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

For assistance with the Folklore and Folklife website, contact Linda Lee at

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A Short History of Folklore at Penn

The graduate program in folklore and folklife at the University of Pennsylvania came into existence in 1962 under the direction of Professor MacEdward Leach from the English Program. Leach was soon joined on the faculty of the graduate program in folklore by Tristram P. Coffin and G. Malcolm Laws, Jr., also from the English Program. After the first year, Don Yoder from the Program of Religious Studies joined the faculty. Upon the retirement of Leach in 1965, Yoder assumed the chairmanship of the program for a period of five years.

Kenneth Goldstein, the first graduate of the Ph.D. program in folklore, became the first faculty appointment to the program in 1965. In 1968, he joined Yoder as co-chair and assumed the chairmanship of the program in 1970. Later faculty appointments included Dan Ben-Amos, John Szwed, Dell Hymes, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, and Thomas Burns. Henry Glassie replaced Kenneth Goldstein as chair in 1976 after the graduate program became the Program of Folklore and Folklife. Brian Sutton-Smith, appointed to the faculty of the Graduate School of Education, was given a joint appointment in the Program of Folklore and Folklife. In more recent history, John W. Roberts, Margaret A. Mills, and Regina Bendix have also taught in the program.

In June 1999, the program was again transformed into a freestanding graduate program. Our core folklore faculty are: Roger D. Abrahams, the Hum Rosen Professor of Folklore and Folklife (the holder of our first endowed chair) whose primary appointment is in English; Dan Ben-Amos, in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies; Jay Dautcher in Anthropology; and Robert Blair St. George, in History.

Mary Hufford joined Penn as Director of the Center for Folklore and Ethnography in summer 2001 and her position also includes graduate teaching in the program. Our adjunct faculty includes David Azzolina, Reference Librarian, Van Pelt Library and Adjunct Assistant Professor of English; David J. Hufford, Professor at the Hershey Medical School; his primary appointment at Penn is in the Program of Religious Studies; Janet S. Theophano, Associate Director in the College of General Studies at Penn. Janets primary appointment is in Religious Studies.

For more information about the Program Faculty, visit the Faculty pages of this site.

During the 30 years of its existence, the program has graduated more than 200 Ph.D.s in Folklore and Folklife. There are currently 40 students taking graduate courses or working on their dissertations in the program. In June 1999, the Center for Folklore and Ethnography was founded. Housed in Logan Hall along with the Graduate Program, the Center collaborates with other Penn initiatives such as the Humanities Forum and the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, in organizing symposia, networking with scholarly and community groups, and building resources toward training documentary and ethnographic skills. The Center and the Graduate Group are closely intertwined, with hopes for joint projects on the horizon.

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