From Oskar Parish, Småland, to Manistique, Michigan: Placing People and Depicting Places

  • Susanne Nylund Skog Institute for Language and Folklore
Keywords: Story/stories, Emigrant, Folktale, Place, Folklore collection, Archive, Method

Abstract

Karl Gösta Gilstring’s folklore collection is the largest made by a single Nordic researcher in modern times. The basis for the collection was the network of approximately 700 informants with whom Gilstring corresponded. In this article, the empirical focus is on Gilstring’s correspondence during the 1960s with one of the informants, Carl Nelson, living in Manistique, Michigan. In the collection, Carl Nelson represents Oskar Parish, despite the fact that Nelson only lived there until he was seventeen and, in his stories, seldom referred to the parish. What were the ideological and scientific premises for such a connection between a person and a place? How did Carl Nelson depict the places of Gilstring’s interest? The aim of the article is to explore how Carl Nelson depicted places in his stories, as well as to contextualize the stories with an analysis of the ideological and scientific premises of Karl Gösta Gilstring’s collection. In addition, the article aims to highlight and discuss the working method of such an analysis. The article concludes that the reason why Gilstring changed the spatial references of Nelson’s letters, making it seem as if they spoke of Oskar Parish probably had to do with the way his collection was organized. The ideological and scientific premises for the collection required that the customs and traditions of an individual, in order to be understood as such, needed a geographical place of origin. However, the analysis shows that the stories included in Carl Nelson’s letters do not primarily convey traditions and customs from Oskar Parish. Instead, they depict a mythological landscape recreated by the emigrant Carl Nelson in his American home on the outskirts of Manistique, Michigan.

References

Newspapers

Kvällsstunden: Hemmets och familjens veckotidning (1938–): https://kvallsstunden.se, Västerås: Kvällsstunden.
Svenska Amerikanaren Tribunen (1936–1985): http://www.mnhs.org/newspapers/swedishamerican/svenska-tribunen, Chicago, Illinois: Swedish American Newspaper Co.
Vimmerby tidning (1884–): http://www.vimmerbytidning.se/, Vimmerby: Vimmerby tidning.

Archives

The Institute for Language and Folklore, Department of Dialectology and Folklore Research, Uppsala (DFU, former ULMA)

Bd 11 420–22
Recordings with Carl and Hilma Nelson made by Barbro Klein in Nelson’s home in Manistique, Michigan, 12–15 April 1967.

DFU 40 265
Karl Gösta Gilstring’s collection of letters.

DFU 40 265: 282:
1–285 Letters from Carl Nelson to Karl Gösta Gilstring 1960-1969.

DFU 40 265: 282: 3, 14 March 1960.
DFU 40 265: 282: 11, 11 June 1960.
DFU 40 265: 282: 254, 31 May 1967.
DFU 40 265: 282:2 55, 8 June 1967.
DFU 40 265: 282: 280, 30 June 1969.

DFU 40 265: 283
Correspondence between Barbro Klein and Karl Gösta Gilstring 1964–1974.

DFU 40 265: 284
Letters from Karl Gösta Gilstring to Carl Nelson, 1961–1969.

ULMA 34 838
Karl Gösta Gilstring’s folklore collection.

ULMA 34 838: 92
Memories from Oskar Parish.

ULMA 34 838: 92: 1
2,166 excerpts made from Carl Nelson’s letters by Karl Gösta Gilstring.

ULMA 37 313
Summaries of interviews about Karl Gösta Gilstring after his death, made by Eva-Lott Lindqvist 1993.

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Published
2020-05-26
Section
Archive and Methods