David J. Puglia
PhD Candidate and Lecturer
The Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg
Where do you currently work?
I'm currently a doctoral candidate and lecturer in American Studies at Penn State Harrisburg. Since leaving WKU, I've also worked for the National Park Service, for Penn State's Archives and Special Collections, and for several folklife festivals in Maryland and Washington, DC. I am the vice president of the Middle Atlantic Folklife Association, the Senior Convener of NewFolk@AFS, and on the editorial board of New Directions in Folklore.
Tell me a bit about your career?
I teach two folklore courses in the American Studies department at Penn State Harrisburg: "Introduction to American Folklore" and "American Popular Culture and Folklife." The former is similar to WKU's "Introduction to Folk Studies," and the latter is similar to WKU's "Folklore and the Mass Media." Both courses focus on the centrality of folk culture in contemporary American life.
Last year my big project was researching the origin and dissemination of a local Maryland legend known as "The Goatman." The essay "Getting Maryland's Goat: Origin, Dissemination, and Meaning of Prince George's County's Goatman" explored the relationship between folklife archives, local and regional newspapers, and oral tradition. The final piece won the Dr. David Buchan Student Essay Prize from the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research and will be published in the 2012 issue of Contemporary Legend.
I'm currently working on several research projects. My dissertation is titled "The Brick-End Barn: Agrarian Palaces on the Pennsylvania Landscape" and focuses on the unique nineteenth century brick-end Pennsylvania bank barns found only in South Central Pennsylvania and Northern Maryland. My fieldwork has sent me on treasure hunts through the many lush back roads of Pennsylvania Dutch country. As a side project, I have been collecting and analyzing the tantalizing local legends of South Central Pennsylvania. The History Press will release the outcome of this work in a book titled South Central Pennsylvania Legends and Lore in 2012.
How has folklore prepared you for your career?
First and foremost, while at WKU I didn't just study folklore; I became a folklorist. This strong disciplinary identity has been the cornerstone of all of my subsequent work. The broad and well-conceived curriculum and assortment of senior faculty with a variety of research and teaching interests instilled in me the knowledge and confidence necessary to bring the study of folklore to the next generation of students.
In an otherwise unruly interdisciplinary "discipline" known as American Studies, being a folklorist first has given me the identity I need to make my own contribution to the study of American culture. Acknowledging folkways as important is a step unto itself—a step most will never take—and has opened possibilities for new insights into American culture. Studying folklore forced me to hone the well-worn tools of the folklorist's trade: ethnography, tape-recorded interviews, and archives. Together this training has prepared me for a future dedicated to the study of American folklore and folklife.
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