Memory, Folk Narratives, and Social Critique: Notes on Jane Addams and the “Devil Baby” Legend

In: Journal of the Philosophy of History
Tullio Viola Assistant Professor, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Maastricht University Maastricht The Netherlands

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The article focuses on the link between memory, folk narratives, and critical thinking. I suggest in particular that there are instances in which the transmission of a folkloric story, such as a legend or a tale, can intersect with a person’s life experiences and facilitate the articulation of critical perspectives on society that might otherwise go unexpressed. The opportunity for discussing this idea is offered by the work of early twentieth-century Chicago sociologist Jane Addams. In her book The Long Road of Woman’s Memory (1916) Addams dealt with the modern revival of an ancient legend and investigated its interplay with the recollections, grievances, and aspirations of working-class women.

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