Folklore is vernacular art, the culture that people make for themselves. The forms of folklore circulate from person to person and group to group, adapting to every change of context: they are both deeply traditional and new with every performance. Folklore is cherished by families or danced on the streets by unruly young people. It is despised as old-fashioned, banned as dangerous, preserved as precious heritage, mass-produced for tourists, and called on to legitimate both wars and social justice movements. Folklorists study the careers of these malleable collective forms across time and space.
A specialization in folklore will give you skills important to being a global citizen and also valued by a wide range of employers in health care, business, nonprofits, and academia (see Careers in Folklore for more detail) such as
- Field observation and ethnography: Learn how to size up an unfamiliar situation, participate in it appropriately, and describe it in writing.
- Interviewing and rigorous listening. Learn how to understand what someone is saying to you without imposing your own agenda on the conversation.
- Understanding diversity. Learn how communities in the US and internationally develop distinctive forms of expression that can foster strong identities, conflicts, and cultural bridges.
- The interpretation of culture: Learn how to "read" a wide variety of cultural messages according to their own conventions.
Specializing in Folklore
Undergraduates at OSU have three options for specializing in folklore. Note that the requirements for all of these programs are often updated: check with the relevant departmental website for current information.
- The Folklore Concentration within the Comparative Studies major
- The Folklore Minor, open to students in any department, through the Department of Comparative Studies
- A Folklore Concentration within the English major
Formal declaration of the concentration or minor is done through the relevant Department, but we strongly urge you also to make an appointment with the Undergraduate Folklore Advisor, Amy Shuman at email@example.com (fall 2018) or Galey Modan (firstname.lastname@example.org) . Professor Borland can advise you how to find classes of interest and how to focus your folklore studies. Though the program offers broad-based familiarity with folklore studies, a student might choose to place special emphasis on a particular place or group (e.g. Middle Eastern women or neopagans), genre (e.g. festival or fairy tale), medium (e.g. material culture or folklore on the Internet), domain (e.g. religious or family folklore), or issue (e.g. prejudice or tourism). See our list of sample programs for some examples of how a folklore minor can fit in with different majors. Students should be aware of the activities of the Center for Folklore Studies, including the Folklore Student Association, in which undergrads are active co-participants. The Center also offers occasional research and work-study opportunities.