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Sense Of Place

Sense Of Place: American Regional Cultures

Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 224
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    Sense Of Place
    Book Description:

    Despite the homogenization of American life, areas of strong regional consciousness still persist in the United States, and there is a growing interest in regionalism among the public and among academics. In response to that interest ten folklorists here describe and interpret a variety of American regional cultures in the twentieth century. Their book is the first to deal specifically with regional culture and the first to employ the perspective of folklore in the study of regional identity and consciousness.

    The authors range widely over the United States, from the Eastern Shore to the Pacific Northwest, from the Southern Mountains to the Great Plains. They look at a variety of cultural expressions and practices -- legends, anecdotes, songs, foodways, architecture, and crafts. Tying their work together is a common consideration of how regional culture shapes and is shaped by the consciousness of living in a special place. In exploring this dimension of regional culture the authors consider the influence of natural environment and historical experience on the development of regional culture, the role of ethnicity in regional consciousness, the tensions between insiders and outsiders that stem from a sense of regional identity, and the changes in culture in response to social and economic change.

    With its focus on cultural manifestations and its folkloristic perspective this book provides a fresh and needed contribution to regional studies. Writ¬ten in a clear, readable style, it will appeal to general readers interested in American regions and their cultures. At the same time the research and analytical approach make it useful not only to folklorists but to cultural geographers, anthropologists, and other scholars of regional studies.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5842-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Regional Studies in American Folklore Scholarship
    (pp. 1-13)

    A sense of place, a consciousness of one’s physical surroundings, is a fundamental human experience. It seems to be especially strong where people in a neighborhood, a community, a city, a region, possess a collective awareness of place and express it in their cultural forms. In the United States, this consciousness of place has most often been identified with regions, large and small, within which distinctive cultures have developed. These regional cultures and the regional consciousness that both shapes and is shaped by them are the subject of the essays in this book.

    While regional studies as an interdisciplinary field...

  4. Folklore and Reality in the American West
    (pp. 14-27)

    The title of this essay suggests a kinship between folklore and reality in the West and is not meant to bring up (once again) a contrast or dialectic between “fact” and “fiction” or The Real versus The Fanciful in the American West, even though these terms are sometimes amusing ways of appreciating the creative attempts of writers and scholars to characterize the western experience. Rather, I want to pay serious attention to the ways in which everyday people who live in the West have created a sense of reality out of shared cultural values and have expressed those abstractions in...

  5. Tornado Stories in the Breadbasket: Weather and Regional Identity
    (pp. 28-39)

    “There’s a cyclone coming, Em,” [Henry] called to his wife; “I’ll go look after the stock.” Then he ran toward the sheds where the sows and horses were kept.

    Aunt Em dropped her work and came to the door. One glance told her of the danger close at hand.

    “Quick, Dorothy!” she screamed: “run for the cellar!”¹

    The rest is history. I’ve sometimes wondered how many children’s imaginations, both through book and through film, have been informed by L. Frank Baum’s description of the Kansas tornado that brought Dorothy to the Land of Oz. Other mass media narratives have also...

  6. “One Reason God Made Trees”: The Form and Ecology of the Barnegat Bay Sneakbox
    (pp. 40-57)

    Water is everywhere in southern New Jersey, its comings and goings engendering the rhythm of regional lifeways. In the Pine Barrens, rainfall gathers underground in the Cohansey Aquifer, surfaces in freshwater swamps and feeder streams, and is captured for a while in cranberry reservoirs before coursing its way into saltier waters. Some of it flows out through brackish tidal marshes to the east and south, where it is again detained by muskrat trappers and salt-hay farmers. The interplay of this water system with an ice-age legacy of varied soils and land forms yields a diversity of wetlands, and these wetlands...

  7. Mankind’s Thumb on Nature’s Scale: Trapping and Regional Identity in the Missouri Ozarks
    (pp. 58-73)

    The Current River and its tributary, Jacks Fork, cut a winding path through the heart of the Missouri Ozarks, a region whose men and women have endured and flaunted an image as willful and free-flowing as the streams for the last two hundred years. Within this area of the Ozarks, the history and economy of the people have been bound up with the rivers from the earliest European exploration and settlement. When, in the mid-1980s, the National Park Service was instructed to enforce a ban on fur trapping on the portions of the rivers administered as the Ozark National Scenic...

  8. Regional Consciousness as a Shaper of Local History: Examples from the Eastern Shore
    (pp. 74-87)

    The simple principle thata region’s consciousness of itself defines the regionoffers a sensible and effective means for interpreting local historical events. Regional consciousness bears no necessary relation to artificial administrative lines imposed by governments; for analytical purposes it is just as isolating as occupation, ethnic heritage, age, sex, or any of the factors that come into play when cultural groups identify themselves. It crosses all ethnic, class, and economic lines, and the highly educated are just as much imbued with it as are the unlettered. Regional consciousness is less a matter of geography than it is a state...

  9. Image and Identity in Oregon’s Pioneer Cemeteries
    (pp. 88-102)

    Today’s Pacific Northwest, an area encompassing the states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, in addition to portions of northern California, western Montana, and southern British Columbia, was, prior to the middle years of the nineteenth century, most often known simply as the “Oregon Country.” This vast segment of the North American continent has a rich and varied history which has involved the fortunes of no less than half a dozen nations. Certainly a pivotal event in Pacific Northwest history, however, and the one which was eventually to bring a large portion of this territory under the permanent control of the...

  10. Carbon-Copy Towns? The Regionalization of Ethnic Folklife in Southern Illinois’s Egypt
    (pp. 103-119)

    The place names of Cairo, Karnak, and Thebes evoke images of royal barges drifting past pyramids under a hot desert sun. But these names associated with the nation of Egypt are also known in the American region of Egypt, in extreme southern Illinois. From earliest Anglo-American settlement, America’s Egypt has been recognized as a distinct region. Its uniqueness, enhanced by folklore, made of residents a regional folk group with an identity based on a shared history and expressed through distinct folklife traditions.¹ As Poles, Italians, and Slovakians entered the region in the nineteenth century to mine coal, they gradually adopted...

  11. A Regional Musical Style: The Legacy of Arnold Shultz
    (pp. 120-137)

    While the cultural geographer George Carney’s recent complaint that we know “little or nothing about the stylistic variations of American music” may be well-founded, we know nevertheless that American music is an amalgam of numerous regional styles.¹ Jazz, for example, developed from regional stylistic patterns established in New Orleans, Kansas City, Chicago, the West Coast, and the neighborhood around Fifty-second Street in New York. Stylistic blues regions include the Delta, the East Coast, Chicago, Detroit, and East Texas. Distinctive types of rock-and-roll are associated with Memphis, Detroit, southern California, and Miami. And country-western music calls to mind Appalachia, middle Tennessee,...

  12. Creative Constraints in the Folk Arts of Appalachia
    (pp. 138-151)

    John Kouwenhoven, in theArts in Modern American Civilization, interprets American design as evolving from the experience of surviving in a receding frontier during an age of expanding technology and democracy; that American design leaned toward innovation and utilitarianism was inevitable given these circumstances.¹ Americans who lived without surplus, whose survival was always precarious in an uncertain environment, would seek to combine the artistic with the useful, expressing an economy of time and effort which reinforced an agrarian worldview. Yet folk artists and artisans found themselves bound by other mitigating and unbreakable forces, limited by the vision of those they...

  13. The Genealogical Landscape and the Southern Sense of Place
    (pp. 152-163)

    Southerners’ attachment to home—their sense of place—is perhaps the hallmark of their regional identity. It is attested to in literature and popular culture, from William Faulkner’s focus on his “postage stamp of native soil” to the southern migrant’s musical cry “I wanna go home.” And it manifests itself as well in folk culture, from refusing to sell the old homeplace, even though it stands empty, to having one’s body returned home for burial.¹

    In part, the southern sense of place is constructed, maintained, and articulated in a distinctively regional conversational pattern that emphasizes placing people within a social...

  14. Regional Culture Studies and American Culture Studies
    (pp. 164-183)

    As Barbara Allen’s introductory chapter succinctly outlines and the previous essays attest, the concept of region—the idea that one can observe a relative uniformity of certain cultural attitudes, behaviors, and artifacts in place and time—continues to be a useful explanatory model to students of the American experience (see fig. 1). In this concluding essay, I wish to do several things. I will first sketch a collective portrait of the book’s authors as regionalists. Next I will offer a brief assessment of the shape, substance, and significance of the types of regional-culture studies we find in their ten essays....

  15. Notes
    (pp. 184-211)
  16. Contributors
    (pp. 212-214)