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Life Is Like a Chicken Coop Ladder: A Study of German National Character Through Folklore

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Life Is Like a Chicken Coop Ladder was first published in 1984 and from the outset inspired a wide variety of reactions ranging from high praise to utter disgust. Alan Dundes' theses identifies a strong anal erotic element in German national character, citing numerous examples of scatological data from authentic compilations of German folklore. The examination of this sing Life Is Like a Chicken Coop Ladder was first published in 1984 and from the outset inspired a wide variety of reactions ranging from high praise to utter disgust. Alan Dundes' theses identifies a strong anal erotic element in German national character, citing numerous examples of scatological data from authentic compilations of German folklore. The examination of this single trait of German character is used to demonstrate that national character exists and that its existence is unambiguously documented by the folklore of a nation. Dundes is of the opinion that the use of folkloristic data minimizes subjective bias in the study of national character, since unedited or uncensored, it constitutes a unique way of looking at a culture from the inside-out rather than from the outside-in, the more typical situation of an outside observer trying to understand a foreign culture.


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Life Is Like a Chicken Coop Ladder was first published in 1984 and from the outset inspired a wide variety of reactions ranging from high praise to utter disgust. Alan Dundes' theses identifies a strong anal erotic element in German national character, citing numerous examples of scatological data from authentic compilations of German folklore. The examination of this sing Life Is Like a Chicken Coop Ladder was first published in 1984 and from the outset inspired a wide variety of reactions ranging from high praise to utter disgust. Alan Dundes' theses identifies a strong anal erotic element in German national character, citing numerous examples of scatological data from authentic compilations of German folklore. The examination of this single trait of German character is used to demonstrate that national character exists and that its existence is unambiguously documented by the folklore of a nation. Dundes is of the opinion that the use of folkloristic data minimizes subjective bias in the study of national character, since unedited or uncensored, it constitutes a unique way of looking at a culture from the inside-out rather than from the outside-in, the more typical situation of an outside observer trying to understand a foreign culture.

30 review for Life Is Like a Chicken Coop Ladder: A Study of German National Character Through Folklore

  1. 5 out of 5

    Manybooks

    Considering that I have only read Alan Dundes' Life is Like a Chicken Coop Ladder in its actual entirety but once, in 1987 (as a university library book), I realise that I should probably be completely rereading before posting a review. However, I simply neither have the time nor the desire to engage in a detailed reread, as while I do not remember all of the specific details of Life is Like a Chicken Coop Ladder, I do indeed and well remember the basic themes and assertions claimed by the autho Considering that I have only read Alan Dundes' Life is Like a Chicken Coop Ladder in its actual entirety but once, in 1987 (as a university library book), I realise that I should probably be completely rereading before posting a review. However, I simply neither have the time nor the desire to engage in a detailed reread, as while I do not remember all of the specific details of Life is Like a Chicken Coop Ladder, I do indeed and well remember the basic themes and assertions claimed by the author and how much they bothered me as an undergraduate university student of German and French, and as a person of German background (that Germany, that the Germans, that even the German language is according to Professor Dundes inherently scatalogical, is in many ways a "shit" metaphor and that even Nazism and the horrors of the Holocaust can be somehow be linked to and explained because Germans are supposedly, generally as a people, as a nation, entranced and enchanted with and by anality, with and by excrement, flatulence and the like). Now granted, much of the included information and examples featured in Life is Like a Chicken Coop Ladder are indeed interesting, and even at times rather humorously so. However, if Alan Dundes truly believes that anality, that an at times obsession with the scatalogical is somehow only a mainly German "thing" he has obviously NOT done enough comparative and especially linguistically based research of other European cultures and languages (because MANY of the same scatalogical and excrement smeared allusions, idiotmatic expressions, vocabulary choices and especially with regard to the vernacular also do tend to exist in equal numbers in languages like Dutch, French and yes, even English, and that in the Black Forest most rural properties would have large manure piles, something that I guess flabbergasted Mark Twain during his travels in and through Germany, well, that is simply a necessity of a rural lifestyle, as stables would need to be mucked out and the manure would obviously need to be deposited somewhere close by, often to then be reused as fertilizer, something that is a common feature of rural North America as well, of rural areas and life anywhere, I might add). And thus, while Life is Like a Chicken Coop Ladder does have some interesting tidbits, the general hypothesis considered by the author is not only rather unacademic and one sided (with almost no comparison and real contrast, with no realisation of the universality of anally and scatalogically covered and coloured language and in particular with regard to idiom use), Professor Dundes' insistence that there supposedly is a national character in Germany that is basically scatalogical and excrement obsessed is in my opinion exaggerated and so blatantly wrong, uneducated and naively stereotypical, and in my opinion rather totally anathema to serious university level research and thinking that I can only consider a one star rating at best (and as a German, I not only felt and still do feel rather insulted by this tome, I also would like to point out that MOST of the examples, that MOST of the idioms and anecdotal evidence presented, I was not at ALL familiar with when I signed Life is a Chicken Coop Ladder out from the university library in 1987, and when I asked family members both in Canada and Germany about these according to the author so commonly used idiomatic expressions etc., only very very few were in fact familiar to them, as well as to their friends and even casual acquaintances I might add).

  2. 5 out of 5

    Carl

    I read this for Dundes' lecture course in Folklore, the last semester he taught it before he died. Though it feels excessively Freudian at times, and though his arguments occasionally feel more like a flood of evidence than a carefully plotted defense, I have to admit that he does an excellent job convincing the reader that much of German culture, in folklore and "popular culture" (which is the same thing in an urban setting) may be explained by swaddling techniques, etc. This case study is an e I read this for Dundes' lecture course in Folklore, the last semester he taught it before he died. Though it feels excessively Freudian at times, and though his arguments occasionally feel more like a flood of evidence than a carefully plotted defense, I have to admit that he does an excellent job convincing the reader that much of German culture, in folklore and "popular culture" (which is the same thing in an urban setting) may be explained by swaddling techniques, etc. This case study is an excellent example of the possibility of taking a Freudian approach and adjusting it for the specific cultural situation of the subject-- in other words, Freudians don't necessarily just force the template of the Oedipus complex onto their subject, but instead begin with the same suppositions, that our earliest experiences shape the rest of our lives, then go on to construct a coherent explanation for the present in light of that formative past. This approach is fraught with dangers, of course, but it has much to recommend it in comparison to Jungian psychology, as Dundes would point out, in that Jungian psychology posits universals to which the evidence must be fitted, whereas Freudian psychoanalysis is (theoretically) more elastic. I have to point out that I'm taking this critique of Jung from Dundes himself-- I've only read a bit of Jung, and a little more of Campbell, so apologies if you are Jungian and feel I am completely misrepresenting him! In any case, dinosaur or not, Dundes was a major force in American folklore, and this book is an excellent tour de force of some of his techniques.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Hassan Zakeri

    This book (essay) is apparently written by a prominent folklorist. The controversial nature of the argument presented in this book is related to preconception of the notion of national character (stereotype) and associating this with the act of excretion for Germans. The evidences gathered in this book are impressive (if correct) and the theoretical attempt for explanation is fair, though I leave its assessment to peer-reviewing folks in academia.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Emma Rayward

    I have a number of problems with this book. While his list of sources was impressive and interesting, his argument is fairly unbelievable. He doesn't explain what a 'national character' is, or how it develops. He has a hypocritical stance on it being innate, and being learnt. There is no mention of ideology or discourse which is far more important to the idea of a nation having similar characteristics. Interesting read, but highly problematic. (i'm terrible at writing reviews) but one tiny paragrap I have a number of problems with this book. While his list of sources was impressive and interesting, his argument is fairly unbelievable. He doesn't explain what a 'national character' is, or how it develops. He has a hypocritical stance on it being innate, and being learnt. There is no mention of ideology or discourse which is far more important to the idea of a nation having similar characteristics. Interesting read, but highly problematic. (i'm terrible at writing reviews) but one tiny paragraph worth mentioning is a reference to the german language as a shit metaphor. Something I had not before considered, and possibly the most fascinating part of the book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brad

    While I don't endorse national character as a clearly legible, much less applicable concept, this is one of the great explorations of the scatological. While I don't endorse national character as a clearly legible, much less applicable concept, this is one of the great explorations of the scatological.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Itai Farhi

    A wild exploration of German folklore that convincingly marshals evidence in favor of its central claim (German anal eroticism). Highlights include the discussion of swaddling as the genesis of ‘inwardness’ and the fascinating connections between anality and Nazism.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Russell Anderson

    Perhaps the weirdest, most audacious academic book ever. Laugh out loud funny tidbits, supporting his Freudian thesis. Complete BS. Joe Bob sez check it out

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    I took Dundes' classes at UC Berkeley and he is truly eminent in his field. National character or worldview certainly exists and Dundes lays out in this book the essence of German worldview. Yes Freud and psychoanalysis are imperfect and sometimes sexist, but this book is right on. I flew to Munich in 2004 and I was telling my German seat neighbor about the book and its thesis that Germans are a little "type a" or obsessed with the scatological, and her response to me? "Amazing...this is exactly I took Dundes' classes at UC Berkeley and he is truly eminent in his field. National character or worldview certainly exists and Dundes lays out in this book the essence of German worldview. Yes Freud and psychoanalysis are imperfect and sometimes sexist, but this book is right on. I flew to Munich in 2004 and I was telling my German seat neighbor about the book and its thesis that Germans are a little "type a" or obsessed with the scatological, and her response to me? "Amazing...this is exactly the truth!" When the plane landed, an African German sitting in the row in front of us angrily told me I was wrong and offensive. Fair. German trains never being late, incredible german engineering - these are not accidental attributes of the German people. It's all connected to their world view and weird toilets and dung heaps and their thousands of proverbs and idioms that are scat intensive. Life is like a chicken coop ladder -- Scheisse ! ! ! ! !

  9. 4 out of 5

    Stuck on Lou

    This book is wonderful. It contains many weird German sayings, poems, riddles, stories, etc about poop that will keep you entertained for hours. And German jokes are so amazingly unfunny. Example: Q: What is the difference between a dog and a printer? A: If one licks a dog in the ass, one must lift its tail, whereas with the printer, that is not the case. The only reason this book doesn't get 5 stars is that it's really gross and sometimes you feel a little sick while reading it. This book is wonderful. It contains many weird German sayings, poems, riddles, stories, etc about poop that will keep you entertained for hours. And German jokes are so amazingly unfunny. Example: Q: What is the difference between a dog and a printer? A: If one licks a dog in the ass, one must lift its tail, whereas with the printer, that is not the case. The only reason this book doesn't get 5 stars is that it's really gross and sometimes you feel a little sick while reading it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I'm experimenting with writing some longer reviews. You can read it here, or go on with your lives: http://fearofwriting.wordpress.com/20... I'm experimenting with writing some longer reviews. You can read it here, or go on with your lives: http://fearofwriting.wordpress.com/20...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Miquela

    Referenced in an article in this month's vf. Sounds just weird enough to be great. Referenced in an article in this month's vf. Sounds just weird enough to be great.

  12. 4 out of 5

    dave dykhouse

    This volume is actually written by Alan Dundes, a noted folklorist.

  13. 4 out of 5

    David Foust

  14. 4 out of 5

    Luke Lozier

  15. 4 out of 5

    Heathensteve

  16. 4 out of 5

    Greg Stillwagon

  17. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Buccitelli

  18. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lin

  20. 4 out of 5

    Herb

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ed Ryan

  22. 5 out of 5

    Abby Hagler

  23. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

  24. 4 out of 5

    LPenting

  25. 5 out of 5

    Salt344

  26. 5 out of 5

    Niral Shah

  27. 4 out of 5

    Brian

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jess

  29. 4 out of 5

    Shane

  30. 4 out of 5

    Calvin Paradise

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