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The Folklore Historian

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What role does feminist theory play in American folkloristics, and which versions of feminism have become mainstreamed in the nearly forty years since folklorists first became attuned to the promises and premises of feminism? By attending to these issues, I hope to at least partially answer the question Alan Dundes asked in his 2004 Invited Presidential Plenary Address to the American Folklore Society: "What precisely is the 'theory' in feminist theory?" (2005, 388). In lamenting the lack of grand theory in folkloristics, Dundes remarks, ''Despite the existence of books and articles with 'feminist theory' in their titles, one looks in vain for a serious articulation of what that 'theory' is. The idea that women's voices and women's roles in society have been adversely impacted by male chauvinism and bias is certainly true, but does that truism constitute a proper 'theory'?" (388-89). I believe that Dundes's notion of feminist theory is overly simplistic and that a careful overview of feminism in the academy, and specifically in folkloristic discourse, will not only reveal complexities and nuances within feminist practices but also contribute a necessary historical perspective on the evolution of our discipline.


"Published as: Jeana Jorgensen, 2010. “Political and Theoretical Feminisms in American Folkloristics: Definition Debates, Publication Histories, and the Folklore Feminists Communication.” The Folklore Historian 27, 43-73.. © 2010 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois"