Though study of American Indian cultures had been fostered for several centuries by missionaries and explorers, it was not until he nineteenth century that a disciplined and systematic approach to the study of New World cultures began to emerge. With Schoolcraft, Powell, Boas, and others, an adventurers’ avocation first became a profession, and it is to these early scholars that we owe the major theoretical perspectives and insights which provided a grounding for American anthropology and folklore studies.
In these twenty-one essays, many of which originally appeared in such now obscure periodicals as Southern Literary Messenger, American Whig Review, and DeLestry’s Western Magazine, Clements presents representative works by most of the major early figures in the field. The collection includes early statements and applications of most of the theoretical approaches to folklore employed in the nineteenth century, and it encompasses each of the major folklore genres studied by nineteenth-century researchers.
Extensive headnotes to each essay provide information about the author, discussion of the theoretical context of each essay, and direction to more contemporary treatments of the theories and materials involved, and the problems addressed. These together with a brief introduction tracing the genesis of American folklore studies, and chronological arrangement of the articles themselves, make Native American Folklore a convenient introduction to and survey of the major ideas and figures of American folklore studies in its formative period.