Campus TraditionsFolklore from the Old-Time College to the Modern Mega-University

Campus TraditionsFolklore from the Old-Time College to the Modern Mega-University

Simon J. Bronner

Print publication date: 2014

ISBN: 9781617036163

Publisher: University Press of Mississippi

Abstract

From their beginnings, campuses emerged as hotbeds of traditions and folklore. American college students inhabit a culture with its own slang, stories, humor, beliefs, rituals, and pranks. This book takes a long look at American campus life and how it is shaped by students and at the same time shapes the values of all who pass through it. The archetypes of absent-minded profs, fumbling jocks, and curve-setting dweebs are the stuff of legend and humor, along with the all-nighters, tailgating parties, and initiations that mark campus tradition—and student identities. The book traces historical changes in the distinctive traditions embraced by undergraduates. The predominant context has shifted from what it calls the “old-time college,” small in size and strong in its sense of community, to mass society’s “mega-university,” a behemoth that extends beyond any campus to multiple branches and offshoots throughout a state, region, and sometimes the globe. One might assume that the mega-university has dissolved collegiate traditions and displaced the old-time college, but the book finds the opposite. Student needs for social belonging in large universities and a fear of losing personal control have given rise to distinctive forms of lore and a striving for retaining the pastoral “campus feel” of the old-time college. The folkloric material students spout, and sprout, in response to these needs is varied.