Linda Dégh

Linda Dégh passed away yesterday. I feel lucky to have undergone one of the great rites of passage of modern folklore: being taken to task slash eviscerated by her in a public forum. It's the opening paragraph of A Vulgar Art:

At the Perspectives on Contemporary Legend meeting in Logan, Utah, I was presenting some of these ideas, in particular noting – what I thought innocently – a similarity between what was au courant in legendry research and what I had noticed about stand-up comedy (Brodie 2007a). After a brace of encouraging questions, Linda Dégh asked the inevitable, inimitable question, “What does this have to do with folklore? This is not folklore! This is show business!”

That was my first encounter with her. We met several times since, and every time she didn't remember me, because, in the world of folklore, standing next to her, who the fuck was I? It's okay: being forgotten by her was not insulting. She was old as the hills. Her former students (many of them full professors) treated her with a blend of fear and awe, and her aura sent them right back to nervous first-year undergraduate status. As trite as the inevitable "we have a true legend with us today" introduction was, there was a swirl of stories associated with her, not all flattering, and not to be repeated here. But there were good odds that she would never, ever die. Without a wooden stake and some garlic, at least.

So, rest in peace, you terrifying, awesome broad.