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Social Science Customs & Traditions

Quest of the Folk

Antimodernism and Cultural Selection in Twentieth-Century Nova Scotia

by (author) Ian McKay

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Sep 1994
Customs & Traditions
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    Publish Date
    Sep 1994
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The use and abuse of the idea of the "Simple Life" in tourism promotion and the massive dissemination of folk images are analysed in depth. McKay examines how Nova Scotia's cultural history was rewritten to erase evidence of an urban, capitalist society, of class and ethnic differences, and of women's emancipation. 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. McKay also looks at the infusion of the folk ideology into the art and literature of the region.

McKay puts the folk concept into contemporary and international contexts by drawing on Marxist notions of political economy, Gramscian models of cultural production and hegemony, and Foucaultian structuralism. The Quest of the Folk will be of interest to folklorists, cultural historians, literary scholars, and anyone with an interest in the local history of the Maritimes or Maritime regional identity.

About the author

IAN McKAY is a Halifax historian. He has an M.A. in history from the University of Warrick in England, and a PhD from Dalhousie University. He is the author of the seminal study The Quest of the Folk: Antimodernism and Cultural Selection in Twentienth-Century Nova Scotia (1994).

Ian McKay's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"A compelling and innovative book .... McKay writes with a felicitous style, and his penetrating and hard-nosed critical stance promises to make this one of the more controversial works to emerge in Canadian history in recent years, particularly as it relates to the careers of the demigods of Nova Scotia's folk essence, Helen Creighton and Mary Black." Colin Howell, Department of History, St Mary's University.
"A magnificent piece of analysis bristling with insights. The Quest of the Folk is some of the best cultural history that has been produced in this country." Keith Walden, Department of History, Trent University.

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