If you're interested in storytelling, you might enjoy looking at this academic paper I wrote many years ago. It is about the typical American yarn, the shaggy dog story, the put-on, and, specifically, how this story-type ends or doesn't or doesn't seem to. Anyway, you can get more here: 
Good reading and thanks for caring about the ancient oral art that often seems crushed by television. What a loss if that were true.

Paul Bunyan Between Scylla and Charybdis: 
American Folklore in Sicily
by E. Martin Pedersen
Many years ago I wrote this account of my activities teaching and singing here in Messina.
 It was published in a British publication called Folklore in Use. That was the thesis I was working on (and the thesis for my M.A. in Folklore and Education): that folklore materials must be taken out of archives and included in the curricula at all levels in order to preserve and diffuse traditional culture, without which we lose our identity as a people with a history. In particular outside of the native country where folklore tells others who we are. My country, the U.S., because of its ethnic makeup and science emphasis, runs a serious risk of looking only towards the future and forgetting what made us us. Not a history of wars and hatred but of everyday life, entertainment and knowledge. Every people, however, needs to be careful to constantly relive and exalt their traditions. In our super-mobile world, folklore (songs, stories, speech, crafts, beliefs, etc.) loss is a threat similar to language loss. A tragedy when it happens, a victory when avoided. Oh look: another heavy responsibility for teachers.

Here's an article I wrote about the poet's sport and the sport's poets. It has little or nothing to do with the fact that the San Francisco Giants just won their third World Series in five years.

The photo is of poet Marianne Moore throwing out the first pitch on opening day, 1968. There's a nice poem here:
For my article, click here:

I wrote these three articles on American verbal folkore in the 1980's, and I post them now because they should remain relevant given the topic.  I hope they will be useful to someone.

In 1985-86, I got a Masters degree in Independent Studies/Special Major: Folklore & Education from San Jose State University. It was a very positive experience; I found teachers, especially my advisor, cultural anthropologist James Freeman, who were willing to give me the latitude to explore whatever interested me.

I worked my butt off. Doing far more on my own than if I'd followed any standard course of studies. That's what made it so great. My thesis was 420 pages, but I cut out at least that many again. After graduation, I wrote these digests of my studies.

Here is the trilogy:
1.  American Studies Through Folk Songs
2.  American Studies Through Folk Tales
3.  American Studies Through Folk Speech.

Flattered again. This time a couple teachers at New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois author a blog, along with their students, called This Is American Studies! Spiro Bolos teaches Social Studies and John S. O’Connor teaches English, but they team together in a very modern interdisciplinary program. They used my article on cowboy life to introduce that iconic sub-culture to their students and get their reactions. Here’s the intro:

 “After reading E. Martin Pedersen's "The Dreary Life of the Cowboy: Memoir and Myth in Cowboy Ballads", use it as a source and please post comments that you believe contradict the myth of the cowboy. What most surprised you about the "reality" of cowboy life?”

 You can read all the student comments at

 Sure wish I'd gone to a high school like this. Above is the collage, called a wordle, the students made in a sort of word association game. Learning that sticks.

If you'd like to read the original EdPress Award winning article, you can find it here:

I would, however, suggest you dig up the paper copy of Social Education, March 1997, because the accompanying photos and layout are splendid.

"Factlore, Fakelore or Folklore." I was flattered to learn that Prof. Catherine Lavender (Dept. of History, Director of American Studies, Director of Women's Studies) included my work on folksong origin stories in her syllabus for a course called "American Society and Culture" in the Spring 2009 semester (HST/AMS 335) at the College of Staten Island (CUNY). 

Here is a link to my google doc copy of the article printed in Social Studies vol. 88, n. 4, p. 181-85:

You can find the course syllabus, including the article, on the web at:

Yes, that's young Doc Watson in the photo.

"Storytelling and the Art of Teaching." This old article of mine in the English Teaching Forum  was a source of satisfaction for a couple reasons. The Forum has a print run of over 80,000. Right there you feel like, finally, someone's on the other end. And most of the English teachers who read it pass it around to their colleagues, so your words/ideas reach even more. Then I got letters of response and requests for assistance from around the world: Algeria, Bolivia, Iran, etc. That was nice too. And, finally, I learned that a group of teachers in Kenya had written an article on storytelling quoting my lead article in Forum. The Kenyan article is no longer on the web, but I can send you a photocopy if you're interested.

Here is a link to the original article:

And at this address:
you can find a review of the original article by Shweta Gupta in the ESLetter, the publication of the Ontario Teachers of English as a Second Language Organization. Twice nice.

"The Music Changed at Fort Wagner." I am posting this paper that I presented at the 1995 AISNA conference because it was a source of frustration for me. I had prepared a carefully-timed 20-minute presentation with a recorded musical accompaniment, when Prof. A. Portelli, the workshop leader, whispered in my ear that I would have to cut it down by half to save time. The recordings didn't fit the edited text anymore, and, therefore, I didn't feel that I'd achieved my goal of convincing the audience of my thesis. The workshop ended early, so there had been plenty of time to present my work in full. 

In any case, I received several compliments, the most important being from an American ethnomusicologist who asked for a copy of my paper to integrate into her work on the origins of traditional American music. As you can see in the photo, perhaps I was onto something.