Irish American Folklore in New England

By Buccitelli, Anthony Bak | Western Folklore, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview

Irish American Folklore in New England


Buccitelli, Anthony Bak, Western Folklore


Irish American Folklore in New England. By E. Moore Quinn. (Bethesda, Dublin, and Palo Alto: Academia Press, 2009. Pp. x +430, acknowledgments, bibliography, index. $79.95 cloth.)

In Quinn's account, the research for Irish American Folklore in New England began with a question she was asked by an Irish American man about the meaning of the Irish term Crúiscín lán [filled jug] , which the man had heard but never understood in a song that his father had sung to him as a child. This anecdote is, in many ways, an apt metaphor for Quinn's project: she seeks to bring her expertise as a scholar of Irish language and culture to Irish Americans, many of whom "remembered certain words and phrases despite the fact that they had little or no idea as to what they meant" (1).

Thus, in her fifteen chapters, Quinn provides a general introduction to Irish language, Irish American social history with a particular emphasis on the major first waves of immigration in the nineteenth century, and a wide variety of Irish American traditional materials. These traditional materials include: proverbs, "idioms and customary sayings," foodways, naming traditions, children's lore, folk beliefs, calendar customs, music, rhyme, cursing traditions, and traditional recitations like blessings, toasts, and prayers.

To some degree, Quinn's overarching methodology in this work follows the one laid out by Richard Dorson in his early writings on the historical study of folklore: to use folklore as a tool for determining "attitudes, prejudices, and stereotypes as well as for supplying information about national myths, images, and symbols" (Dorson cited in Quinn 2009, 11). Her data was gathered through a mixture of mailed questionnaires to Irish Americans, "informal" interviews with Irish American seniors at various community centers, and the collection of a variety of "press releases, community notices, and invitations for information sent to public communication oudets like radio stations and newspapers" (2).

Unfortunately, however, Quinn's work suffers from a number of methodological problems that compromise some of its value. For instance, beginning with her opening anecdote, it seems that Quinn's conception of Irish American folklore largely consists of the vanishing remnants of pre-Famine, or at least pre-migration, Irish traditional culture that has been preserved in fossilized form among an Irish American population that she feels does not have an accurate understanding of its "real" meaning (1-2). Thus, she often uses material collected from largely second or third generation Irish Americans as a primary source for a reconstruction of die historical experience of first-generation, nineteenth-century Irish immigrants and then simply corroborates their accounts with various collections of Irish folklore from different periods. She argues, for example, that:

The Irish language itself functioned as a sort of mysterious entrance to another world for informants and interviewees. Like crúiscín lán, the placename acquired a sort of sacred meaning also . . . although its "true meaning" may not have been preserved for immigrants' children, . . . some aspect of die "lore" of the place, what the Irish call dinnsheanchas, remained, ultimately forming part of die "lure" of die ancient past. . . . Remembrances of dinnsheanchas [place lore] and/or fragments of die Irish language provided groundings for Irish immigrants. (8-9)

In addition to Quinn's consistent use of romantic, value-laden terms such as "ancient past," "sacred," or "mysterious" to construct an ethereal quality for Irish American identity, passages such as this actively collapse die sense of historicity in her discussion. While she begins with her contemporary informants, she slides quickly back to a discussion of "Irish immigrants," drawing a fairly direct line between the "fragments" of place lore or Irish language that her contemporary informants recalled and the "grounding" of the immigrants tiiemselves. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Irish American Folklore in New England
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.