Abstract

The conscious choice of an "American Folk Opera" as the subtitle for George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward’s 1935 opera Porgy and Bess reveals much about the interplay of tradition, race, and national identity during the Great Depression. Although the opera’s authentic "folkness" was brought into serious question by such period critics as Virgil Thomson and Hall Johnson, Porgy and Bess did generate a critical debate that propelled the triangulation of folkness, blackness, and Americaness into the national consciousness at a crucial moment when the country was struggling to define who its folk were and how folk heritage(s) could form the foundation of a common American identity.

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