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Program Overview and Requirements

The Folklore Program offers a master’s degree in American Studies with a specialization in Folklore under the aegis of the Department of English. Students work closely with both the American Studies Program and the English Department. Students are required to complete a total of 30 credits and a thesis for the Master of Arts degree or the Master of Science degree. For general information about the English department and application procedures, please visit
In order to obtain the Folklore specialization, students must take 15 credits (5 classes) in Folklore specifically. Students are required to take 6700 Folklore Theory and Methods during their first semester and 6720 Folklore Fieldwork during their spring semester. These classes provide the foundation for the specialization. In addition to classes offered in American Studies and English, the Folklore Program offers the following courses:


Eng/Hist 6700 Folklore Theory and Methods
A graduate level survey of various ideas, keywords, enduring issues, and approaches in the discipline of folklore. Includes history of the discipline, evolution of ideas in folkloristics, and contemporary theory. (Professors vary)

Eng/Hist 6710 Space, Place, and Folklore
Landscapes are human creations writ large. As a kind of physical, on-going, co-authored and creative text, people shape landscapes, while at the same time landscapes evoke meanings, memories, and values in what noted anthropologist Keith Basso calls the “interanimation” between people and place. We explore productive tensions between locally constructed meanings of landscape and countervailing opinions that problematize local culture as a presumed site of authenticity, morality, and locus of the anti modern. (Gabbert)

Eng/Hist 6720 Folklore Fieldwork
This is a graduate level course designed to help students further their research by providing both a practical and theoretical introduction to ethnographic fieldwork in folklore. Topics covered include methodological issues such as research design, entering the field, methods of data collection, and data analysis; theoretical issues include ethics, IRB, reflexivity, and issues of power and representation. (Professors vary)

Eng/Hist 6730 Public Folklore
Why did Mussolini's fascist government ban the word "folklore" in Italy? Did folklore scholarship assist Nazi Germany's racist ideology? How do American institutions deal with our enormous cultural diversity? In this class we will ask questions about the manipulation of traditional culture–about how traditional culture is conceived and presented in public arenas, how ideas about culture are communicated through public programs, and how conceptions of tradition affect our political, social, and cultural existence. We will also examine folklore’s applied dimensions–does folklore have any applied value for physicians, for instance? Social activists? Managers and other administrators? What is involved in being a “public folklorist?” (Siporin)


Eng/Hist 6740 Folk Narrative
Why do we tell stories? What powers do stories have? How have scholars theorized about the origin, diffusion, and artistry of stories? How are they told in different societies and in different times? What do they tell us about those times and places? Is oral narrative relevant today? Realizing that homo narrans may be as apt a name for our species as homo sapiens, we will explore what our ancient yet contemporary habit of telling stories aloud, to each other, can teach us about being human. (Professors vary)

Eng 6750 Advanced Folklore Workshop: Fife Conference
The Fife Folklore Workshop is an intensive, one week workshop offered during the summer session for a hands-on experience of folklore, both academically and experientially. Topics vary by year but have included rites of passage, folklore and animals, and folk medicine. (McNeill)

Eng/Hist 6760 Folk Art and Material Culture

Focuses on the history and politics of the idea of “folk art” by examining specific examples of traditional art and material culture from around the globe. Students learn to read objects as forms that illustrate cultural values and ideals. (Professors vary)


Eng/Hist 6770 Bread and Dreams: Food and Narrative in Everyday Life
“Storytelling to Clementina was really no different from cooking traditional Venetian foods, such as sausage and polenta . . . . She enjoyed both tales and food preparation as things to be done and enjoyed both as a part of her role in creating family joy.”

This course will be a seminar in the true sense of the word—a seed bed for ideas that feed our minds and help them grow. We come together each week to explore the intersection of food and stories in topics such as hunger, starvation, cravings, cannibalism, gastronomic utopias, love, sex, miracles, famine, taboo, history, and more. (Siporin)


Eng/Hist 6770 Folklore and Work
This class explores how folklorists have approached the topic of folklore and work, looking not only at the emergence of folklore within working contexts, but also localized work knowledges and ethnographies of the globalized work force. (Gabbert)

Eng/Hist 6770 Folklore and Literature
Literary writers often pay close attention to folklore, using it in their writing in a number of ways. Some works are steeped in folklore; in others, folklore operates in rather subtle ways. In this class we will read fiction (mainly) in which folklore plays an important part and ask questions about how and why writers utilize folklore and especially what roles folklore plays in creating meaning in literature. The guiding issue of the course is what the reader's awareness of folklore can add to his/her reading of literature--in what ways an awareness of folklore can increase one's understanding of novels, memoirs, poems, films, and other forms of literature. Writers to be studied include Chinua Achebe, Rudolfo Anaya, Roberto Benigni, Carlo Collodi, William Faulkner, Thomas Hardy, Nathaniel Hawthorne, N. Scott Momaday, Toni Morrison, Flannery O’Connor, Robert Pinksy, Chaim Potok, I. B. Singer, and Mark Twain. (Siporin)

Eng/Hist 6770 Legend and the Supernatural

This course explores supernatural legends and belief narratives. We will explore belief narratives and legends from cultural, popular, historical, and folkloric perspectives.

Topics include:
-Legends and scholarly approaches to them
-Ghosts in a variety of contexts
-Vampires, forensic pathology, and the movies
-“Hag riding” in oral tradition
-Culturally bound constructions of Marie Laveau and nineteenth-century New Orleans voodoo
-Media treatments of UFOs, NDEs, and the paranormal (Thomas)

Eng/Hist 6770 Expressive Culture and Conflict
Too often artistic performances and other cultural forms are seen as one step removed from reality, simply reflecting social, cultural, and political realities rather than actually shaping them. Drawing on a variety of interdisciplinary perspectives but in particular on performance theory as understood in folklore and sociolinguistics, this class explores how expressive culture not only reflects but actually constitutes inter and intra-group conflicts, as well as the ways in which it grows out of differing senses of collective identity, which themselves are not naturally found but rather produced. (Gabbert)


Eng/Hist 6770 Folklore and the Internet

This course offers an in-depth consideration of a rapidly emerging area of folklore studies: digital culture. It explores the ways in which we can understand folklore in a digital context, the kinds of folklore we find in digital settings (such as memes, hashtags, multimedia folk art, legends, and even commercial folklore, such as faux product reviews), the kinds of folk groups we find through the use of communication technologies (from the unique, such as gamers, fans, and artists, to the familiar, such as families and friends), how fieldwork changes in an online environment (virtual ethnography compared to IRL ethnography), and the ways humans make meaning in diverse technological contexts. The Internet is a really cool, really weird place. Brace yourselves. (McNeill)


Eng/Hist 6900 Graduate Internship
As part of their graduate training, students are encouraged to participate in formal internships as a way to fine tune skills and professionalize. Internships are arranged on an individual basis; recent interns have spent their summers at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.