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Richard Dorson

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Name  Richard Dorson
Role  Author

Richard Dorson newsinfoiuedupublibsimagesusr11375jpg
Died  September 11, 1981, Bloomington, Indiana, United States
Awards  Guggenheim Fellowship for Humanities, US & Canada
Books  Bloodstoppers & Bearwalk, Buying the wind, The British folklorists, Folklore and Fakelore, Folk legends of Japan

Education  Harvard University (1943)

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Richard Mercer Dorson (March 12, 1916 – September 11, 1981) was an American folklorist, author, professor, and director of the Folklore Institute at Indiana University.

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Biography

Dorson was born in New York City. He studied at the Phillips Exeter Academy from 1929 to 1933.

He then went on to Harvard University where he earned his A.B., M.A., in history, and his Ph.D. degree in the History of American Civilization in 1942. He began teaching as an instructor of history at Harvard in 1943. He moved to Michigan State University in 1944 staying there until 1957 when he took a position at Indiana University as professor of history and folklore as well as that of chairman of the Committee on Folklore. While at Indiana University, he also acted for some time as the editor of the Journal of Folklore Research. He taught at Indiana until his death.

When the Indiana University Folklore Institute was established in 1963 Dorson became the first director, and in 1978 he became the first chairman of the Folklore Department.

Dorson has been called the "father of American folklore" and "the dominant force in the study of folklore". That study, according to Dorson, involved several roles; "polemicist, critic, field collector, library scholar". Dorson also wrote that "no subject of study in the United States today [1976] is more misunderstood than folklore".

Dorson contributed two terms to the study of folklore that have gained common currency. The first is "urban legend"; meaning a modern "story which never happened told for true". Dorson also coined the word "fakelore" in a debate with author James Stevens. Dorson dismissed Stevens' book on Paul Bunyan, and the later work of Ben Botkin as fakelore, or "a synthetic product claiming to be authentic oral tradition but actually tailored for mass edification", which "misled and gulled the public". Dorson's fieldwork touched upon African-American folklore in Michigan, folklore of the Upper Peninsula, other regional folklore in the United States, the folklore of Japan, and other topics. Among other academic recognitions, Dorson was awarded the Library of Congress award in History of American Civilization in 1946, and three Guggenheim Fellowships (1949, 1964, and 1971). In 2003, Minnesota State University awarded him their "Heritage Award" posthumously.

References

Richard Dorson Wikipedia


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