Folklore refers to a dimension of culture comprised of traditional forms—including verbal art, material culture, belief, music, dance, and visual art—expressed by individuals in performance. Though definitions vary according to purpose and use, U.S. folklorist Dan Ben-Amos's 1972 definition of folklore as “artistic communication in small groups” is basic to the discipline as it has developed in the United States since the 1950s.

Folklore is passed from person to person (whether directly or mediated), with artistic communication encompassing both aesthetic and ethical, relational dimensions. Grandparents tell histories to grandchildren that they will not read in textbooks. Aunts teach jump-rope rhymes as well as taunts to nieces. Children exchange jokes and street knowledge. Experienced teachers transmit both time-tested advice and well-honed biases to new colleagues. Parents ...

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