Courses in Folklore Studies


For a list of Folklore courses, please visit our Courses page.

Fall 2018 Core Faculty/Staff Folklore Course Descriptions


DuBois: Folklore 100 (full: enrollment only by permission)
MW 9:55-10:45 a.m. plus 4 sections, including one FIG

Gipson: Folklore 230 (Intro to American Folklore) meets with French 248 (waiting list)
TR 9:30 – 10:45 a.m.

How do the traditions of French-speaking immigrants live on in Wisconsin in more than city names like “Luxembourg” or “Prairie du Chien?” How do certain depictions of Afro-Creole folk roots help to sell Zydeco music worldwide? Two hundred years after the Louisiana Purchase, what cultural ties did residents of post-hurricane Katrina, New Orleans cite in begging France’s then-president: “Buy us back, Chirac?” For Native Americans, had this land ever been French? This class will trace these and other questions of cultural and linguistic identity as we work to understand how notions of “race” and “ethnicity” have been shaped by French influence in the U.S. Among other literary texts, we will read a short story written in French in 1837, now hailed as the first published work of African-American prose fiction. We will also study films; folk narrative; music; maps; political and religious writings; and customary practices.


Mellor: Folklore/LitTrans/Medieval 345 (In Translation: Scandinavian Tale & Ballad)
TR 1-2:15 p.m.

The genres of ballad and tale, which originate in the distant past, have often been scorned by the literary establishment, but the fact that they survived through centuries of oral transmission until they were finally recorded in the fairly recent past testifies to their lasting existential appeal. The stories these texts tell are dashingly entertaining and often deeply disturbing: they may offer a profoundly fatalistic view of existence, but they may also voice an angry and, at the same time, humorous protest against oppression. When this narrative type was discovered by scholars and the societal elite about 1800, it inspired many first-rank Nordic authors, e.g., Hans Christian Andersen, Henrik Ibsen, Selma Lagerlöf; and in the 20th century it has cast its spell over Isak Dinesen, Villy Sørensen, and Pär Lagerkvist and its influence has moved from literary to other media today. The course examines both the original literature and its modern “imitations” as well as gives an introduction to the critical methodologies that have recently been developed to deal with this seemingly simple, but in reality highly sophisticated, narrative.

Olson: Folklore 451 (Supernatural in Modern World)
TR 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

“The Supernatural in the Modern World” examines manifestations of belief during everyday life-in the contexts of legend and other narrative traditions, spirituality, anomalous experiences, ritual and religious practices, health and healing traditions, and media accounts and popular culture. This course does not attempt to prove or disprove the existence of supernatural phenomena; rather, it offers an ethnographic approach, focusing on people’s lived experiences and their attempts to make sense of them. Students are encouraged to develop their own ethnographic skills and analytical abilities as they explore the relationship between scientific belief and supernatural belief.


Rue: Folklore 320 (Folklore of Wisconsin)
MW 2:30-3:45 p.m.

“Folklore of Wisconsin” examines the traditional cultures that exist in the state, focusing on several forms of creative expressions, including music, verbal arts, and material culture. Students will learn about the basic concepts in the discipline of folklore as they read about the ethnic, racial, and cultural diversity of the state. Folklorists rely heavily on conducting archival research and ethnographic fieldwork and students in this course will have an opportunity to engage in an original fieldwork-based project in southwest Wisconsin that will contribute to the public display and development of visitor information for the open air division of Folklore Village, a traditional arts and cultural center in Dodgeville, Wisconsin.

DuBois: Folklore 517 (Irish Tradition)
TR 1:00-2:15 p.m.

What does it mean to be “Irish?” This course surveys Irish and Irish-American folklore and folklife from the medieval era to the present. Topics include songs, dance, tales, customs, housing, foodways, and other elements of expressive culture. We will look at how a sense of Irish identity becomes expressed or shaped through celebrations like St. Patrick’s Day and representations of Irish culture and people on stage and in film. We will also look at how Irish people define Irishness in a changing Europe of today and in a world context in which people of Irish descent are spread across the world.


Cederstrom: Scandinavian 520/meets with Folklore 530 (The Labor Movement in
Nordic American Migration)
TR 9:30-10:45 a.m.

“The Labor Movement in Nordic American Migration” will examine how immigrants from Scandinavia and elsewhere took part in the labor movement and other social movements of the early 1900s. We’ll read newspaper reports and academic articles, examine old cartoons, listen to labor songs, and watch documentaries. Doing so will help us understand the history and folklore of the working class in the United States and, as striking teachers make news across the country, examine how the labor movement is not relegated just to the past, but continues to adapt and change today.

Gilmore: Landscape Architecture 677 (Cultural Resource Preservation & Landscape History)
TR 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

An introduction to cultural landscape studies as a corollary to cultural conservation in public folklore, environmental planning, natural and cultural resource management, landscape architecture, and the history of landscape architecture. The course acquaints students with varied concepts of cultural landscape, key historical and cultural landscape research methodologies, and a range of preservation and conservation types involving cultural landscapes, traditional cultural properties, and intangible and tangible cultural heritage. Students observe, research, and write about cultural landscapes, gain an understanding of cultural, historical, and natural dynamics of the (built) environment, and become acquainted with aspects of cultural conservation and landscape preservation nationally and internationally.