Folklore & Folklife
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Center for Folklore and Ethnography
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For more information about Folklore and Folklife,at UPenn, contact Professor Dan Ben-Amos at

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The Curriculum and Course Load

The Qualifying Examination

In the first year every matriculating graduate student will take at least six courses (most fellowship holders will take eight), of which two or three are required courses (Folklore 500, and either 502, 503, or 606, depending on offerings in a given year). In the second year students are required to take one more required course, FOLK 502 or FOLK 606. Students should choose courses taught by members of the core folklore faculty, or members of the Graduate Group. Before registering for courses, students must have their curriculum approved by both their faculty advisor and the graduate chair.

Upon completion of eight course units, students will take a qualifying examination. Students must pass the exam in order to apply for the MA degree or to continue with their course work toward the Ph.D. in Folklore and Folklife. Any student who fails the exam will be counseled by the faculty about his/her options. The examination will be given at the end of the first year, scheduled for a four-hour period on the Monday of the examination week of the Spring semester. The examination will cover the following materials:

  • The reading lists of the required courses
  • Standard folklore reference tools

The last two complete volumes of the following journals:

  • Journal of American Folklore
  • Journal of Folklore Research
  • Western Folklore
  • The First-Year Reading list

The First-Year Reading List

Abrahams, Roger D. Photocopied packet of articles (available at Wharton Reprographics

Barnes, Sandra. 1997. Africa's Ogun: Old World and New. Second, expanded edition. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Bauman, Richard, ed. 1975. Verbal Art as Performance. Prospect Heights: Waveland Press.

Bausinger, Hermann. 1990 (or 1961). Folk Culture in a World of Technology. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Becker, Jane. 1998. Selling Tradition. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Ben-Amos, Dan. 1976. Folklore Genres. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Bendix, Regina. 1997. In Search of Authenticity: The Formation of Folklore Studies. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Briggs, Charles. 1989. Competence in Performance: The Creativity of Tradition in Mexicano Verbal Art. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Dorst, John. 1999. Looking West. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Dorson, Richard M. 1983. Folklore and Folklife. Knozville: University of Tennessee Press.

Dundes, Alan. 1989. Folklore Matters. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.

Feierman, Steven. 1990. Peasant Intellectuals: Anthropology and History in Tanzania. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Feintuch, Burt. 1995. Common Ground: Keywords for the Study of Expressive Culture. Special Issue of the Journal of American Folklore.

Glassie, Henry. 1993. Turkish Traditional Art Today. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.


Glassie, Henry. 1995. Art and Life in Bangladesh. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Gross, Larry. 1995. "Art and Artists on the Margin." in L. Gross, ed. On the Margins of Art Worlds, pp. 1-16, Boulder, CO: Westview.

Holbek, Bengt. 1987. The Interpretation of Fairy Tales. FFC 239. Helsinki: Soumalainen Tiedeakatemia.

Hufford, David J. 1982. The Terror that Comes in the Night. Philadelphia: The University of Pennsylvania Press.

Hufford, Mary. 1992. Chaseworld. Foxhunting and Storytelling in New Jersey's Pinebarrens. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Lord, Albert. 1960. The Singer of Tales. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Matter, E. Ann. 1985. "The Virgin Mary: A Goddess?" in Carl Olson, ed. The Book of the Goddess Past and Present. New York: Crossroad.

Muller, Carol. 1999. Rituals of Fertility and the Sacrifice of Desire. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Narayan, Kirin in collaboration with Urmila Devi Sood. 1997. "Mondays on the Dark Night of the Moon." Himalayan Foothill Folktales. New York: Oxford.

O'Connor, Bonnie B. 1995. Healing Traditions: Alternative Medicines and the Health Professions. Philadelphia: The University of Pennsylvania Press.

Roberts, John W. 1999. "Folklore and the Problem of Invisibility." Journal of American Folklore 112:119-139.

St. George, Robert Blair. 1998. Conversing by Signs: Poetics of Implication in Colonial New England Culture.

Stewart, Susan. 1984. On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Taylor, Archer. 1956. The Shanghai Gesture. FFC 66, 1 no. 166. Helsinki.

Urban, Greg. 1991. A Discourse-Centered Approach to Culture. Native South American Myths and Rituals. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Zelizer, Barbie. 1992. Covering the Body: The Kennedy Assassination, The Media and The Shaping of Collective Memory. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Required Courses

The core courses for graduate study (for students starting the program in the fall of 1998 and hence forward) comprise the following four required seminars:

Proseminar in Folklore and Folklife: (FOLK 500) This course acquaints students with the breadth of subject areas researched within the discipline. Expressive culture and its social base has been conceptualized differently over time. To facilitate an understanding of the field's historical legacies and its current contours, students will work with materials and theoretical readings from past and present. Course assignments and a mid-term exam provide opportunities to experiment with different professional skills, from the practical to the theoretical. A linked course in library research customarily accompanies this course. It is led by David Azzolina, Reference Librarian and folklorist.

Fieldwork Theory/Research Design: (FOLK 502) acknowledges the important place of ethnography in the ways in which folklore is collected and analyzed. It is a hands-on course which examines the theory behind fieldwork and the experience of being a folklorist in the field, drawing heavily on parallel disciplinary experiences such as anthropology and sociology. In lieu of a seminar paper students write a grant proposal.

Recent Issues in Folklore Theory: (FOLK 503) is concerned primarily with folkloristics of the twentieth century, with special focus on the work most discussed in the profession today. It aligns folklore with related disciplines and provides an introduction to the profession as it is practiced through the development and reading of scholarly papers.

History of Folklore Studies: (FOLK 606) This course offers a survey of the intellectual and sociological beginnings of the field in international and American folkloristics. Students are expected to read broadly and beyond their future area of specialization and research a focused paper in the field's intellectual history.

The Ph.D. requires a total of 20 course credits. Depending on whether a student arrives without or with an MA, these courses are to be completed while adhering to the following rules:

a) Beginning graduates study WITHOUT an MA:
At least 12 and up to 20 courses are to be chosen from departmental and graduate group offerings. Courses taken outside the program/graduate group should be chosen with an eye toward building area expertise or a disciplinary concentration (e.g., 4 courses in AMES or African Studies, or 4 courses in Classics, History, Education, etc.) The faculty advisor and graduate chair are in charge of ensuring that the integrity of the folklore/folklife training is maintained as a priority, while also guiding students in finding and taking advantage of opportunities available at Penn.

b) Entering the program with an MA in hand:
The different types of MA's our students typically arrive with lead to differential requirements. The standard is as follows: At least 10 and up to 12 courses are to be taken within the folklore program and graduate group offerings. Depending on how many of the up-to-8 transferred courses are equivalent to courses offered in folklore, this number may be adjusted. Decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with the faculty advisor and final approval by the graduate chair.

Course Load

The normal course load for a student is four courses per semester. At the rate of four courses per semester, the eight courses for the Master's are completed in two semesters, the twenty for the Ph.D. in five. Students without funding may space their course work so as to adjust for their work needs. Any student registered for four classes may audit one class free. This policy must be confirmed with the Graduate Division of Arts and Sciences from semester to semester, because it may change. Audits must be arranged by going in person to the Office of the University Registrar; the Program office cannot register students for courses which they wish to officially audit.


Students are strongly advised against taking INCOMPLETES in any courses, even if professors are willing to accept them. The only sufficient grounds for an Incomplete are personal ill-health and family tragedy. We have found that even students with the best intentions will often not make up an Incomplete in the following term, but instead will add additional Incompletes to their record. Incomplete work must be completed within a year, or the Incomplete will become permanent. This is a policy of the Graduate Division of Arts and Sciences. ALL Incompletes MUST be resolved before the student takes comprehensive exams. In addition, students with outstanding Incompletes on their records will not be considered for grants, fellowships, and teaching assistantships.

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