Folklore

Undergraduate degree: BA
Undergraduate minor
Undergraduate certificate

More Than Just a Fairy Tale

Trace popular jokes back to their origins. Discover recipes that have been passed down through generations. Find out why vampires, werewolves, and zombies have flooded popular culture. Folklore is the study of everyday expressive culture shared by communities of people. If you consider yourself a member of a community such as a fraternity, a choir, a swim team, a squad of elite zombie hunters, or even a University of Oregon Duck, you are taking part in folklore.

As a folklore major, you’ll use theoretical analyses, research methods, and fieldwork techniques to study the ways tradition continues to enrich the dynamics of human behavior throughout the world. You’ll examine the historical, cultural, social, and psychological dimensions of expressive forms such as mythology, legend, folktale, music, dance, art, belief, food, ritual, and ceremony. And you’ll gain fresh perspectives on the ethnic, regional, occupational, gender, and other traditional identities of individuals in specific societies. “From the study of ancient mythology to contemporary Internet culture, you really can do it all if you want to,” says Associate Professor Daniel Wojcik, who enjoys exploring the versatility and relevancy of folklore with his students. 

Points of Interest

  • The Folklore Program at the UO is one of a few major centers of folkloristic research in the United States. With more than thirty participating faculty members, the program takes an interdisciplinary approach, allowing you to forge your own path.
  • The Oregon Folklife Network documents, sustains, and promotes Oregon’s diverse folklife and cultural heritage. It works to provide access to folk arts through investing in traditional artists and cultures and advancing accessible learning opportunities for all Oregonians.
  • The Randall V. Mills Archives of Northwest Folklore collects fieldwork and research materials on folklife in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. Collections include books, periodicals, student and faculty research papers, fieldwork projects, photographs, sound recordings, and documentary videos.
  • Developing skills in filmmaking is a key component in the Folklore Program. Learn how to tactfully use a camera, conduct interviews, and capture cultural paradigms in a balanced and ethnographic way.

Selected Courses

  • Introduction to Folklore delves into the process and genres of traditional (i.e., folk) patterning and the relations between these forms of expression and other arts, especially English and American literature.
  • Folklore and Sexuality looks at intersections between folklore and sexuality and provides an entry point for examining contemporary social issues relating to sexuality, including sexual identities, courting practices, sexism, pride, violence, body image issues, and resistance.
  • Video Production examines various theoretical approaches, conceptual issues, research strategies, and techniques used for folklore fieldwork as a framework for creating a folklore video.
  • Folklore and the Supernatural explores supernatural beliefs in modern society as expressed in folklore and film. Topics include apparitions, miracles, prophecy, apocalyptic cults, magic, ghosts, angels, vampires, fairies, UFOs, possession states, and supernatural assault.
  • African Folklore investigates a variety of expressive forms practiced by different groups of people living in Sub-Saharan Africa. Students examine the folklore (oral narratives, songs, popular music, dance, and tourist art) of specific groups to explore issues of aesthetics, identity, politics, gender, class, and globalization.
  • See more courses in folklore.

Immerse Yourself

Many students have found that combining folklore with other majors has helped them develop an even deeper understanding of their interests. Studying folklore alongside English, cinema studies, comparative literature, medieval studies, Romance languages, or other areas of study can help you gain useful and relevant insight into the world around you. 

Gain professional experience by interning, volunteering, or getting involved in work-study at the Oregon Folklife Network on campus. Or enroll in a study abroad program such as Lisa Gilman’s five-week summer program to Dakar, Senegal, which gives students the opportunity to get acquainted with the culture, society, politics, and language of West Africa by living and studying in a vibrant and cosmopolitan city.

The Student Experience

After transferring from Portland State University, Alexandria Bloom was excited to dive into the programs she had been looking for at the UO. Within her first year, she chose folklore and religious studies as her majors as well as a minor in ancient Greek. She has enjoyed every class she has taken including courses in folklore and religious studies, African folklore, and holiday origins. With positive encouragement from professors like Lisa Gilman and Daniel Wojcik, Bloom is looking forward to getting the most out of her scholastic career at the UO.

Even though he grew up in France, John Sheehy was encouraged to visit the UO by his father, an Oregon native. The campus’ friendly atmosphere and wide variety of programs convinced Sheehy he was in the right place. The Folklore Program provided a concrete foundation in cultural anthropology and ethnographic representation for his ambitions in anthropology. In additions to learning Spanish, he enjoys Eugene’s lively community and environmentally conscious atmosphere. Sheehy plans to return to France and teach high school history.   

Featured Faculty

When Associate Professor Daniel Wojcik isn’t teaching classes or conducting research on popular religion and alternative art forms, he is working with his colleagues to further enrich the Folklore Program. After finishing his latest book, Outsider Art Realms: Visionary Worlds, Trauma, and Transformation, he focused on one of his earlier interests—end of world mythology. From ancient Mayan prophecies to pop culture’s zombie apocalypse, he plans to unravel cultural beliefs about our world’s end. Wojcik enjoys inspiring students to pursue things that interest them, "It has been so gratifying for me to work with students and hear about their accomplishments once they have graduated."

While earning a doctorate in folklore, Professor Sharon Sherman stumbled into the enchanting world of ethnographic filmmaking and never looked back. “Filmmaking is refreshing in that it is so creative and every project is wonderfully challenging,” says Sherman, who recently finished Whatever Happened to Zulay?, a 57-minute film about an Ecuadorian woman that is the largest project of her career.  Sherman has won awards for her films and is a fellow of the American Folklore Society. She enjoys watching and editing films as well as teaching courses in mythology, magic and folklore, religion, and video production.

Career Opportunities

Folklore graduates work in various public and private agencies as educators, archivists, editors, librarians, arts and humanities consultants, museum curators, festival planners, and more. Become a specialist in intercultural communication, an administrator of the arts, or a moderator between communities. If you can’t get enough of folklore, continue at the UO with one of the most exciting folklore graduate programs in the country. 

Folklore Program