Изучение легенды в Западной Европе и США в XX–XXI столетиях

Translated title of the contribution: The study of legends in Western Europe and the USA in the 20th and 21st centuries

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This paper presents an overview of the study of legends (or non-tale prose) in Western Europe and the United States in the 20th and 21st centuries. The author examines how the genre of legend moved from a neglected afterthought to perhaps the most important genre in folkloristics today. The development of legend studies from 1960 to the present is traced, highlighting the work of major contributors to the field. Of particular importance is the innovative approach to legend study developed by Linda Dégh and Andrew Vásonyi, who changed the way of defining the legend as well as the means of studying it. A legend in their view is not primarily a text but a process allowing for the construction of belief. They argue that a legend gives rise to the debate about contentious social and moral issues, enabling people to explore opposing viewpoints about these topics. A legend, according to Dégh and Vásonyi, necessarily produces ostension, that is, behavior or actions based on the texts, even when they are not believed in. Ostensive actions include travelling to the site where the legend occurred (and in some cases even reenacting the events) or changing behaviors to protect oneself from the dangers involved in the stories. This reinterpretation of the genre produced a great deal of important work on the role of legends in the contemporary world. The paper provides an overview of major contributors and the issues they explored (racism, fear of immigrants, human trafficking, sexual morals, medical practices, Satanism scares, and the like). It also involves a serious exploration of supernatural belief for the first time. In an era where reason and science hold predominant position, faith in the supernatural was generally dismissed out of hand as nonsense. The ethnography of belief movement, drawn from legend studies and the exploration of vernacular religion, allowed for a more serious approach to this question. Legendary beliefs about ghosts were also tied to the fundamental understanding of the world and our place in it. This approach to legend, in all its forms (legend, memorate, fabulate) contributed to the reformulation of the work that folklorists do and its practice today, opening the door to collaboration (and indeed recognition) by those in the fields of science and social science. Folklore as a discipline has become more relevant in debates about current social issues as well.

Translated title of the contributionThe study of legends in Western Europe and the USA in the 20th and 21st centuries
Original languageRussian
Pages (from-to)28-36
Number of pages9
JournalSibirskii Filologicheskii Zhurnal
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Sibirskii Filologicheskii Zhurnal. All Rights Reserved.


  • Conceptions of non-tale prose
  • Contemporary approaches
  • History of its study
  • North American
  • Western European folkloristics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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