- Reviewed by
This book is a Festschrift put together to form a tribute volume to the highly respected scholar Henry Glassie on the occasion of his recent retirement from serving as Professor of Folklore at Indiana University in Bloomington. Known for his work in folk art, folklife, vernacular architecture, and material culture, Glassie has published significant books on the folklore of not only the United States, but also Ireland, Turkey, and Bangladesh. Glassie received his BA from Tulane University in 1964, and his MA from the Cooperstown Graduate Program of the State University of New York in 1965. On the Cooperstown website we are told: “For over forty-five years, Henry Glassie has been the foremost folklorist in the United States.” He received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1969. Glassie was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 1972. Four years later, in 1976, Glassie replaced Kenneth Goldstein as Chair of the Program of Folklore and Folklife at the University of Pennsylvania. A former president of the American Folklore Society, Glassie was nominated to the National Endowment for the Humanities by President Bill Clinton in 2001.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the editors—Cashman, Mould, and Shukla—for assembling 26 original essays by Glassie’s colleagues and former doctoral students. The resulting volume is a significant contribution to the field as well as a useful tool for teaching and research. There is a great deal of thankless and behind-the-scenes work that goes into editing these kinds of well-conceived collections. The editors must produce guidelines, outlining everything the contributors need to know. Then they must hound the contributors to get the work in on time. Once the manuscripts are received, they must be edited and proofread. Typos and errors must be fixed. Pictures and captions must match, and pictures should appear in the right places. Credit should also be given to Indiana University Press for having the courage to publish a massive volume of more than five hundred pages for a rather specialized audience.
This book has a three-part structure. It begins with an introduction by the editors, who explain the relationship between the individual and tradition, setting the tone for the individual essays that follow. The middle part consists of over two dozen essays. By my count, they are rather evenly divided between 14 dealing with verbal folklore and 12 dealing with material culture. The essays on verbal folklore include the topics of storytelling, legends, fairy tales, jokes, myths, lullabies, and folk drama. The essays on material culture deal with pottery, stone carving, boat building, tile making, decoy carving, and rug making. The book concludes with a laudatory summary of Henry Glassie’s professional life.
The introduction to this book grapples with the fundamental concepts of the individual and tradition. This intersection is so basic to the study of folklore that we tend to take it for granted. Consequently, it is good to take a fresh look at our understanding of this central concept in folklore. The editors require us to examine: What is tradition and how do individuals engage with it? The editors tease out the deeper meanings of tradition and individualism as well as their mutual relationship. They have assembled a remarkable collection of essays that pursue this notion. The list of contributors is a virtual who’s who in contemporary folklore scholarship. Regarding these essays, the editors argue that “[e] ach one expands our understanding of the relationship between the individual and tradition through case studies that bring us into close encounters with skilled and talented individuals from around the world” (p. 15).
The heart of this book is made up of the individual essays, bookended by the introduction at the front end and the concluding chapter, a summary, and an appreciation of Henry Glassie’s life and work. It is important to point out that the collected articles are not just...