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MCL 200: Global Literacy: Getting Started

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Global Literacy

Welcome to the Library Research Guide for MCL 200

This guide will introduce you to basic library resources aimed to help you research topics dealing with literary works and cultural artifacts from various national and lingistic traditions.

For more help on the basics of the research process, see the course guide for WRD111.

Digital image and descriptive data © 2000 by Cartography Associates

How to Use the Motif-Index of Folk-Literature

In 1959 the indefatigable folklorist, Stith Thompson, published his Motif Index: a classification of narrative elements in folktales, ballads, myths, fables, mediaeval romances, exempla, fabliaux, jestbooks and local legends.

In addition to the online version (see above), you will find the revised and enlarged 1989 edition of this six-volume basic thematic index in the Reference Collection on the second floor, west wing of W.T. Young Library under the call number GR67 .T52. Anyone trying to identify themes or elements in folk literature needs to use all six volumes of the Motif Index.

Volume 1 contains a general synopsis of the index which outlines the broad classifications used by Thompson, e.g. A=Mythological motifs, B=Animals, C=Tabu, and so forth. In this volume you will also find the Bibliography and key to Abbreviations used in the subsequent volumes.

Volume 6 is an alphabetically arranged subject index ranging from "Aaron's tenser (pistol)" to "Zuni".

How to go from a theme or motif to source material:

Let's suppose you want to know where to find a folkloric explanation of the biological feature, the Adam's apple.

  1. First go to the alphabetical index in volume 6 where you find "Adam's apple, origin of, A1319.1".
  2. Second you go to volume 1, which contains Motifs A through C, and find number A1319.1. A1319.1 Origin of Adam's apple. Forbidden fruit sticks in Adam's throat -- *Dh 1 208ff.; *Fb "Adamsaeble" IV 4. - Finnish: Aarne FFC VIII 5 No. 16, XXX111 52 No. 16; Lappish: Qvigstad FFC LX 35 No. 10; Lithuanian: Balys Legends No. 34; U.S.: Baughman; Jewish: Neuman.
  3. Third you go to the Abbreviation section of volume 1 so that you can identify the source works that contain fuller explanations of the origins of the Adam's apple.
    *Dh = Dahnhardt, Oscar. Natursagen. 4 vols. Leipzig, 1909-1912.
    *Fb = Feilberg, H.F. Bidrag til en Ordbog over jyske Almuesmal. 4 vols. Kobenhavn, 1886-1914.
    FFC = FF Communicufions, published by the Folklore Fellows. Helsinki. The folklorist Aarne has two articles, one in volume 8, number 16 and another in volume 33, no. 16. Mr. Qvigstad's article is in volume 40, number 10.

And so on. Finally look up the author or title in InfoKat Discovery or to identify the location of the book you want to consult for a fuller discussion of the motif you are pursuing.


[Thanks to the UC-Berkeley George and Mary Foster Anthropology Library for these instructions, which have been slightly modified.]

Librarian for English

Jennifer Bartlett
1-85 William T. Young Library, 500 S. Limestone, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington, KY 40506