Surviving Folklore: Transnational Irish Folk Traditions and the Politics of Genre Open Access

Kader, Emily Love (2011)

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Surviving Folklore:
Transnational Irish Folk Traditions and the Politics of Genre
By Emily Kader
"Surviving Folklore" approaches the Irish and Appalachian oral traditions from a
transnational perspective and critiques the nationalist rhetoric that has accompanied
major folklore collections of both traditions. My work contends that oral traditions are
capricious, interconnected, and inherently mobile phenomena that resist political,
cultural, and religious borders and mores. While this project focuses on transnational,
English-language folklore from Ireland, it also bridges various academic disciplines
(including literature, folklore, history, cultural studies, and anthropology) and connects
recent scholarship on the Celtic Revival with contemporary American cultural theory.

My project approaches five major folklore collections from Ireland and Appalachia:
W. B. Yeats's The Celtic Twilight, J. M. Synge's The Aran Islands, Lady Gregory's
Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland, Cecil Sharp's English Folk Songs from the
Southern Appalachians, and Richard Chase's The Jack Tales. What connects these
collections is that each collector (with the exception of Synge) attempts to circumscribe
the oral traditions included within a nationalist framework-that is, they claim that the
folklore they publish belongs to and represents the essence of their nation and that the
people from whom have they collected represent a racially pure national demographic.
By investigating the connections between the Irish and Appalachian oral traditions, I
reveal the political motivations behind these desires for nationally pure folklores as well
as the inherent hybridity and transnational migration of both Irish and Appalachian oral
traditions. In order to reveal the hybridity and migration of Irish populations and the folk
traditions they carried, I investigate various Irish groups, including the supposedly pure
populations of the western Irish coast, the ambiguously Irish Ulster Scots immigrants of
the eighteenth century, the largely forgotten Irish Catholic immigrants of the seventeenth
century, and the oft-maligned populations of nomadic Irish Travellers. I argue that these
oral traditions were transmitted via migrant Irish populations, a fact that has been largely
overlooked by both Irish and American scholars.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Transnational Traditions and the Politics of Nationalism 1

Chapter 1
W. B. Yeats and "the commonwealth of faery" 19

Chapter 2
Revising the Folk:
J. M. Synge, Lady Augusta Gregory, and the International Tale 62

Chapter 3
Irish Folk Songs in "Anglo-Saxon" Appalachia 119

Chapter 4
Jack in Ireland:
The International Tale at Home and Abroad 186

Reinventing Ireland Globally through a Local Lens 250

Works Cited 257

Non-Printed Sources Cited 271

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