Uncertain Glory: Folklore and the American Revolution

Uncertain Glory: Folklore and the American Revolution

Uncertain Glory: Folklore and the American Revolution

Uncertain Glory: Folklore and the American Revolution

Excerpt

THERE’S NO POINT IN MY WRITING this book on folklore and the American Revolution unless my readers know what folklore is. And I am certain most of them don’t. At least, if my experience at cocktail parties indicates anything, the average “intelligent reader” knows more about his own car than he does about folklore. How many times has a fellow guest asked me what I teach, only to reply when I say folklore, “What kind of folklore? American folklore?”! Alas, it takes me nearly a week of classes to define the word “folklore,” much less the phrase “American folklore,” to my students at Penn, and even then the tests show that I haven’t been particularly successful. I need at least thirty minutes, doing all the talking, and some instinctive comprehension of human nature tells me that people at cocktail parties are summer scholars, sunshine participants, who won’t listen that long. It troubles me. There is seldom need for the lawyer, the chemist, or the orthodontist to define his field in public —in social, as it might better be called. Somewhere, somehow by educational osmosis we learn what those professions cover, or we’re embarrassed to admit we don’t know. But folklore’s different. You never meet anyone who has the foggiest idea of what it is really about.

I am pretty well convinced there are less than 200 people in . . .

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