Folklore Graduate Program

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The Folklore Program in the Department of American Studies offers both an MA and a minor for PhD students in other departments.


The MA program enables students both to gain a broad appreciation of the discipline of Folklore (including the complex history of the study of “traditional” or “vernacular” culture in a self-consciously “modern” and “global” world) and to develop expertise in a particular area of interest.  Graduates of our program take jobs in the public sector, bring their folklorist’s eye to work in other professional fields as diverse as museum curatorship and medicine, and go on to further graduate work in Anthropology, Communication Studies, Film Studies, and Information and Library Science as well as in Folklore.

Consult the Folklore MA Timeline and Requirements for a summary of degree requirements and the timing of steps in progress toward the degree.

Master’s students complete ten courses (30 hours) over the course of four semesters:

  • Approaches to Folklore Theory (FOLK 850)
  • The Art of Ethnography (FOLK 860)
  • Three courses offered by Folklore core faculty
  • Three other courses chosen by the student in consultation with his or her adviser
  • Two semesters of MA thesis (FOLK 993) with the thesis committee chair

Courses taught by the core Folklore faculty offer students a perspective on the breadth of genres and issues addressed by our discipline. The three additional courses allow students to explore interdisciplinary connections and historical contexts for their thesis topics. These additional courses may be taught by Folklore faculty or may come from a variety of associated graduate programs, including Anthropology, Communications StudiesEnglish and Comparative LiteratureHistory, and Music. Students may also arrange to take courses at Duke University, including courses in the Department of Cultural Anthropology, ethnomusicology courses in the Department of Music, and courses offered by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

Students pursuing an MA must demonstrate moderate reading proficiency in a language other than English (see the Folklore MA Timeline for details).

The final requirements for the M.A. are a Critical Literature Review, in which the student articulates a synthetic conceptualization of the field of Folklore and his/her emerging place in it, and an original thesis based on fieldwork and/or library research. In developing a thesis topic, students are encouraged to exercise creative freedom and follow their passions; recent theses have explored topics ranging from the the collage art of a Cuban cigar roller to the experience of low-riding in a multi-ethnic car club to the cultural and historical significance of pimento cheese (see a fuller listing under “What we do”). Working closely with a thesis adviser (thesis committee chair) and two readers (thesis committee members), students ideally develop the idea for their thesis toward the end of the first year of study, do most of the field research during the summer, present a proposal and bibliography in the Fall of the second year, and complete and defend the thesis in the Spring of the second year.

UNC Folklore MA Timeline and Requirements (updated version January 2015)

Critical Literature Review


PhD Minor
Students pursuing the PhD in another department at UNC may qualify for a minor in Folklore by completing six courses, chosen in consultation with the Coordinator of the Folklore Program.