A talk by Paul Cowdell.
170 years ago a letter appeared in the Athenaeum. It was signed 'Ambrose Merton', a pseudonym for literary antiquarian William John Thoms, and it proposed a neologism: 'folklore'. This provides a good origin story for the study of folklore – it's the first time folklorists identify themselves as such – but while Thoms may have invented the word he didn't invent the subject. This talk will be a brief introduction to how we've come to think about folklore. Amongst other things it'll discuss what William Thoms meant by the word and how he arrived at that meaning, and where we've taken folklore since. Folklore: we're all interested in it, we all do it, let's think about it.
Paul Cowdell is a Committee member of the Folklore Society. He's been described charitably as 'interested in morbid eschatology', after a PhD on ghost belief and articles on cannibalism at sea. He's written on tongue twisters and lore about rats, and is interested in lots of lurid things. He likes folklore a lot.