American Folklore: Legend, Rumor, and Conspiracy Theory
This course examines three related folklore genres (legend, rumor, and conspiracy theory), with a focus on how they migrate back and forth from the oral to the digital realm (film, television, Internet, social media, news, etc.). These genres—legend, rumor, and conspiracy theory—touch upon the most sensitive areas of our existence, exposing our insecurities and anxieties. This is why stories about supernatural encounters, miracles, spies, evil spirits, and those about the criminally insane, continue to proliferate even in our modern times. “Industrial advancement has not changed the basic fragility of human life,” writes Linda Dégh, “and the commercialization and consumer orientation of the mass media has actually helped legends travel faster and farther.” From AIDS aggression and sadism to aliens, ghosts, and zombies, this class explores a broad range of anxiety producing “belief complexes” that live in diverse cultural contexts.