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By Sarah Joanne Davies
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Additional info for An investigation into attitudes towards illegitimate birth as evidenced in the folklore of South West England
The more specific site of struggle is, however, the body of the rural female labourer. Preston posits a rather extreme view in this respect, in likening the unifying force of singing such songs to an act of group sex. In the absence of any other explanation Preston proposes that female singers' and audiences' participation "in the predominantly male bawdy song tradition" could be a measure of the extent to which "representation defines reality" (338). This explanation seems implausible, however, because it vastly underestimates the complexities of performance and casts female singers and audience members in an excessively passive role.
Whilst methodological approaches in relation to song can be transferable, findings in relation to a particular collection of material relating to a specific socio-historical context, such as nineteenth-century Scotland, are not. Scholars such as Kodish (see below) have already demonstrated that singing traditions are in a sense unique because they tend to adapt and incorporate aspects of their socio-historical environments. Stewart seems reluctant to acknowledge the arbitrary nature of her system of categorisation.
This is largely because they transmit the same, rather than different, classificatory systems (237). 27 The above theory tends to attribute a dual action to these songs. Whilst on the one hand they appear merely to describe the "real world", they also partially construct it. This is because cultural constructs, such as gender difference, even when subverted, are represented in such a way as to pass as part of a "natural" order and therefore go unquestioned. Gammon comments: In general I think the most significant thing about the songs under discussion was that they were workings upon reality.