In this innovative study, Gene Bluestein proposes that we revise our ideas about the meaning of folklore in the United States, beginning with our definition of what is "folk" and what is not. To this end, he advances the notion of "poplore" as more accurately reflective of the popular and commercial roots and dynamic, syncretic traditions of American democratic culture.
In making his case, Bluestein closely examines the folk ideology of Johann Gottfried Herder, whose theories of nationalism strongly influenced American scholars from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman to Constance Rourke and Alan Lomax. At the same time, he challenges the idea of "fakelore" popularized by Richard M. Dorson and his followers, a concept that assumes unchanging standards of what is genuinely or purely "folk."
To illuminate the significance of "poplore" in contemporary culture, Bluestein shows how Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Jean Ritchie, and other artists have creatively adapted traditional folk materials in their work. The book also includes interviews with legendary banjo picker and singer Buell Kazee and founder of Folkways Records, Moe Asch.