Dartmouth Swim Folklore (W18)


Swimming is a popular activity that is prevalent in the lives of many students here at Dartmouth College. From the pinnacles of the Varsity Swim and Dive Team (of which, group member Matthew Luciano is a part of) to the common traditions of swimming in the Connecticut River and completing the Ledyard Challenge, swimming is a ubiquitous part of Dartmouth’s outdoorsy culture, making it the perfect subject for an investigation of folklore. In order to limit our scope to a manageable volume, we decided to focus exclusively on the competitive swim teams here at Dartmouth: the Varsity Swim and Dive Team, as well as the Club Swim Team. This collection contains folklore from both groups, and each item clearly indicates from which group it came, by using the former or later team title in the document.

In order to collect this selection of folklore, we utilized a very thorough methodology which incorporated a wide variety of sources from both teams, including members and coaches. We also polled a geographically diverse set of informants who come from California, New Jersey, Ohio, Connecticut, Canada, and China. We relied almost exclusively on one-on-one interviews, as these intimate, engaged conversations gave us the best opportunity to delve into the nuances of each team member’s conceptions of swim folklore. To record this folklore, we utilized the standard Wilsonian format.

Interestingly, we found a wide variety of different folklore that reflects the rich tapestry of swimming culture at Dartmouth. Some of the folklore we discovered is native to Dartmouth and has become a part of each team member, while other traditions were brought by team members from their homes to Dartmouth, and have been incorporated into the swimming folklore of the school. In terms of types, we found several examples of magic superstition, as well as conversion superstition. In addition, we found several highly interesting rituals that helped teams bond, provided initiation rites for new members, and provided an outlet for stress and tension, allowing these athletes to better focus on their competition. Several of these rituals reflected elements of children’s folklore and psychoanalytical interpretations of folklore, illustrating the liminal stage of college, where high-thinking children and adolescents grow into adults. Lastly, we found numerous myths and legends that help to preserve the rich history and folklore of Dartmouth’s swim teams across several generations. Overall, the rich illustration of swimming folklore presented below represents only a fraction of Dartmouth’s storied repositories of swimming culture and folklore.


Swim Folklore Presentation

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  • Ashwath Srikanth
  • Matthew Luciano

Tags/Keywords: Textual Folklore, Legend, William Bascom, Max Luthi, Swimming, Music Folklore, Draznilka, Material Folklore, Tool, Conceptual Folklore, Conversion Superstition, Contagious Magic, Etiological Myth, Magic Superstition, Practical Magic, Goggles, James Frazer, Markets, Freud, Neuroses, Poly-modal Folklore, Ritual, Body Folklore, Handshake, Miley Cyrus, Chants, Children’s Folklore, Ornament, Flair, Swag, Clothing