Humanities (HUMN) 421

The First Folksong Revival, 1723-1940 (Revision 2)

HUMN 421 course cover image

Permanently closed, effective June 6, 2017.

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Delivery Mode: Individualized study

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Reading course - Humanities

Prerequisite: None. Students are strongly advised to take an introductory course in popular music before registering in this course.

Precluded Course: HUMN 421 is a cross-listed course—a course listed under 2 different disciplines—with MUSI 421. HUMN 421 may not be taken for credit by students who have obtained credit for MUSI 421 or HUMN 422.

Faculty: Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

Humanities Home Page

HUMN 421 has a Challenge for Credit option.


HUMN/MUSI 421: The First Folksong Revival, 1723-1940 is an interdisciplinary course that draws principally on the academic disciplines of ethnomusicology, folklore, and cultural history, while also taking into account perspectives from scholars working in cultural studies, ballad studies, and musicology.

The course will give students a good understanding of the gradual rediscovery of British vernacular music before World War I, and of the spread of the folksong revival to North America (both Canada and the USA) during the interwar decades. After an initial brief survey of ballad and song collecting during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the course focuses on the emergence and development of the first folksong revival during the nineteenth century. By the 1890s an organized movement to collect, edit and publish vernacular songs had emerged in Britain, and the Edwardian era saw this further develop and flourish. While the Great War temporarily devastated the English movement, the collecting work of Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles in the Appalachian mountains stimulated a similar movement in North America. While Britain in the 1920s and 1930s is not neglected, the main thrust of the last third of the course is on folksong and ballad collecting in Newfoundland, Canada and the eastern and southern USA.


Humanities 421: The course is divided into the following thirteen units:

  • Unit 1: Beginnings: Antiquarians and Romantics
  • Unit 2: The Early Nineteenth Century
  • Unit 3: The Mid-Victorian Era: Ballads and Regional Song
  • Unit 4: The Late Victorian Rediscovery of Melody
  • Unit 5: Growth of a Movement
  • Unit 6: The 1890s and the Folk Song Society
  • Unit 7: The Edwardian Era and Cecil Sharp
  • Unit 8: Composers and English Folksong
  • Unit 9: War Years in Britain and the USA
  • Unit 10:  Britain in the 1920s and early 1930s
  • Unit 11: Across the Atlantic: Newfoundland and Canada between the Wars
  • Unit12: Across the Atlantic: the USA in the 1920s
  • Unit 13: Transitions: Origins of the Post-war Revival

Students are required to complete mandatory reading assignments for each of these units, as detailed in the course Study Guide. Taken from the course textbooks and from online articles available in the course Digital Reading Room, these assignments provide the information required to make discussion board posts, solve crossword puzzles, and create a timeline of the important developments that occurred between 1723 and 1940.  The Study Guide also provides a detailed introduction to th subject matter of each unit of the course, as well as recommended additional readings. They indicate the most important primary sources (published and manuscript collections) by the important collector(s) in a given era and region. They also contain scholarly articles of particular value, and will be of considerable use for essay research. The Study Guide includes a selected bibliography.


Students are evaluated by means of ten discussion-board posts, ten crossword puzzles, a timeline, two research essays, and a final examination. The research essays are 5,000 words in length, and students are expected to go beyond the course materials and make extensive use of online and print resources in the Athabasca University Library or other university libraries to which they have access. The breakdown of marks is as follows:

Discussion board posts 10%
Crossword puzzles: 10%
Timeline: 10%
Research Essay 1: 20%
Research Essay 2: 20%
Final Examination: 30%

The final examination for this course must be taken online with an AU-approved exam invigilator at an approved invigilation centre. It is your responsibility to ensure your chosen invigilation centre can accommodate online exams. For a list of invigilators who can accommodate online exams, visit the Exam Invigilation Network.

To learn more about assignments and examinations, please refer to Athabasca University's online Calendar.

Course Materials


Gregory, E. David. The Late Victorian Folksong Revival in England: The Persistence of Melody, 1878-1903.  Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2010.

Gregory, E. David. Victorian Songhunters: The Recovery and Editing of English Vernacular Ballads and Folk Lyrics, 1820-1883.  Lanham, MD & Oxford, U.K.: Scarecrow Press, 2006.

Karpeles, Maud.  Cecil Sharp: His Life and Works. London: Faber & Faber, 2008. 

Other Materials

Study Guide

Gregory, E. David. Study Guide for HUMN/MUSI 421 – online in Moodle.  A print copy may be requested from the Course Materials department.

Online Reading Assignments

In addition to the course textbooks, there are many reading assignments indicated in the various units of the Study Guide. These are full-text, online articles that may be found in the Athabasca University’s Digital Reading Room (DRR) for the course. They are available through digital databases to which the Library subscribes. You may also find them online through other University libraries.

Challenge for Credit Course Overview

The Challenge for Credit process allows students to demonstrate that they have acquired a command of the general subject matter, knowledge, intellectual and/or other skills that would normally be found in a university level course.

Full information for the Challenge for Credit can be found in the Undergraduate Calendar.

Challenge Evaluation

To receive credit for the HUMN 421 challenge registration, you must achieve a grade of at least “D” (50 percent) on the entire challenge examination.

Part I: Exam Part II: Exam Total
50% 50% 100%

Undergraduate Challenge for Credit Course Registration Form

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened in Revision 2, October 6 2016.

View previous syllabus

Updated June 06 2017 by Student & Academic Services