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  • Folklore in Utah: A History and Guide to Resources
  • James Leary
Folklore in Utah: A History and Guide to Resources. Edited by David Stanley . 2004. Logan: Utah State University Press. 360 pages. ISBN: 0874215889 (soft cover).

Book covers, if well-considered, combine words and images succinctly to convey content in both straightforward and allusive fashions. "Folklore [End Page 193] in," and therefore not exclusively of, Utah connotes pluralism, while "A History and Guide to Resources" heralds an interpretive chronology and contemporary handbook. As for images, on the front cover, sandwiched between title and subtitle, Austin Fife adjusts a disc-cutting recorder in 1949 for Mrs. B. Walker, a guitar-wielding singer. The back cover includes an expected summary blurb, alongside a photograph of Mary Holiday Black, a Navajo, at work on a basket. Both images are bordered in white, suggesting photographic paper, snapshot origins, and archival deposition. The images likewise show and signal an inclusive consideration of gender, genre, cultures, field research, and public presentation. In his engagingly thoughtful preface, editor David Stanley elaborates: "Folklore work in Utah has been characterized from the very beginning by a similar breaking down of boundaries," between Mormons and non-Mormon "Gentiles," European and Native Americans, native-born Utahns and recent immigrants, "folk" and folklorists, and academic and public folklorists.

Twenty-six essays in four sections follow. Parts I and II offer an intellectual history of Utah folklorists and folklorists in Utah, beginning with "The First Folklorists," including Austin and Alta Fife, Wayland Hand, and Helen Papanikolas, who pioneered in the study of Greek and other ethnic groups. Subsequently, "The Second and Third Generation of Folklorists" appropriately devotes an essay each to such influential second-generation figures as William A. "Bert" Wilson, Barre Toelken, and Jan Brunvand, followed by a single essay sketching the lives and work of two dozen third-generation folklorists whose ongoing efforts concern the folklore of Mormons, American Indians, cowboys, diverse ethnic groups, and women, as well as the relationship between folklore and education, the environment, and archives. Section III, "Studies in Utah Folklore and Folklife," offers expected critical bibliographic essays on the study of Native American, Mormon, Latino, and ethnic folklore. Perhaps because of a slight tilt toward verbal, musical, and customary folklore, perhaps to emphasize the importance of comparative perspectives, these group-based overviews are augmented by essays on material culture and vernacular architecture. Section IV, devoted to public programs, commences with an astute portrayal of the emergence of public folklore in Utah by Elaine Thatcher that is particularly attentive to folk arts organizations. Six additional tightly-focused exegeses concern the role of the state humanities council, the Utah Folklore Society, and the Fife Folklore Conference, as well as the relationship of folklore to cultural tourism, federal and state parks, and assorted ethnic organizations. Four appendices ably guide readers to Utah's academic folklore programs, folklore archives, relevant museum collections, and community festivals. A bibliography of Utah folklore, listing nearly 1000 entries and accompanied by a comprehensive index, completes the volume. [End Page 194]

Despite the participation of more than thirty contributors, each with their own voice, the essays are uniformly accessible, illuminating, and deeply humanistic, as evidenced by the deft prose portraits and more than sixty photographs of the remarkable people who have sustained and studied folklore in Utah. Beyond its obvious in-state audience, Folklore in Utah should appeal to folklorists compelled by the discipline's history and by the complex ways in which folklore in any given place engages universal issues. And grizzled folklorists recalling Metafolkloristica by the pseudonymous Franz Kinder and Boaz the Clown (who I suspect had a hand in this volume) will relish the jocular disciplinary reflexivity of awkward hulu dancing by David Stanley, Barre Toelken, Hal Cannon, and Steve Siporin, or of the legendary nocturnal scaling of Logan's River Heights bluff by David Hufford and Roger Welsch long before the advent of Polygamous Porter. All things considered, it is difficult to imagine a more ambitious, admirable, and authoritative volume devoted to folklore in an American state.

James Leary
University of Wisconsin


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