Folk Nation: Folklore in the Creation of American Tradition / Edition 1

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This lively reader traces the search for American tradition and national identity through folklore and folklife from the 19th century to the present. Through an engaging set of essays, Folk Nation shows how American thinkers and leaders have used folklore to express the meaning of their country. Simon Bronner has carefully selected statements by public intellectuals and popular writers as well as by scholars, all chosen for their readability and significance as provocative texts during their time. The common thread running throughout is the value of folklore in expressing or denying an American national tradition. This text raises timely issues about the character of American culture and the direction of American society. The essays show the development of views of American nationalism, multiculturalism, and commercialism. Provocative topics include debates over the relationship between popular culture and folk culture, the uniqueness of an American literature and arts based on folk sources, the fabrication of folk heroes such as Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan as propaganda for patriotism and nationalism, the romanticizations of vernacular culture by popularizers such as Walt Disney and Ben Botkin, the use of folklore for ethnocentric purposes, and the political deployment of folklore by conservatives as emblems of 'traditional values' and civil virtues and by liberals as emblems of multiculturalism and tolerance of alternative lifestyles. The book also traces the controversy over who conveyed the myth of 'America.' Was it the nation's poets and artists, its academics, its politicians and leaders, its communities and local educational institutions, its theme parks and festivals, its movie moguls and entertainers? Folk Nation shows how the process of defining the American mystique through folklore was at the core of debates among writers and thinkers about the value of Davey Crockett, John Henry, quilts, cowboys, and immigrants as symbols of America.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This straightforward anthology of essays provides an excellent introduction to folklore as an academic discipline. Historic in approach, it focuses on significant eras, from the Gilded Age of the late 19th century to the postmodern, or "teletronic," age. Following an extensive introductory essay, Bronner (American studies and folklore, Pennsylvania State Univ., Harrisburg) presents 17 texts by notable folk scholars, e.g., B.A. Botkin, John Greenway, John Lomax, Richard Dorson, and MacEdward Leach. Informative headnotes precede each selection. A basic reader that includes ancillary text directed to neophytes, this work is not exhaustive, but it does demonstrate the cultural continuity embodied in the American experience as seen through expressions arising from untutored voices and writings. Bronner, the award-winning author of eight previous books, provides a fine bibliography, but the collection would have been greatly enhanced by inclusion of a subject and name index. Recommended for all libraries, as well as folklorists and students of related subjects. Richard K. Burns, MSLS, Hatboro, PA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Bronner (American studies and folklore, Pennsylvania State U.- Harrisburg) explores the intellectual and cultural uses of folkness to cultivate the idea of an American nation and people. After his own 70-page essay, he reprints 17 articles written between 1888 and 1994 by folklorists to demonstrate how notions changed during the century. He does not provide an index. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
Sharon R. Sherman
Folk Nation is well organized and clearly thought out. The selections are especially well chosen and historically significant, and the introduction and the headnotes are engaging.
Joseph Harris
Will be immensely useful to teachers of the theory and history of the discipline and to students of American civilization. Bronner's volume will prove influential in reshaping our understanding of the development of the national aspect of our folk traditions—the point at which the academic disciplines meet the domain of the public intellectual.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Simon J. Bronner is Distinguished Professor of American Studies and Folklore at Penn State Harrisburg.

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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments
In Search of American Tradition 3
1 The Field of American Folklore (1888-89) 79
2 The Black Folklore Movement at Hampton Institute (1893-94) 87
3 Quilts as Emblems of Women's Tradition (1894) 99
4 American Folk Song (1915) 105
5 "American" Folklore (1930) 127
6 American Folklore (1949) 131
7 The Folk Idea in American Life (1930) 145
8 Folk Art: Its Place in the American Tradition (1932) 161
9 Folk Arts: Immigrant Gifts to American Life (1932) 169
10 American Folksongs of Protest (1953) 177
11 Folklore and American Regionalism (1966) 189
12 Border Identity: Culture Conflict and Convergence along the Lower Rio Grande (1978) 199
13 Life Styles and Legends (1971) 215
14 Another America: Toward a Behavioral History Based on Folkloristics (1982) 225
15 American Folklife: A Commonwealth of Cultures (1991) (with text of the Folklife Preservation Act, 1976) 237
16 Folklife in Contemporary Multicultural Society (1990) 249
17 Children and Colors: Folk and Popular Cultures in America's Future (1994) 265
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