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Graduate Interdisciplinary Specialization (GIS)

About The Graduate Interdisciplinary Specialization (GIS)

Students wishing to earn a formal credential in folklore may earn a Graduate Interdisciplinary Specialization, an interdepartmental minor in folklore. The Folklore GIS was approved by the Council for Academic Affairs in September 2007 and is co-sponsored by thirteen departments from four colleges. Open to M.A. and Ph.D. students in any department, it provides both focus and flexibility for students, balancing core courses with electives that can overlap with the student's degree program. The GIS can serve as the foundation of a full program of folklore coursework or as a secondary specialization.

Of the curriculum below, students enrolled in the GIS are required to take the two Tools courses, one of the three Theory courses, one course from the Topics list, and an additional course from the Topics or Theory lists for a total of 15 credit hours. (Substitutions for students arriving with M.A.s in folklore can be negotiated, and one independent study may be negotiated with the permission of the CFS Grad Studies Director.) According to Graduate School Rules, you must take 9 of these hours outside your home department: note that most of our core courses are crosslisted for this purpose.

Students wishing to pursue the GIS should arrange a meeting with the CFS Grad Studies Director to discuss their interests. We ask you to give us a one-page proposal laying out how you plan to make the folklore coursework articulate with your own academic goals, and we ask your adviser in your home department to sign off on this; it will then be reviewed and approved by the CFS Grad Studies Director. Later, when you have completed the GIS requirements satisfactorily, the CFS Grad Studies Director will sign off on the Graduate School Form to put the GIS on your transcript. See the Graduate School's page on Applying for Graduate Minors and Interdisciplinary Specializations page for a link to the form in GRADFORMS.

GIS Curriculum

The GIS curriculum consists of three categories of courses: Tools, Theory and Topics.


Tools courses prepare students to do primary research in folklore studies by giving them hands-on practice with genres, field settings, communicative situations, and professional activities. They also provide an orientation to the field and its history. Students are required to Take Philology of the Vernacular and one of the methods courses offered by Folklore faculty:

  • Introduction to Graduate Study in Folklore 1: The Philology of the Vernacular (COMPSTD 6750.01 / ENGLISH 6751.01). Introduction to the canonical folklore genres and the history of folklore as a discipline. Why and how do we examine the vernacular?


  • Introduction to Graduate Study in Folklore 2: Fieldwork and the Ethnography of Communication (COMPSTD 6750.02 / ENGLISH 6751.02). Introduction to fieldwork and ethnography in the humanities: interviewing, participant observation, ethics, ethnographic representation. The ethnography of communication as an approach to community-based expressive forms.
  • Comparative Studies Field School: The Ohio Field School (COMPSTD 5189S / ENG 5189S). The Ohio Field School course offers an introduction to collaborative ethnographic field methods (participant-observation, field notes, photographic documentation, audio interviews), archiving, and the public exhibition of research for both undergraduates and graduate students. Students will contribute to a team-based, immersive, field research project designed to document the ways that diverse communities express and pre-serve a sense of place in the face of economic, environmental, and cultural change in Southeastern Ohio.


Theory courses focus on the three core conversations of folklore studies. Each course examines a central concept, reviews the history of approaches to it in folklore and related disciplines, and synthesizes the issues currently at stake in its study.

  • Theorizing Folklore 1: Tradition and Transmission (COMPSTD/ENGLISH 7350.01) The transmission of cultural forms through time and space across social networks, with special attention to the dynamics of conservation and innovation, fixity and process.
  • Theorizing Folklore 2: The Ethnography of Performance (COMPSTD/ENGLISH 7350.02) Performance as a heightened mode of communication characteristic of vernacular cultural process, studied in the context of ongoing social interaction.
  • Theorizing Folklore 3: Differentiation, Identification, and The Folk (COMPSTD/ENGLISH 7350.03) "Folklore," "the folk," and other metacultural concepts in the history of modernity. How forms and styles become attached to identities: cultural form as an instrument of social differentiation, integration, and change.


The topics component of the curriculum encompasses genre, area, and special-topic courses, along with more specialized theory courses: these allow faculty to teach their specialties and to respond to emerging issues in the field. Recent offerings include Folklore, History, and Memory; Tourists, Travelers, and Tricksters; Cultures of Waste and Recycling; Theories of Myth; Chinese Performance Traditions; Discourse, Space, and Place; Folklore in the History of Disciplines; Orality and Literacy; Folklore and Gender Politics; Public Practice in Folklore and Ethnomusicology. See current course offerings for a sample.