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Here for the first time is a history of American folkloristic ideas and the figures who shaped them. Simon Bronner puts these ideas in cultural context, showing the interconnection of folklore studies with historical events, social changes, and intellectual movements. He follows the beginnings of American folklore studies in the antiquarian literature of the 1830s through the rise of folklore societies in the 1880s to the emergence of an independent discipline in the 1950s. In this progression, Bronner identifies several major themes tying folklore studies to intellectual history: first, the unearthing of a hidden, usable past; second, the charting of time and space; and third, the structuring of communication. More than a chronological or biographical history, this book is an interpretation of folkloristic ideas and their relationship to American society.