The quest of the folk : antimodernism and cultural selection in twentieth-century Nova Scotia /
Ian McKay.
Montreal : McGill-Queen's University Press, c2009.
xxi, 371 p. : ill. ; 23 cm.
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series title
Montreal : McGill-Queen's University Press, c2009.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1995-04:
In this well-written, thoughtful, and important study, McKay reviews the history of "folk" studies, with its "noble savage" myths of simplicity and innocence, its battles between scholars of the right and left--who appropriated with equal enthusiasm the music, craft, and lore of the "folk." Readers rediscover W. Roy Mackenzie, whose work was eclipsed by others, including the controversial Helen Creighton, whose problematic legacy receives respectful but critical treatment. Although the section on Mary Black and the handicrafts movement is important and interesting, it lacks the weight or passion of the review of Creighton and the folklore movement. Along with a genealogy of Canadian folklorists, their rivalries and dialogues (e.g., Creighton and Edith Fowke), McKay provides a portrait of the marketing of Nova Scotia and the "folk essentialism" that permeates promotional materials and the (related) Creighton opus. The theoretical framework is a neo-Gramscian fusion of Marxian political economy and Foucauldian genealogy, applied with sufficient flexibility to encompass the range of sometimes contradictory observations. Upper-division undergraduates and above. V. Alia; University of Western Ontario
Review Quotes
"Magnificent analysis bristling with insight.The Quest of the Folkis among the best cultural history that has been produced in this country." Keith Walden, Trent University "Seldom do we see intellectual analyses engage as precisely and comprehensively with lived experience as doesThe Quest of the Folk." Dorothy Turner, HNet Reviews "The Quest of the Folkshould appeal to anyone interested in the invention of tradition, and in what McKay calls cultural selection. It is beautifully written and, in terms of its content and interpretation, should serve as a model to cultural historians to set historical figures within the context of their times." Ann McMullen, The Public Historian "McKay's hard-nosed critical stance promises to make this one of the more controversial works in Canadian history, particularly as it relates to the careers of the demigods of Nova Scotia's 'folk essence,' Helen Creighton and Mary Black." Colin Howell, St Mary's University
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Bowker Data Service Summary
Ian McKay shows how the tourism industry & cultural producers have manipulated the cultural identity of Nova Scotia to project traditional folk values. He offers analysis of the infusion of folk ideology into the art & literature of the region, & the use of the idea of the 'simple life' in tourism promotion.
Main Description
The popular conception of Nova Scotians as a pure, simple, idyllic people is false, argues Ian McKay. InThe Quest of the Folkhe shows how the province's tourism industry and cultural producers manipulated and refashioned the cultural identity of the region and its people to project traditional folk values. McKay offers an in-depth analysis of the infusion of a folk ideology into the art and literature of the region and the use of the idea of the "Simple Life" in tourism promotion. He examines how Nova Scotia's cultural history was rewritten to erase evidence of an urban, capitalist society, class and ethnic differences, and women's emancipation. In doing so he sheds new light on the roles of Helen Creighton, the Maritime region's most famous folklorist, and Mary Black, an influential handicrafts revivalist, in creating this false identity.

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