Memetics and Folkloristics

Oring, Elliott
September 2014
Western Folklore;Fall2014, Vol. 73 Issue 4, p432
Academic Journal
Richard Dawkins first defined the meme in his book The Selfish Gene in 1976. He suggested that the meme was the cultural equivalent of the gene--a replicator--that was subject to the forces of natural selection. The evolution of culture, consequently, could be explained in Darwinian terms. Within a short period of time a substantial literature on memetics--the science of memes--was produced expanding upon and refining Dawkins' insights. This essay reviews memetics, identifies some problems resident in the theory, and suggests what would need to be done before it can profitably be applied to explain folklore or the evolution of culture more generally.


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