Spring 2019 Courses


Anthro 162 Topics in Folklore
The peoples of Latin America have created a remarkable panorama of folk traditions. Our purpose in this course is to sample these delights to savor their artistic power, to understand how they relate to the history of the region and connect with people’s lives, and to see how they are used to make claims about social and national identities. This course, which will be taught by Visiting Professor John McDowell and will focus on Latin American Folklore.

Anthro 160 Forms of Folklore
A world-wide survey of the major and minor forms of folklore with special emphasis upon proverbs, riddles, superstitions, games, songs, and narratives. Taught by Professor Charles Briggs.

Anth/Folk C262B:
The focus of this course will be Constructing Tradition, or, on  “tradition” as a process rather than an object, something that people “do” and “make” rather than “have” or “own.” Taught by Visiting Professor John McDowell.

Music 80 Studies of Musics of the World
This course is taught by Professor Ben Brinner and examines selected traditional and popular musical practices from an ethnomusicological perspective. Taking into account local, regional, and transnational connections among the selected practices, this will include approaches to music making and listening, relevant music theory, issues of identity and power, connections to ritual, dance, and theater, and social, economic, and aesthetic values. Topic and geocultural area will vary.

Slavic 147B
MWF 2-3, Dwinelle 88
This course surveys the “lore” (traditional tales, songs, music, and customs) of selected peoples of the multiethnic Balkans. The peoples in question are of two ethnicities – Albanians (living both in Albania and in Kosovo) and Slavs (living in Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Bulgaria) – and of two different religions, Islam and Christianity (most Albanians are Muslim but some are Christian; while most Slavs are Christian, but some are Muslim).


The region has long fascinated outsiders, not least because of the rich diversity of traditional cultural forms that are still evident there. The criss-crossing of traditional forms and motifs across cultures and religions in the Balkans provides a window both into the nature of folklore in general, and the multiculturalism of the area in particular. Of these traditional forms, oral epic song is the most important, and study of these songs – both their content and the manner in which they have been kept alive – gives much insight both into Balkan history, and into the intimate and emotional relations of Balkan peoples to their own histories. Furthermore, it was the work of two American scholars with the singers of a still-living epic tradition in the Balkans which gave rise to one of the greatest discoveries in comparative epic studies, the Parry-Lord theory of oral composition.  The region is also very rich in complex musical forms, and has long been of great interest to ethnomusicologists, who study the relationship of music to cultural identity and social interactions. Here too, the traditional forms have both been retained; at the same time certain traditional musical styles have become associated with the massive social and political changes in the Balkans, which lends more depth to the study of them.

Most of the course focuses on traditional folklore, reading transcripts, made in the 19th and early 20th centuries, of material which has been transmitted orally through many generations. The final section, devoted to traditional music, moves into the modern age, as it examines the ways in which this folklore heritage was transformed to serve particular political goals.

Folklore Archive