The essays in Folklore Genres represent development in folklore genre studies, diverging into literary, ethnographic, and taxonomic questions. The study as a whole is concerned with the concept of genre and with the history of genre theory. A selective bibliography provides a guide to analytical and theoretical works on the topic.
The literary-oriented articles conceive of folklore forms, not as the antecedents of literary genres, but as complex, symbolically rich expressions. The ethnographically oriented articles, as well as those dealing with classification problems, reveal dimensions of folklore that are often obscured from the student reading the folklore text alone. It has long been known that the written page is but a pale reproduction of the spoken word, that a tale hardly reflects the telling. The essays in this collection lead to an understanding of the forms of oral literature as multidimensional symbols of communication and to an understanding of folklore genres as systematically related conceptual categories in culture. What kinship terms are to social structure, genre terms are to folklore. Since genres constitute recognized modes of folklore speaking, their terminology and taxonomy can play a major role in the study of culture and society.
The essays were originally published in Genre (1969–1971); introduction, bibliography, and index have been added to this edition.