Anthropology 2201F/G Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Nursery Rhyme, Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, Alligator Pie

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Nursery rhymes are defined both by their formal qualities (they are short, memorable rhymes) and by their audience and function (they are used by parents to lull children to sleep in the nursery). This genre is also defined very broadly to include riddles, tongue-twisters, spells, proverbs, and folklore. What most nursery rhymes have in common is that they are examples of oral literature that have become memorable enough to find their way into our culture. Like the fairy tales, nursery rhymes have their roots in poems not originally composed for children, poems that were part of an oral culture of ballads, proverbs, and old wives" tales. These rhymes were passed down to children because of their usefulness for soothing children to sleep, teaching them to count, etc. Also like the fairy tales, nursery rhymes are the foundation for much later children"s literature, especially the nonsense works of edward lear and lewis carroll.

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