New York and its folklore scholars hold an important place in the history of the discipline. In New York dialogue between folklore researchers in the academy and those working in the public arena has been highly productive. In this volume, the works of New York's academic and public folklorists are presented together.
Unlike some folklore anthologies, New York State Folklife Reader does not follow an organizational plan based on regions or genres. Because the New York Folklore Society has always tried to “give folklore back to the people,” the editors decided to divide the edited volume into sections about life processes that all New York state residents share. The book begins with five essays on various aspects of folk cultural memory: personal, family, community, and historical processes of remembrance expressed through narrative, ritual, and other forms of folklore. Following these essays, subsequent sections explore aspects of life in New York through the lens of Play, Work, Resistance, and Food.
Both the New York Folklore Society and its journal were, as society cofounder Louis Jones explained, “intended to reach not just the professional folklorists but those of the general public who were interested in the oral traditions of the State.” Written in an accessible and readable style, this volume offers a glimpse into New York State's rich cultural diversity.
Joining a bookshelf of recent state folklife readers for Florida (The Florida Folklife Reader, 2011), Tennessee (A Tennessee Folklore Sampler, 2009), and Wisconsin (Wisconsin Folklore, 1999), this volume underscores the variety of forms as well as groups in New York's culture. It emphasizes folklife as a living tradition of relevance to society and politics. By raising intriguing questions about the meaning of expressive traditions within the context of place, the New York State reader should be of interest well beyond the state's borders.
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