Children’s Literature Association of India’s [CLAI] 5th International Conference
Folk Tales and After: Theory and Praxis in Storytelling
Place: Pune, India
Venue: to be announced
Date: 25 – 27 November 2011
“A folktale is a poetic text that carries some of its cultural contexts within it; it is also a travelling metaphor that finds a new meaning with every telling” – A.K. Ramanujan
The above comment by one of the prominent folktale scholars of India embodies the essence of both theory and praxis of folktales and storytelling.
As literacy grew and the art of printing made books more accessible, storytelling began to die out. Worried that these folktales would fade from memory and disappear, collectors of folktales published them in books. Has the excessive presence of modern technological media almost eliminated the fashion of storytelling? Or viewed differently, are the hypnotic appeal of mass entertainment in television, music, video, films etc. just telling us stories in which we see ourselves, sometimes as we are, sometimes as we would like to be, sometimes as we hope we will never be? Then, as Julius Lester, the great African American children’s writer tells, “Story is who we are.” Folktales and After: Theory & Praxis in Storytelling is an academically worth mental exercise to explore into our own identity and it will be greatly exciting to be involved in this venture in the great central city of education in India, Pune, where cultural artefacts of east and west meet in a unique proportion and balance.
Traditionally, folktales taught the adults and children of a region how to live; it set a pattern for right living, directing almost a moral code of behaviour for a group of people. These tales were passed from one generation to the next and framed a set of rules for emulation. Today, the oral tradition has been replaced by mass media and children’s books have become the conservators of the oral tradition. Hence, the topic for the conference is a wide one that encompasses the total sphere of folktales, storytelling, and oral tradition, the whole gamut of tales and narration of children’s literature.
Folktales and storytelling are inseparable. This conference proposes to invite an international band of scholars in children’s literature to engage in various deliberations and themes associated with folktales and story telling. Discussions may be based on defining folktales, as folktales are often confused with fairy tales, myths, legends, fables, and other terms. Defining the realm of folktales in theory and praxis is essential to the critical evaluation of folktales study. Or, further explorations can be based on common characteristics of folktales. The themes of topics may vary as concerned with the setting, characters, plot, presence of animals, presence of tricksters, etc. in folktales. Another perspective may direct scholars to present papers on the structural aspects of folktales, especially on the Mnemonic devices used in folktales such as stock or set openings and closings in the narration of folktales, various formula and set descriptions in narration, etc.
Indian scholars, we suggest, may, perhaps, make a theoretical as well as performing effects of folktales narrated from different regions of the country and represent in papers topics such as themes, motifs, narrative structures peculiar to the folktales of the subcontinent. Or, for the more serious scholars, we propose a postcolonial study of folktales! British colonial officials, writers, missionaries, and their helpers collected a number of Indian folktales during colonization. Rich in local cultural details, these collections of tales contain elaborate prefaces and explanatory notes that often reveal how these colonial collectors of folktales delineated the other and dwelt with subjectivity while themselves experiencing shifting subaltern positions.
Other scholars can be more incisive in their criticism of folktales as for example by interrogating the presence of outmoded values of an earlier time preserved in ancient folktales or even by probing into their suitability as literature for children today. You may even go to the extend of breaking all norms of submissiveness questioning certain tales that might be communicating attitudes we no longer consider appropriate for children.
For the more serene scholars, we also put forward topics more child-centred like folktales and their contemporary impact on children, or characteristics of oral literature for children as exposed in certain examples of folktales of your choice.
International scholars can definitely speak about their folktales and current practices in the subgenre. Sharing tales is fascinating; theorizing tales is academically enriching too. Besides, this will certainly lead to better cultural understanding.
We promise it to be an exciting experience in Pune – a unique instance of academic collaboration in children’s literature with Bhaasha, an NGO actively working for children. The local organizers of the conference in Pune require immediate email messages of confirmation in participation. Please send a message to Ms. Swati J. Raje as early as possible.
The abstracts of your paper presentations as word attached file in Times New Roman 12 point font, with double spacing, and the words limited to a maximum of 250. The abstract should reach Children’s Literature Association of India in the email address email@example.com on or before 15 September 2011.
For further details of the conference venue and other requirements including accommodation and local hospitality, please contact:
Ms Swati J Raje, Children’s Writer, Pune, India
Mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com