Land of the Millrats

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iUniverse, Nov 19, 1999 - Religion - 280 pages
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Most of Richard Dorson's thirty years as a folklorist have been spent collecting tales and legends in the remote backcountry, far from the centers of population. For Land of the Millrats, he extended his search for folk traditions to one of the most heavily industrialized sections of the United States. Can folklore be found, he wondered, in the Calumet Region of northwest Indiana? Does it exist among the steelworkers, ethnic groups, and blacks in Gary, Whiting, East Chicago, and Hammond? In his usual entertaining style, Dorson shows that a rich and varied folklore exists in the region. Although it differs from that of rural people, it is equally vital. Much of this urban lore finds expression in conversational anecdotes and stories that deal with pressing issues: the flight from the inner city, crime in the streets, working conditions in the steel mills, the maintenance of ethnic identity, the place of blacks in a predominantly white society. The folklore reveals strongly held attitudes such as the loathing of industrial work, resistance to assimilation, and black adoption of middle-class-white values. Millworkers and mill executives, housewives, ethnic performers, storekeepers, and preachers tell their stories about the region. The concerns that occupy their minds affect city dwellers throughout the United States. Land of the Millrats, though it depicts a special place, speaks for much of America.

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About the author (1999)

In 1957, Richard M. Dorson replaced Stith Thompson as the head of folklore studies at Indiana University, establishing himself as a major scholar and perhaps the foremost influence in the field. Dorson is often called the father of American folklore. In addition, he is given credit for bringing about an international or cross-cultural approach to the subject. Dorson was editor of the Journal of American Folklore (1959-63), president of the American Folklore Society (1967-68), and author of numerous studies on the subject. His textbook, American Folklore (1959), which employs a historical approach, was the first comprehensive study of the subject. In it he attempted to bring about what he calls a hemispheric theory, wherein the disciplines of both folklore and history are combined, stressing the intimate bonds between the culture of the folk and the history of the American experience. It is still recognized as a classic work.

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