Folk song (British)

(2768 words)

Literary/ Cultural Context Essay

“Folk song” is an oral art that challenges the expectations of “literature”, which implies something written down. Musical performance is essential to its full effect. Like other forms more widely accepted as literary, such as drama, folk song is thus aesthetically amphibious.

The term itself is comparatively recent; Cecil Sharp thought of it as replacing alternatives such as “national song” in the 1880s. In 1954 the International Folk Music Council defined folk song as “the product of a musical tradition … evolved through the process of oral transmission” and “selection by the community”, whether it originated in “a community uninfluenced by popular and art music” or came from outside and was …

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Jackson-Houlston, Caroline. "Folk song (British)". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 29 February 2004
[, accessed 28 September 2016.]