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By Sarah Joanne Davies

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Gammon therefore rejects as untenable an approach which simply uses songs as illustrative examples of actual behaviour, attitudes, and past events. Gammon uses a similar contextual approach to Neilands, in which songs are seen as the first point of reference, whilst the socio-historical environment of their reception is reconstructed around them. All aspects of the songs are then re-examined using information supplied by this contextual framework. Current theories about the actual incidence of premarital sexual encounters in seventeenth-century society are, for example, compared to the frequency of those encounters as depicted in song.

Neilands 3). This approach was flawed, however, as it allowed him to bypass the problems posed by songs which were partially or completely at odds with socio-historical reality, by a process of deselection. Lloyd never resolved this issue and was therefore forced to make some rather improbable suggestions about this "illegitimacy" material. Twenty years after Lloyd, folksong scholarship has expanded, taking root in higher education. Scholars have been able to refine and develop more specialised areas of interest.

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.

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An investigation into attitudes towards illegitimate birth as evidenced in the folklore of South West England by Sarah Joanne Davies


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