Folklore Studies Graduate Programs

At times called folkloristics, folklore studies is an academic discipline concerning the study of folklore; that is, the way people make meaning in their lives and the traditions common to a group or culture. It often involves oral narrative, folk medicine and art, and is closely related to cultural anthropology, linguistics, and ethnography. In this article, you will find some common coursework in folklore studies graduate programs as well as what you can expect in terms of admissions requirements.

General Folklore Studies Graduate Program Information

Folklore studies programs may lead to a master's degree or a Ph.D. Coursework in a folklore studies graduate program is often interdisciplinary and interdepartmental. You may have the option to design your own coursework or subjects of focus by utilizing the different areas of specialty of your professors. Common coursework in folklore is listed below:

Folklore and Literature

Authors often utilize existing folklore, which their audience may or may not know about, in their writing. Classes in this subject are often interdepartmental with English and literature. You will read a variety of literary works in which folklore plays a significant role, discuss how and why writers take advantage of folklore, and reflect on how folklore creates meaning in literature. These courses expand awareness of folklore and deepen one's understanding of literature.

Oral Tradition

These courses explore the question of how cultures without writing keep their folklore and traditions alive. You will learn about the concept of oral tradition, in which performers pass down this information via folktales, epic poetry, ballads and other genres. You may study oral stories from a wide variety of historical periods and cultures.

Folk Art

Sometimes called 'material culture,' folk art refers to art produced by tradespeople that serves a utilitarian and decorative purpose rather than simply being aesthetic. These courses, sometimes cross-departmental with art or art history programs, examine traditional art and material culture from cultures across the globe. In these types of classes, students learn how to interpret folk art and use it to understand different cultural values and beliefs.

Folk Narrative

Courses on folk narrative are often broad surveys that examine the concept of storytelling. They ask 'why' people tell stories and examine the larger patterns and structures these stories tend to follow. You will learn about the theory of folk narrative study as well as how to classify and interpret different types of narratives across cultures.


These courses explore the concept of the supernatural in folklore, such as myths, fairy tales, and legends. Students learn how to approach these topics in a scholarly, analytic manner. You will learn how mythology illustrates and reaffirms the values and practices of a culture, and read different scholarly theories on various mythologies. You may also discuss modern forms of mythology, such as fantasy and urban legends.

Program Admission Requirements

Graduate programs in folklore require an undergraduate degree as well as official transcripts from all previous coursework. You will likely be required to submit a number of pieces of writing: a 1-5 page statement of purpose that describes your past academic work and explains your personal interest in folklore studies, a longer sample of academic writing, and a resume/CV. Scores on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) general test may be required, for which universities will publish their minimum required scores. Finally, programs often ask for 2-3 letters of recommendation.

Whatever your specific interests in folklore studies are - mythology, art, literature, or some other facet - you will likely be able to find a program that speaks to you.

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