Review of The Polish Peasant in Europe and America


The Polish Peasant in Europe and America. By William I. Thomas and Florian ZnanÝeckÝ. (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1958. Republication of the 2nd edition. Vol. I, pp. xv+1114. Vol. II, pp. vÝ +1117-2250. $12.50 the set.)

Immigration is one of the problem areas outlined by Dorson in "A Theory for American Folklore" (JAF LXXII [1959], 206-8). This re-publication makes available the classic account of the disorganization of the ways of a European folk community under the new American conditions. Of special interest are the discussions of the religious and magical attitudes (pp. 205- 288) and the theoretic and aesthetic interests (pp. 288-303) of the peasant folk community. The chapter on "Form and Function of the Peasant Letter" (pp. 303-315) remains outstanding. These peasant "bowing letters" have a traditional, fixed form, are conceived as a social duty of ceremonial character, and express the persistence of family solidarity despite separation. Since they are written, by individual known authors, with much personal statement, they would seem outside the bounds of folklore in medium, source, and content; but in form and function they seem thoroughly within.


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