A note from the editor
On time, adaptation and the dynamic impulse
Nothing endures but change.
Folklorists approach the cultural production that is lore as a dialogue between conservative and dynamic impulses.
On one hand, something of proven cultural value may beg to be preserved and passed down in its original form; yet, with the passage of time new contingencies may arise that call for change and adaptation. For example, the basic structure of a folktale type may survive across boundaries of time and geography but adapt to changing sociocultural contexts in the specifics of its treatment in individual tellings.
And so with heritage. Whether tangible or intangible, object or custom, what is deemed worthy of being passed down from one generation to the next will hold onto what identifies it as a unique cultural expression while accommodating the changes that are driven by the passage of time.
Take ASU Tempe’s Secret Garden: Its 80-year-old architecture looks much as it did back in the day. However, the buildings that encircle it house administrative and teaching spaces rather than the dormitories that would have lent the garden an atmosphere of lively spontaneity. It is probably a quieter place today, its visitors in search of a spot to read or nap between classes or gather in small discussion groups. Further, its unique collection of plant life has changed over the years to reflect the diversity of the ASU Arboretum, and stone benches have been supplemented by stainless steel chairs and tables.
In this edition of Accents on English, we include writings that articulate the relationship between heritage and change. You will read how new Department of English faculty and staff function to sustain the unit in the midst of explosive growth; how the humanities is adapting its traditional foci to establish relevance in environmental sciences; how those retiring have left community structures in place to continue good work; how sifting through archives can illuminate the present and future; and more.
We hope you enjoy.
Image: Courtesy photo of Larry Ellis