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"Songs about work include dance tunes, ballads, lyric songs, hymns, laments, versified taunts, political anthems, street cries, and recitations."

What Folksongs Tell Us About Work in Wisconsin

presented by Jim Leary

IMPORTANT NOTE: Jim Leary is fully booked for the rest of the 2018 year.

People have often relied on songs to express their experiences as workers and human beings. Rural and urban, blue collar and white collar, of indigenous and immigrant heritage, Wisconsin’s culturally and linguistically diverse peoples have sung songs while they work. What can we learn about class, culture, and work from these songs? This talk includes historic and contemporary field and studio recordings of Irish and French Canadian lumberjacks, Finnish and Croatian miners, Potawatomi and Norwegian ironworkers, Italian and Mexican farmhands, and Polish and Hmong factory workers to illustrate continuity, change, and commonality in the folksongs of Wisconsin’s workers.


Jim Leary

Jim Leary is a public folklorist from Rice Lake, WI who studies the traditional songs, stories, customary practices, and handwork of indigenous and immigrant peoples in America's Upper Midwest. He co-founded of the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures, a research center committed to the languages and cultures of the region’s diverse peoples. Leary worked on farms and in the woods, tended a press, and did warehouse, janitorial, and foundry work in his teens and twenties before he became a professor of folklore and Scandinavian studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has been involved in numerous museum exhibits, folklife festivals, public radio programs, documentary sound recordings and films. His books include So Ole Says to Lena: Folk Humor of the Upper Midwest and Folksongs of Another America: Field Recordings from the Upper Midwest, 1937-1946.


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