Folklore, Oral Tradition and Culture Studies |

The University of Missouri-Columbia |

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Darcy and Claire Bake Sale

Folklore at Mizzou

The University of Missouri-Columbia is a wonderful place to get your MA or PhD in folklore. The Folklore, Oral Tradition and Culture Studies program provides excellent academics, a strong theoretical and interdisciplinary background, and a warm and welcoming community of scholars and students. Our students have exceptionally high placement on the job market (see alumni section below), and find that they are well prepared for work in academia and/or the public sector.

SFS party

Graduate Teaching Opportunities

Graduate students in the Folklore, Oral Tradition and Culture Studies Program teach some of the regular offerings in folklore, including Introduction to Folklore Genres (English 1700) and Intro to Folklore Fieldwork and Methodology (English 2700). Several students have also designed lower division composition courses and the World Literature courses around folklore and mythology themes of their own choosing.  Students in the Folklore Program can teach regular composition courses, professional writing and literature courses as well.

Luanne Roth at AFS

Internships & Graduate Research Assistantships

Graduate Students in Folklore and Oral Tradition have access to many internships (for credit hours) and Graduate Research Assistantships (paid) including opportunities at:

Bake Sale Jackson, Jenni, Rebecca


Graduate students (and interested undergraduate students) can receive digital technology training in video, sound, and image recording, as well as on our video editing station.


Check with the English Graduate Office for details concerning applications for a variety of fellowships offered in the department and the university to qualified graduate students.

Recent Graduate Student Projects

Graduate Students in the Folklore and Oral Tradition Program have elected to work in a wide range of areas, including (but not limited to):

  • Folklore and Critical Race Studies
  • Authenticity
  • Folklore and Literature
  • Postcoloniality and Cultural Tourism
  • Southeast Asian Literature
  • Surrealism
  • Recreational Folklore
  • Narrative and Stigma
  • Pentecostal Religious Beliefs and Practices
  • Missouri Legends and Folktales
  • Occupational Humor
  • Folklore in the Media (jointly with Journalism)
  • Poetry and Creative Writing (with folklore as a secondary emphasis)
  • Rhetoric and Composition (with ethnographic writing as a secondary emphasis)
  • Mormon Folklore, Belief, and Practice
  • Deaf Identity Politics
  • Women's Festivals
  • African American Quilters
  • Early Greek Philosophy and Oral Tradition
  • Medieval Literature and Oral Tradition
  • Comparative Oral Traditions

For more information on course offerings check out the Folklore Program course list and the English Department course list.

Courses change every semester; check current course listings or write teachers for information on classes.

Conference Participation

Tate Hall

Every year the faculty and the students in folklore at MU submit panels for the American Folklore Society, and we have consistently had 10 to 15 graduate students (and sometimes an undergraduate) presenting papers at AFS. Our students have published in folklore journals and are finding that they are very marketable, given the combined training in folklore, literature, ethnic studies, rhetoric/composition, and/or theory that they can get at Missouri. We are also pleased that our program offers an internship and a paid Graduate Research Assistant position with the Missouri Folk Arts Program as this adds yet another viable aspect to our program--training in field research, archiving and documentation that can lead to employment with Arts Agencies and public sector opportunities in all fifty states.

The MU Student Folklore Society is dedicated to promoting and organizing student interest in folklore studies, providing a public forum for the discussion and pursuit of research, as well as fostering support for campus and community events which relate to the study of folklore, including bringing in a guest speaker each spring. Plus, we’re more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

Current Folklore Graduate Students

Dorothy Atuhura, Constance Bailey, Alison Balaskovits, London Brickley, Darcy Holtgrave, Heather Johnson, Jackson Medel, Rachel Spillars, Jenni Spitulnik and Raymond Summerville.

Some Recent University of Missouri
Folklore, Oral Tradition and Culture Studies Alumni


David Allred is Assistant Professor of English at Snow College, and he received his PhD from Mizzou in 2004. His dissertation, “Fiction, Folklore, and Reader Competency: The Politics of Literary Performance Arenas” was directed by Elaine Lawless. In addition to various book reviews and encyclopedia entries, Allred has published articles in the fields of nineteenth-century American literature, folklore, and Mormon Studies. He is currently the chair of service learning at Snow College and vice president of the Folklore Society of Utah.

Constance Bailey (MA 2007, ABD) has accepted a position as Instructor in the Department of English at the University of Southern Mississippi, Gulf Park Campus.

Kenn DeShane is Associate Professor of English & Folklore at Middle Tennessee State University. He received a B.A. (1991) in English from Northwestern Oklahoma State University, and an M.A. (1993) and Ph.D. (2000) in English and folklore from the University of Missouri-Columbia. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in folklore and English at MTSU and has developed several new folklore courses while there. He is the editor of the Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin, one of the oldest, continuously published folklore journals in America and a biannual periodical that publishes folklore research on the Southern and Southeastern United States. His publications have appeared in such journals as Southern Folklore, Western Folklore, American Periodicals, and the Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin. He has entries in the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Christian Literature by Hendrickson Publishing. He was nominated for MTSU’s Outstanding Teacher of the Year for the 2006-07 school year. He’s been invited to be a keynote speaker at Northwestern Oklahoma State University’s Centennial Celebration Symposium in 2008. He is currently working on two projects tentatively entitled, Folklore and the Natural World in the Works of Linda Hogan, and “What would the church people think?”: The Public Lives of PKs (Preachers’ Kids). He is also a part-time assistant pastor at Turning Point Assembly of God in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He is the father of two beautiful children, Madelyn and Caleb, and is privileged to have a wonderful wife, Elisabeth.

Kristen Harmon is Professor of English at Gallaudet University. She has her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Missouri. Her recent publications include: "Writing Deaf: Textualizing Deaf Literature" in "Sign Language Studies (2007); "'If There are Greek Epics, There Should Be Deaf Epics:' How Protest Became Poetry" in "Signing the Body Poetic: Essays in American Sign Language Literature;" (2006); "Slain in the Spirit" in "Women and Deafness: Double Visions" (2006); and "Deaf Identity, Language Politics, and 'Hyphenated' Ethnography" in "Southern Folklore" (1997).

Tahna Henson graduated from the University of Missouri Master's program in English in May 2008.

Lisa Higgins graduated from the University of Missouri Ph.D program in English in May 2008. Dr. Higgins is the director of the Missouri Folk Arts Program.

Reinhold Hill is Professor of the Department of Languages and Literature and interim associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Ferris State University. He has his Ph.D. with a focus on Rhetoric and Composition, Ethnographic writing and folklore at the University of Missouri—Columbia. He has a wide variety of teaching experiences in American literature, World literature, folklore, composition. Hill has been a Fullbright lecturer in Debrecen, Hungary.

Shelley Ingram is Assistant Professor of English and Folklore at the Univeristy of Louisiana-LaFayette. She recieved her PhD from Mizzou in 2010.

David Todd Lawrence is Assistant Professor of English at the University of St. Thomas, and was recently elected to the American Folklore Society board of directors. Lawrence received his PhD in Folklore from the University of Missouri-Columbia. His publications include “We Are Family: Gender Tensions and the Construction of the Black Family in the Early Poetry of Sonia Sanchez.” B.MA: The Sonia Sanchez Literary Review 10.2 (2005); “Folkloric Representation and Extended Context in the Experimental Ethnography of Zora Neale Hurston.” Southern Folklore 57.2 (2000): 119-134; “Pimps,” “Tricks,” “Cool,” and “Iceberg Slim”: In Encyclopedia of African American Folklore [Four Volumes]. Edited by Anand Prahlad. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005. Lawrence has served as the Film and Video Review Editor for the Journal of American Folklore, as a member of the MLA Folklore and Literature Discussion Group Executive Committee (2006-2009), and is currently Interim Director of the University of St. Thomas American Cultural Studies Program.

Jacqueline L. McGrath is Assistant Professor of English at the College of DuPage, Glen Ellyn, Illinois, where she teaches writing and literature. She received her PhD in Folklore Studies and English from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Her research focuses on religious and political folklore studies, Native American literature and folklore studies, and feminist, gender, and queer studies. McGrath’s publications include “Stories of Ruth: An Ethnography of the Dunne Girls.” Journal of American Folklore. Winter, 2005; “The Same Damn Stories”: A Variation On Tradition in Sherman Alexie's The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. Southern Folklore, 57: 2. Winter 2001, and three articles titled “Folk Belief,” “Homeless Women,” and “Applied Folklore” in The Encyclopedia of Women's Folklore and Folklife. Edited by Theresa Vaughn, forthcoming December 2007.

Scott Mitchell is Assistant Professor of English at Georgia Perimeter College, and he received his PhD from Mizzou in 2010.

Willow Mullins is visiting Assistant Professor of English and Folklore at the Ohio State University, and she received her PhD from Mizzou in 2010.

Lucia Pawlowski graduated from the University of Missouri Master's program in in 2002, and after completing her PhD was hired as an assistant professor of Rhetoric and Composition & Critical Theory at St. Thomas University.

Peter Ramey is Assistant Professor of English at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota, after receiving his PhD in Oral Tradition and Medieval Literature from Mizzou in 2012.

Lisa Rathje is the Arts & Heritage Specialist at the Institute for Cultural Partnerships. Rathje received her MA and is a PhD candidate in Folklore from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She administers the Fellowships and Apprenticeships in Folk and Traditional Arts Program for Pennsylvania; including technical assistance, program management, site visits, and documentation. Rathje is also involved with multiple projects developing curriculums and youth programs using traditional arts, including an arts residency project at Harrisburg's William Penn high school. While in Missouri she worked closely with the Missouri Folk Arts Program, assisting with archival work, fieldwork, grant panels, photography, as well as being an outside evaluator for their statewide Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program. Rathje taught university classes in ethnographic research methodologies and folklore studies, served as Assistant Editor for the Journal of American Folklore, and worked as the Assistant to the Director of the Center for Arts and Humanities. In 2005, she conducted cultural survey research for the Smithsonian's Latino Chicago folklife program, and worked as a presenter with “Nuestra Musica” at the 2006 festival.

Todd Richardson recieved his PhD from Mizzou in 2011 and is assistant professor at the Goodrich Scholarship Program at the University of Nebraska-Omaha where he teaches English Composition 1 and Perspectives on US American Culture. His research investigates the representation of authenticity in American folklore, literature and popular culture and his essays and articles on the subject have appeared in a variety of popular and peer reviewed publications including The Writers Chronicle, Harpur Palate, The Omaha Reader, and dis(Closure): A Journal of Social Theory.





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