Katherine Jackson French: Kentucky's Forgotten Ballad Collector

Katherine Jackson French: Kentucky's Forgotten Ballad Collector

by Elizabeth DiSavino


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The second woman to earn a PhD from Columbia University — and the first from south of the Mason-Dixon Line to do so — Kentucky native Katherine Jackson French broke boundaries. Her research kick-started a resurgence of Appalachian music that continues to this day, but French's collection of traditional Kentucky ballads, which should have been her crowning scholarly achievement, never saw print. Academic rivalries, gender prejudice, and broken promises set against a thirty-year feud known as the Ballad Wars denied French her place in history and left the field to northerner Olive Dame Campbell and English folklorist Cecil Sharp, setting Appalachian studies on a foundation marred by stereotypes and misconceptions.

Katherine Jackson French: Kentucky's Forgotten Ballad Collector tells the story of what might have been. Drawing on never-before-seen artifacts from French's granddaughter, Elizabeth DiSavino reclaims the life and legacy of this pivotal scholar by emphasizing the ways her work shaped and could reshape our conceptions about Appalachia. In contrast to the collection published by Campbell and Sharp, French's ballads elevate the status of women, give testimony to the complexity of balladry's ethnic roots and influences, and reveal more complex local dialects. Had French published her work in 1910, stereotypes about Appalachian ignorance, misogyny, and homogeneity may have diminished long ago. Included in this book is the first-ever publication of Katherine Jackson French's English-Scottish Ballads from the Hills of Kentucky.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813178523
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Publication date: 05/19/2020
Pages: 274
Sales rank: 395,487
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Elizabeth DiSavino is assistant professor of music at Berea College. She has presented at the Appalachian Studies Association conference and was selected as a spoken word winner for the Women of Appalachia Project. Her work has been published in the Paterson Literary Review, and she has received grants from the Hutchins Library Sound Archives and the Kentucky Foundation for Women.

Table of Contents

The Strength and Sap of the Stock
Young Lady from London
Act Two
A Fortnight of Balladry
Berea Beloved
A Comparison of the ballads of Katherine Jackson and Olive Dame Campbell/Cecil Sharp

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"DiSavino's wealth of research contributes to an understanding of the cultural and historical life of our nation, glimpsed through the window of our national song as recorded by Dr. Katherine Jackson French's keen ear and discerning intellect." — Ron Pen, director emeritus of the John Jacob Niles Center for American Music and author of I Wonder as I Wander: The Life of John Jacob Niles

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