The Anglo-Scottish Ballad and its Imaginary Contexts

The Anglo-Scottish Ballad and its Imaginary Contexts David Atkinson
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This highly rigorous thesis is both thought-provoking and in many ways transformational for scholars of folk performance, challenging extant doctrine about the nature of tradition while (importantly) offering new ways to attempt to articulate its multiplicities. While some revivalist scholars argued for the obsolescence of the loaded terminologies of the folk revival, here the notion of the "ballad” is simultaneously problematized and rehabilitated.

Anyone mildly interested in the ballad, in its past, in the assumptions we have inherited and their sources, or in the process of editing ballads should take a look—free. Read with pleasure and contemplate not only something of the ballad past, but materials which resonate with an earlier stage of Folklore scholarship; perhaps readers will be stimulated to revisit this rich material and all of its conundrums, and also to uncover the complexities of the editing/transcribing process.
—Mary Ellen Brown, Western Folklore, 74.3/4 (2015)

This is an immensely thought-provoking book, consisting of a series of meditations on the textual status of the ‘ballad’ (the ‘imaginary contexts’ of the title), and how editorial theory and continental philosophy contribute to and complicate this textual condition. David Atkinson meticulously dismantles received assumptions concerning such canards as oral tradition, song collecting, and transcription processes, scrupulously illustrating his argument with a handful of case studies in order to argue that conventions of editorial practice are, particularly when dealing with ballads, blunt and obtrusive.
Nick Groom, The Folk Music Journal, 10.5 (2015)

The depth of Atkinson's research is impressive and his conclusions will provide ballad scholars with much food for thought. The author quite elegantly makes the case for an interaction between written and oral transmission of ballads for over half a millennium, effectively challenging many of the received tropes of ballad studies.
—James Revell Carr, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
 
This is the first book to combine contemporary debates in ballad studies with the insights of modern textual scholarship. Just like canonical literature and music, the ballad should not be seen as a uniquely authentic item inextricably tied to a documented source, but rather as an unstable structure subject to the vagaries of production, reception, and editing. Among the matters addressed are topics central to the subject, including ballad origins, oral and printed transmission, sound and writing, agency and editing, and textual and melodic indeterminacy and instability. While drawing on the time-honoured materials of ballad studies, the book offers a theoretical framework for the discipline to complement the largely ethnographic approach that has dominated in recent decades.

Primarily directed at the community of ballad and folk song scholars, the book will be of interest to researchers in several adjacent fields, including folklore, oral literature, ethnomusicology, and textual scholarship.



The Anglo-Scottish Ballad and its Imaginary Contexts
David Atkinson | March 2014
xviii + 209 | 6.14" x 9.21" (234 x 156 mm)
ISBN Paperback: 9781783740277
ISBN Hardback: 9781783740284
ISBN Digital (PDF): 9781783740291
ISBN Digital ebook (epub): 9781783740307
ISBN Digital ebook (mobi): 9781783740314
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0041
BIC subject codes: DS (Literature, history and criticism), DSB (Literary studies, general)


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Contents
References and Abbreviations
List of Illustrations
Preface
1. Where Is the Ballad?
2. On the Nature of Evidence
3. Textual Authority and the Sources of Variance
4. The Material Ballad
5. Sound and Writing
6. Agency, Intention, and the Problem of Version (with a brief history of ballad editing)
7. Palimpsest or texte génétique
8. Afterword: ‘All her friends cried out for shame’
Select Bibliography
Index

David Atkinson 
is the editor of Folk Music Journal, author of The English Traditional Ballad: Theory, Method, and Practice (2002), and co-editor of Folk Song: Tradition, Revival, and Re-Creation (2004) and Street Ballads in Nineteenth-Century Britain, Ireland, and North America (2014). He has published widely on Anglo-Scottish ballads and is an Honorary Research Fellow at the Elphinstone Institute, University of Aberdeen. He is Executive Secretary of the Kommission für Volksdichtung (International Ballad Commission).