ISSN: 20520204
First published in 2014
2 issues per volume
Volume 1 Issue 1
Cover Date: April 2014
Fear of folk: Why folk art and ritual horrifies in Britain
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Authors:  Alexa Galea 
DOI: 10.1386/jill.1.1.77_1

British,folk,horror,marginalization,nature,rural idyll

This article examines the role of folk art and ritual in British design and popular culture as a horrific and subversive force. Whilst British folk tradition has been championed by the artists and writers Barbara Jones, Margaret Lambert and Enid Marx, and recent revived interest means it remains an enduring and popular inspiration across design disciplines, its deployment to intimidate and the occurrence of horrific narratives and depictions of folk art and ritual remain unaccounted for. In view of Raymond Williams’s text ‘Dominant, Residual, Emergent’ and Antonio Gramsci’s ‘Observations on Folklore’, British folk tradition can be identified as a residual culture, which dominant culture attempts to incorporate as a ‘leisure function’ of itself through reinterpretation and dilution – demonstrated by the shift in common meaning of the maypole. Folk art and ritual such as hair work that threatens the predominant image of an idyllized and frivolous folk culture is marginalized, or othered to the extremity of the horror story. The horrific rendering of British folk traditions in The Wicker Man speaks of an anxiety of their affirmations – that mankind is subject to the sublime chaos of nature and that society and nature are entwined. Folk art and ritual occupies a dual position in British culture and although residual, in its adaptation by the artist or designer it evolves continuously and is bound up with the dominant culture it permeates.
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