I enjoyed folklore before, don't get me wrong. But I didn't realize until I came to this class just how little I knew. I tended to think of fairy tales in the mainly Western/Americanized sense--the Disney culture that feminists argued so hard against; the "princess" marketed as every little girl's childhood fantasy. I knew of other cultures' stories (some of them, anyway)--I grew up on Anansi, Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox, and every scattered Native American myth my mother could remember or look up--but I'd never studied them in-depth. Now I look over my class blog, see my posts relating to Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood (both of whom I scorned as a child) and realize that the parts of this class that truly enchanted me were the ones I never wrote about.
By far the best thing to happen in this classroom was the visit from Dr. Ochieng. It was so organic, so warm and so real. It felt like truly getting a peek at another culture, rather than just hearing about it academically. At the beginning of that presentation, I'd never felt any desire to go to Kenya, despite knowing someone who actually lived there and multiple people who had been there. By the end, I was dying to go on the Kenya JanTerm, just from his stories and the rich, engaging way he told them.
The talks we had about the Arabic and Jewish tales were second runner-up for my favorite days, just after Dr. Ochieng's presentation. I loved the sharp wit, the glorification of intelligence and cunning over beauty and virginity. It just reminded me that we're always on other cultures for "oppressing" their people, but when I read the Arabic folktales in comparison with the American ones, it seemed like they knew what was really important, as opposed to our often-romanticized tales that would never fly in real life. I know people like Djaha, and it was part of what made me laugh so hard in class. I don't know anyone like Cinderella in real life.
I remember the day we had class outside and discussed the von Franz book, and we all tossed around the "magic carpet" mouse pad (and I got hit in the face with it later on), and Dr. Esa sat on his rug outside and teased the boys about sitting in lawn chairs instead of on the ground. I actually remember the chapter we talked about that day (chapters five and six) more clearly than any other section of that book, just because being outside that day was so memorable.
I don't know how much I've grown as a person in this class, but I do know that I've grown as a literature (and orature!) student, and though I haven't had the chance to test this in an academic setting, I feel like I've become a better storyteller...but I won't know that for a fact until I take my fiction writing class next semester. I think I've grown academically, and I like to think I've grown personally. I like to think I'll go to Kenya next year and explore a culture that, until recently, I didn't even know I was interested in. I don't know. I want to, though. We'll see.