Constance Rourke


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Historian of American culture. Widely interested in native expression in its literary, visual, and popular forms, she conceived a broadly democratic purpose for the arts. Responsive to the value of vernacular and regional forms, she pioneered in discerning an American tradition that encompassed both established arts and popular culture. Her best-known work remains American Humor: A Study of the National Character (1931). Among other books are two on artists: Audubon (1936) and Charles Sheeler: Artist in the American Tradition (1938). Edited by Van Wyck Brooks from an unfinished manuscript, the posthumously published Roots of American Culture (1942) particularly stimulated scholarship in the nascent field of American Studies. Born in Cleveland, Constance Mayfield Rourke grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. After graduating in 1907 from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, she taught elementary school for a year before continuing her studies in Paris and London. From 1910 to 1915 she taught English at Vassar. Thereafter she supported herself principally as a freelance writer. During these years she again made her home in Grand Rapids, where she died.

Subjects: Literature.

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