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Enigma as a Literary Device in Native American Folklore: Jarold Ramsey’s Analysis of Two Clackamas Chinook Tales

Author(s): Daniel J. Frim

Journal: Folklore : Electronic Journal of Folklore
ISSN 1406-0957

Volume: 53;
Start page: 159;
Date: 2013;
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Keywords: Native American folklore | Pacific Northwest | Clackamas Chinook | Alan Dundes | Jarold Ramsey | aesthetics of folklore

This paper discusses Jarold Ramsey’s classic article, The Wife Who Goes Out Like a Man, Comes Back as a Hero: The Art of Two Oregon Indian Narratives. It analyzes Ramsey’s arguments against the backdrop of Alan Dundes’s work in Native American folklore as well as more recent controversies in this field. Some scholars, such as Dundes, have attempted to vindicate Native American folklore against Eurocentric criticism by fitting it into Western literary molds. Ramsey, on the other hand, brings to light the distinctive aesthetic qualities of two tales from the Pacific Northwest by recognizing the ways in which these narratives often stray from the literary expectations of Western readers. In this respect, Ramsey’s approach is preferable to that of Dundes, and it provides a model for the careful, aesthetically oriented analysis of the idiosyncratic features of individual folklore traditions.
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