Languages: Mixed-languages and “stage dialect” of Germanic, Nordic, and Slavic immigrants to North America
Area of study: folklore, social history, and cultural pluralism of diverse peoples in the Upper Midwest
About: Jim Leary is a folklorist whose ethnographic and historical research concerns the cultural traditions of diverse peoples in America’s Upper Midwest, with a particular emphasis on Germanic, Nordic, and Slavic folklore in the region and in relation to respective Old Country cultural hearths. In addition to publishing books and essays, Leary has worked as a public folklorist since the 1970s, transforming research into a range of publicly accessible, collaborative productions that include folklife festivals, documentary sound recordings, films, public radio programs, museum exhibits, and websites. In 2001 Leary co-founded the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures, and with Joseph Salmons he co-edits the Languages and Folklore of the Upper Midwest series for University of Wisconsin Press. Leary is a fellow of American Folklore Society and of the Wisconsin Academy for Sciences, Arts, and Letters.
Selected Publications and Productions:
Selected Works Encompassing Germanic, Nordic, and Slavic Folklore
2015 Folksongs of Another America: Field Recordings from the Upper Midwest, 1937-1946. Book, 5 CDs, and a film/DVD. Co-publication, University of Wisconsin Press and Dust-to-Digital Records.
2013 “Foreign Words and Folksongs: Field Recordings from America’s Upper Midwest,” special issue, “From Word to Print–and Beyond,” Western Folklore 72:3. Pp. 294-315.
2012 “Accordions and Working-Class Culture along Lake Superior’s South Shore,” in The Accordion in the Americas: Klezmer, Polka, Tango, Zydeco, and More!, ed. Helena Simonett. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Pp. 136-155.
2006 Polkabilly: How the Goose Island Ramblers Redefined American Folk Music. NYC:Oxford University Press.
2004 Down Home Dairyland, co-authored and co-produced with Richard March. Book and 20 CDs based on 40 half-hour radio programs produced for Wisconsin Public Radio. Madison: Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures.
2001 So Ole Says to Lena: Folk Humor of the Upper Midwest. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
1998 Wisconsin Folklore. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
1993 "Farm, Forest and Factory: Songs of Midwestern Labor," co-authored with Richard March, in Songs About Work: Essays in Occupational Culture, ed. Archie Green. Indiana University Folklore Institute Special Publications, No. 3. Pp. 253-286.
1990 Minnesota Polka: Dance Music From Four Traditions, a documentary recording and 20 page booklet. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society.
1990 In Tune With Tradition: Wisconsin Folk Musical Instruments, co-authored with Robert T. Teske. Cedarburg, Wisconsin: Cedarburg Cultural Center; distributed by University of Wisconsin Press.
1987 The Wisconsin Patchwork: A Commentary on Recordings from the Helene Stratman-Thomas Collection of Wisconsin Folk Music. Madison: University of Wisconsin Department of Continuing Education in the Arts.
1987 From Hardanger to Harleys: A Survey of Wisconsin Folk Art, co-authored with Janet C. Gilmore and Robert T. Teske. Sheboygan, Wisconsin: John Michael Kohler Arts Center.
1986 Accordions in the Cutover: Field Recordings of Ethnic Music from Lake Superior’s South Shore. Mount Horeb: Wisconsin Folklife Center. Documentary sound recording.
Selected Works Concerning Germanic Folklore
1991 Yodeling in Dairyland: A History of Swiss Music in Wisconsin. Mount Horeb: Wisconsin Folk Museum.
2010 “Herr Louie, the Weasel, and the Hungry Five: German American Performers on Midwestern Radio,” special issue on “Lied und populäre Kultur/Song and Popular Culture,” Jährbuch, Deutsches Volksliedarchiv 2010. Freiburg, Germany. Pp. 101-133.
2008 “‘The Irish and the Dutch, They Don’t Amount to Much’: Germans and Irish in Wisconsin’s Folk Humor,” in Die deutsche Präsenz in den USA/The German Presence in the USA, ed. Josef Raab and Jan Wirrer. Berlin: Lit Verlag. Pp. 331-355.
2005 Ach Ya!: German American Traditional Music from Wisconsin, CD co-produced with Philip Martin and Lewis Koch. Madison: Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures.
2004 “Dialect Songs Among the Dutch,” Midwestern Folklore 30:1:15-35.
2004 Swissconsin My Homeland. Co-producer, CD and booklet. Madison: Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures.
2002 “The German Concertina in the Upper Midwest," in Land Without Nightengales: Music in the Making of German-America, ed. Philip V. Bohlman and Otto Holzapfel. Madison: Max Kade Institute for German American Studies, distributed by University of Wisconsin Press. Pp. 191-232.
1991 "Dutchman Bands: Genre, Ethnicity, and Pluralism," co-authored with Richard March, in Creative Ethnicity, ed. Stephen Stern and John Allan Cicala. Logan: Utah State University Press. Pp. 22-43.
Selected Works Concerning Nordic Folklore
2012 “‘Ar du Svensk?’ ‘Norsk, Norsk.’: Folk Humor and Cultural Difference in Scandinavian America,” in Swedes and Norwegians and Swedes in the United States: Friends & Neighbors, ed. Philip J. Anderson and Dag Blanck. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press. Pp. 67-84.
2012 “Scandihoovian Space in America’s Upper Midwest: Impersonating Ole and Lena in the Twenty-first Century,” special issue “Nordic Spaces in North America,” American Studies in Scandinavia 44:1. Pp. 6-32.
2010 “‘Yksi Suuri Union’: Field Recordings of Finnish American IWW Songs,” Journal of Finnish Studies 14:1. Pp. 6-17.
2009 “New Legends in Nordic America: The Case of Big Erick Erickson,” Arv, Nordic Yearbook of Folklore 65. Pp. 111-129.
2008 “Carl Gundersen’s Trip to the Lumbercamp,” in The Nordic Storyteller: A Festschrift for Niels Ingwersen, ed. Thomas DuBois and Susan Brantly. Cambridge, England: Scholar’s Publishing. Pp. 79-104.
2005 “Storviken in the Old World and the New,” Journal of American Folklore 118:468:141-163.
2001 “The Discovery of Finnish American Folk Music,” Scandinavian Folklore, a special issue of Scandinavian Studies 73:3:475-492.
1990 "The Legacy of Viola Turpeinen," Finnish Americana 8:6-11; reprinted in The Best of Finnish Americana, ed. Michael Karni. New Brighton, Minnesota: Finnish-American Publications, 1994. Pp. 84-92.
1988 "Reading the 'Newspaper Dress': An Expose of Art Moilanen's Musical Traditions," in Michigan Folklife Reader, ed. C. Kurt Dewhurst and Yvonne Lockwood. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press. Pp. 205-223.
Selected Works Concerning Slavic Folklore
2016 “Czech American Polka Music in Wisconsin,” in The Music of Multicultural America: Performance, Identity, and Community in the United States, ed. Kip Lornell and Anne Rasmussen. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.
2012 “Poles, Jews, and Jokes in America’s Upper Midwest,” Western Folklore 71:3-4. Pp. 213-237.
1987 "Czech Polka Styles in the U.S.: From America's Dairyland to the Lone Star State," in Czech Music in Texas: A Sesquicentennial Symposium, ed. Clinton Machann. College Station, Texas: Komensky Press. Pp. 79-95.
1984 "The Favorite Jokes of Max Trzebiatowski," Western Folklore 43:l:l-l7; reprinted in Humor and the Individual, ed. Elliott Oring. Los Angeles: The California Folklore Society, l984. Pp. l-l7.
1982 "Polish Priests and Tavern Keepers," Midwestern Journal of Language and Folklore 8:1:34-42.
1980 "The 'Polack' Joke in a Polish-American Community," Midwestern Journal of Language and Folklore 6:l-2:26-33.