

The Evil Eye: A Folklore Casebook, Garland Publishing (New York, NY), 1981.

(With Wolfgang Mieder) The Wisdom of Many: Essays on the Proverb, Garland Publishing (New York, NY), 1981.

Cinderella: A Folklore Casebook, Garland Publishing (New York, NY), 1982, published as Cinderella: A Casebook, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1988.

(With Lowell Edmunds) Oedipus: A Folklore Casebook, Garland Publishing (New York, NY), 1983.

Sacred Narrative: Readings in the Theory of Myth, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1984.

(With Galit Hasan-Rokem) The Wandering Jew: Essays in the Interpretation of a Christian Legend, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1986.

The Flood Myth, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1988.

Little Red Riding Hood: A Casebook, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1989.

Mother Wit from the Laughing Barrel: Readings in the Interpretation of Afro-American Folklore, University Press of Mississippi (Jackson, MS), 1990.

The Blood Libel Legend: A Casebook in Anti-Semitic Folklore, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1991.

Fire in the Dragon and Other Psychoanalytic Essays on Folklore, by Geza Roheim, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1992.

The Evil Eye: A Casebook, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1992.

The Cockfight: A Casebook, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1994.

(With Alison Dundes Rentein) Folk Law: Essays in the Theory and Practice of Lex Non Scripta, Garland Publishing (New York, NY), 1994.

The Walled-Up Wife: A Casebook, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1996.

(With Stuart Blackburn) A.K. Ramanujan, A Flowering Tree and Other Oral Tales from India, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1997.

The Vampire: A Casebook, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1998.

International Folkloristics: Classic Contributions by the Founders of Folklore, Rowman & Littlefield (Lanham, MD), 1999.

Folklore: Critical Concepts in Literary and Cultural Studies, Routledge (New York, NY), 2005.

(And translator, with Johanna Micaela Jacobsen) Isidor Sadger, Recollecting Freud, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 2005.

Contributor to the Book of Knowledge, Worldbook Encyclopedia, and Encyclopedia Britannica, on subjects such as folklore, superstition, and primitive mythology. Also contributor of more than 150 articles to professional journals, including Journal of American Folklore, Asian Folklore Studies, Western Folklore, International Folklore Review, and American Anthropologist. Has served on editorial boards, including Annals of Scholarship, Humor, and Journal of Latin American Folklore.

SIDELIGHTS: The late folklorist Alan Dundes wrote about a wide range of sometimes unconventional material, from traditional fables to xeroxed office memos. Cinderella: A Folklore Casebook interprets the familiar story from several academic viewpoints. Times Literary Supplement contributor T.A. Shippey praised Dundes' even selection of essays by "structuralists, Jungians, anthroposophists, et al." He continued: "The main message of this collection is 'armchair critics should at least review the literature': and every facility is offered for that in future, with long bibliographies and masterly introductions by Dundes to each of the essays selected." Dundes also edited casebooks on other classic bits of folklore, including vampire legends, the story of the woman who is walled up within a building as it is being constructed, and the widespread belief in the ability of some people to curse others with the "evil eye." The Evil Eye: A Folklore Casebook "will prove valuable for everyone involved in folkloric research," Jon Hnefill Adalsteinsson wrote in Asian Folklore Studies. Adalsteinsson continued to note that Dundes's concluding article, "Wet and Dry, the Evil Eye," "is written with great acuteness and excellent scholarship."

Cracking Jokes: Studies of Sick Humor Cycles and Stereotypes examines jokes with the often sexual or racial message they offhandedly convey. According to Dundes, jokes are "effective as socially sanctioned outlets for expressing taboo ideas and subjects." In the Chicago Tribune Books, Clarence Petersen noted that Dundes "knows why jokes are funny, as well as to whom and under what circumstances. Because he knows, too, that brevity is the soul of wit, he does not analyze jokes to death."

When You're Up to Your Ass in Alligators: More Urban Folklore from the Paperwork Empire also looks at common modern communication not always termed as folklore. "What others dismiss as dirty jokes, pranks and low-brow humor, Dundes defends as genuine American folklore," Jeff Kunerth stated in the Chicago Tribune. He also noted that Dundes' book "includes examples of phony correspondence, fake business cards, parodied poems, nonsensical instructions and satirical memos. Much of it reveals a cynical disgust with bureaucracy and incompetence." Most of the book's examples were initially transmitted through office photocopiers. "Not everyone can tell a joke," Dundes explains. "But anyone can operate a Xerox machine."

Dundes continued in this vein in several additional volumes, including Never Try to Teach a Pig to Sing: Still More Urban Folklore from the Paperwork Empire, Sometimes the Dragon Wins: Yet More Urban Folklore from the Paperwork Empire, and Why Don't Sheep Shrink When It Rains?: A Further Collection of Photocopier Folklore. Like When You're Up to Your Ass in Alligators, these volumes collect instances of jokes passed around offices via the photocopier and, in more recent volumes, by e-mail. The books also offer some context for each joke, listing places where it has been found and, in some cases, tracing the concept back to its potential origins. "Dundes and [coauthor Carl R.] Pagter tend to bring a Freudian interpretation to this kind of material," Christie Davies noted in a review of Why Don't Sheep Shrink When It Rains? for Folklore, but "the book … is not crammed with psychoanalytic jargon. It is readable, amusing, insightful and very varied." As David R. Mayer noted when reviewing Never Try to Teach a Pig to Sing for Asian Folklore Studies, these books are also very useful for foreigners attempting to understand American culture. "In reading current American fiction one often comes across language and situations that go unexplained since everyone in the culture understands them. Never Try to Teach a Pig to Sing provides the necessary background for many of these situations and translates the slang into understandable English," he explained.

Dundes examines the roots that the Bible and the Qur'an have in folklore in two separate volumes, Fables of the Ancients?: Folklore in the Qur'an and Holy Writ as Oral Lit: The Bible as Folklore. The former title "is to my knowledge the first folkloric study of the Qur'an," Ahmad A. Nasr claimed in Asian Folklore Studies. In the latter book Dundes lays out the evidence that the origins of the Bible lie, not in written records, but in orally transmitted legends and superstitions. "Dundes's insights are hardly revolutionary—he is deftly summing up a century or so of conventional Bible scholarship from an anthropological perspective—but he offers some useful tools for extracting new meanings from even the oldest and most familiar texts," wrote Los Angeles Times reviewer Jonathan Kirsch. "While written for the novice studying the orally discursive nature of the Judeo-Christian canon," Norbert A. Wethington commented in Christianity and Literature, Holy Writ as Oral Lit "will also be useful to more advanced scholars, especially for its survey of the literature and comprehensive bibliography."

Dundes is also the editor of International Folkloristics: Classic Contributions by the Founders of Folklore, a volume that collects pieces by writers from a variety of backgrounds who shared an interest in folk tales. He includes pieces by Jacob Grimm, one of the Brothers Grimm who brought folklore respectability with their printed collections; Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist philosopher; and the poet William Butler Yeats; as well as anthropologists, ethnologists, and folklorists including Kenneth S. Goldstein and Vladimir Propp. "Dundes's collection is a delight in its variety," Christie Davies commented in Folklore, "and yet it is well held together by the erudition and skilled commentaries of the editor." "What [Dundes] does as an editor is to select letters and essays and give them extensive headnotes," Hein Thi Nguyen explained in Asian Folklore Studies. "The headnotes provide exceptionally useful information, including comprehensive information about the contributors, their works, and the contexts in which their essays were written."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Dundes, Alan, Cracking Jokes: Studies of Sick Humor Cycles and Stereotypes, Ten Speed Press (Berkeley, CA), 1987.

Dundes, Alan, and Carl R. Pagter, When You're Up to Your Ass in Alligators: More Urban Folklore from the Paperwork Empire, Wayne State University Press (Detroit, MI), 1987.

PERIODICALS

American Jewish History, December, 2002, David Biale, review of The Shabbat Elevator and Other Subterfuges: An Unorthodox Essay on Circumventing Custom and Jewish Character, p. 458.

Asian Folklore Studies, April, 1993, David R. Mayer, review of Never Try to Teach a Pig to Sing: Still More Urban Folklore from the Paperwork Empire, p. 213; October, 1993, Jon Hnefill Adalsteinsson, review of The Evil Eye: A Folklore Casebook, p. 397; October, 1995, Chiba Masaji, review of Folk Law: Essays in the Theory and Practice of Lex Non Scripta, p. 319; April, 2000, S.M. Michael, review of Two Tales of Crow and Sparrow: A Freudian Folkloristic Essay on Caste and Untouchability, p. 267; April, 2001, Hien Thi Nguyen, review of International Folkloristics: Classic Contributions by the Founders of Folklore, p. 149; April, 2004, Ahmad A. Nasr, review of Fables of the Ancients?: Folklore in the Qur'an, p. 165.

Chicago Tribune, February 5, 1988, Jeff Kunerth, review of When You're Up to Your Ass in Alligators.

Christianity and Literature, winter, 2004, Norbert A. Wethington, review of Holy Writ as Oral Lit: The Bible as Folklore, p. 257.

Folklore, spring, 1994, Jacqueline Simpson, review of The Evil Eye, p. 114; annual, 1999, Jacqueline Simpson, review of The Walled-Up Wife: A Casebook, p. 117; April, 2001, Christie Davies, review of International Folkloristics, p. 114; April, 2002, Christie Davies, review of Why Don't Sheep Shrink When It Rains?: A Further Collection of Photocopier Folklore, p. 122.

Journal of American Culture, September, 2003, Ray B. Browne, review of Why Don't Sheep Shrink When It Rains?, p. 416.

Journal of American Folklore, spring, 1991, Roger D. Abrahams, review of Folklore Matters, p. 198.

Journal of Biblical Literature, winter, 1990, review of The Flood Myth, p. 737.

Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, December, 1999, Steve Siporin, review of From Game to War and Other Psychoanalytic Essays on Folklore, p. 648.

Journal of Women's History, autumn, 1998, Lorraine Netrick Abraham, review of The Walled-Up Wife, p. 219.

Library Journal, September 15, 1998, Katherine K. Koenig, review of The Vampire: A Casebook, p. 88; September 1, 2003, Richard K. Burns, review of Fables of the Ancients?, p. 177.

Los Angeles Times, March 13, 1999, Jonathan Kirsch, review of Holy Writ as Oral Lit, p. 2.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, July 7, 1985, Martin A. David, review of Sacred Narrative: Readings in the Theory of Myth, p. 4.

MAN, June, 1994, Tanya Luhrmann, review of The Blood Libel Legend: A Casebook in Anti-Semitic Folklore, p. 483.

Middle East Journal, autumn, 2003, review of Fables of the Ancients?, p. 705.

New York Times Book Review, January 24, 1988, Jack Kugelmass, review of Parsing Through Customs: Essays by a Freudian Folklorist, p. 21.

Publishers Weekly, October 18, 1991, review of The Blood Libel Legend, p. 56.

Research in African Literatures, spring, 1996, Oyekan Owomoyela, review of The Wisdom of Many: Essays on the Proverb, p. 192.

Times Literary Supplement, July 22, 1983, T. A. Shippey, review of Cinderella: A Folklore Casebook.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), May 3, 1987, Clarence Petersen, review of Cracking Jokes: Studies of Sick Humor Cycles and Stereotypes, p. 5.

ONLINE

College of Arts and Letters Web site, http://ls.berkeley.edu/ (January 15, 2003), "Alan Dundes."

OBITUARIES

PERIODICALS

New York Times, April 2, 2005, p. A12.

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Dundes, Alan 1934–2005

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