'In a Savage State' or 'Original Purity': The Fieldwork Legacy of James Macpherson

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Abstract

Discussions of James Macpherson and his work largely overlook his fieldwork techniques. Drawing on his own writings and the testimonies of his contemporaries, this article examines how motive, expectations, and early collecting work came together to form a pioneering fieldwork methodology for Gaelic culture. Macpherson's initial processing of material is also discussed, raising issues relevant today: the merits of different recording methods, transcription problems, and the processing of material for publication and ethical considerations. This article sidesteps the controversy to look at what Macpherson accomplished 'on the ground' before becoming the most celebrated writer of his day.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)447-463
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of American Folklore
Volume114
Issue number454
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2001

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