By Sarah Joanne Davies
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Extra info for An investigation into attitudes towards illegitimate birth as evidenced in the folklore of South West England
Some ground-breaking studies of this kind have thus emerged, particularly in relation to folksong and selected prose narrative genres (see, for example, Kodish; Bill Ellis). Many early collectors encountered a vast amount of folk narrative relating to sexual/romantic relationships. However, turn-of-the-century fieldworkers were extremely wary of material which was at all sexually explicit, preferring to censor or alter, so any serious study of sexual/romantic relationships in folklore has lagged far behind folklore scholarship in other areas (G.
Toelken would clearly see this process at work in songs concerning illegitimacy as he claims that sexual "metaphors are abundant, that they are consistent, and that they have directly to do with the action of the song and are not just pretty decorations. Otherwise, pregnancy and abandonment would not so often result" (45). Toelken nonetheless allows for more variance in the reception of these encoded meanings than Renwick. He speculates that precisely because the arena of all these metaphors is sexuality the identity of the singer, particularly in terms of gender affiliation, will affect their interpretation of the song.
Preston argues that certain individuals would experience a degree of compromise in singing "The Spotted Cow". We might therefore expect it to appeal more to particular social groups, but intriguingly, evidence seems to suggest that this was not the case, the song being sung amongst people of all three combinations of register affiliation. Preston consults the fictional writings of Thomas Hardy as an aid to unravelling the meaning of "The Spotted Cow", in order to suggest a range of possible interpretations taken from the song by past audiences during this period.
An investigation into attitudes towards illegitimate birth as evidenced in the folklore of South West England by Sarah Joanne Davies