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Folklore is the discovery and understanding of everyday human culture – the patterns of ideas, behavior, music, dance, foodways, rituals, crafts, traditions, beliefs, lore, and customs of the everyday people that define our world. 

Folklore is a discipline which crosses cultural borders and ethnic boundaries. It seeks to define the place of cultures and ethnicities within the family of humankind as well as examine and document how they intersect and influence each other. It builds bridges of understanding and is critical to our appreciation of how the world works, and how we use traditional knowledge to meet new challenges.

Folklore students will gain fresh perspectives on the ethnic, regional, occupational, gender, and other identities of individuals in specific communities. Students gain knowledge and experience in cultural backgrounds, collection techniques, fieldwork and research, theoretical analysis, and text comprehension and writing.

The Folklore certificate at UW-Madison is designed to pair with almost any major:

  • Business
  • Anthropology
  • English
  • Food Science
  • Literature
  • Sociology
  • Religious Studies
  • International Studies
  • Medicine and Public Health
  • Global Health
  • Psychology
  • Gender and Women’s Studies
  • Theatre
  • History
  • World Languages
  • Philosophy
  • Journalism
  • Textiles and Fashion Design
  • Life Science Communication
  • Health Promotion and Health Equity
  • Education Studies
  • Human Development
  • Political Science
  • Social Work

Folklore touches on every aspect of human life: health and illness, cultural diversity, social and political movements, superstition and fears, the movement of information and disinformation, trends and memes, family and home life, educational systems, entertainment and creative arts, politics and government, fashion and design, gender and sexuality, events and festivals, and more. 

Training in Folklore and folklorist practices is useful in careers in the arts, public history, preservation, and museum stewardship, but also in health and medicine, social work, education, law, politics and intelligence, psychology, anthropology, marketing, the non-profit sector, journalism, gaming, international business, tourism, and much more. 

Students must meet with the advisor to declare the certificate.

Requirements for the Folklore Certificate

A total of 12 credits to complete the Certificate, to include:1

Category A: Basics, Fieldwork, Documenting, and Preserving

One course and three credits are required, from:

FOLKLORE 100 Introduction to Folklore3
FOLKLORE/​AFROAMER/​AMER IND/​ASIAN AM/​CHICLA  102 Introduction to Comparative US Ethnic and American Indian Studies3
FOLKLORE/​GNS  200 Folklore of Central, Eastern and Northern Europe3
FOLKLORE 230 Introduction to American Folklore3
FOLKLORE/​L I S  490 Field Methods and the Public Presentation of Folklore3
FOLKLORE 491 Practicum in Public Folklore1-3
FOLKLORE 510 Folklore Theory3
FOLKLORE/​COM ARTS  522 Digitally Documenting Everyday Communication3

 Category B: Analysis and Focused Topics

One course and three credits are required, from:

FOLKLORE/​MUSIC  103 Introduction to Music Cultures of the World3
FOLKLORE/​RELIG ST  104 Sacred Places and Journeys3
FOLKLORE/​AFRICAN  210 The African Storyteller3
FOLKLORE/​ANTHRO/​INTL ST/​LINGUIS  211 Global Language Issues3
FOLKLORE 215 Elementary Topics in Folklore1-3
FOLKLORE 220 The Folk Tale3
FOLKLORE/​AFRICAN  270 The Hero and Trickster in African Oral Traditions3
FOLKLORE 320 Folklore of Wisconsin3
FOLKLORE/​DANCE/​THEATRE  321 Javanese Performance2
FOLKLORE/​LITTRANS  327 The Vampire in Literature and Film3
FOLKLORE/​LITTRANS/​MEDIEVAL  346 In Translation: The Icelandic Sagas3-4
FOLKLORE/​LITTRANS  347 In Translation: Kalevala and Finnish Folk-Lore3-4
FOLKLORE/​RELIG ST  352 Shamanism3
FOLKLORE 399 Directed Study in Folklore for Undergraduates1-3
FOLKLORE/​MUSIC  401 Musical Cultures of the World3
FOLKLORE/​MUSIC  402 Musical Cultures of the World3
FOLKLORE 415 Advanced Topics in Folklore1-3
FOLKLORE/​GEN&WS  428 Gender and Expressive Culture3
FOLKLORE 430 Topics in American Folklore: Ethnic Studies3-6
FOLKLORE/​AMER IND/​ANTHRO  431 American Indian Folklore3
FOLKLORE/​AMER IND/​ANTHRO/​GEN&WS  437 American Indian Women3
FOLKLORE 439 Foodways3
FOLKLORE/​SCAND ST  440 Scandinavian American Folklore3
FOLKLORE/​SCAND ST  443 Sami Culture, Yesterday and Today4
FOLKLORE/​SLAVIC  444 Slavic and East European Folklore3
FOLKLORE/​MEDIEVAL/​SCAND ST  446 Celtic-Scandinavian Cultural Interrelations3
FOLKLORE 451 The Supernatural in the Modern World3
FOLKLORE 460 Folk Epics3
FOLKLORE/​GEN&WS  467 Women and Politics in Popular Culture and Folklore3
FOLKLORE/​GEN&WS  468 Feminism, Folklore and Comparative Literature3
FOLKLORE/​AFRICAN  471 Oral Traditions and the Written Word3-4
FOLKLORE 491 Practicum in Public Folklore1-3
FOLKLORE/​MUSIC  515 Proseminar in Ethnomusicology3
FOLKLORE 517 The Irish Tradition3
FOLKLORE 518 The Scottish Tradition3
FOLKLORE/​ANTHRO  520 Ethnic Representations in Wisconsin4
FOLKLORE 530 Topics in Folklore1-3
FOLKLORE/​ANTHRO/​MUSIC/​THEATRE  539 The Folklore of Festivals and Celebrations3
FOLKLORE 540 Local Culture and Identity in the Upper Midwest3
FOLKLORE 630 Seminar on American Folklore3
ANTHRO 237 Cut 'n' Mix: Music, Race, and Culture in the Caribbean3
ANTHRO/​LINGUIS  430 Language and Culture3-4
ANTHRO 460 The Anthropology of Dance: Movement and Music in Performance3

Residence & quality of work

  • A minimum of 6 certificate credits must be taken in residence
  • 2.000 GPA in all courses eligible for the certificate

 Courses taken on a Pass/Fail grading basis are not eligible, and do not count, in the Certificate.

Certificate Completion Requirement

This undergraduate certificate must be completed concurrently with the student’s undergraduate degree. Students cannot delay degree completion to complete the certificate.

  1. Demonstrate skill in the methods and productions folklorists employ in their work.
  2. Analyze the connections between expressive performances and the wider workings of culture.
  3. Apply and engage in ethical considerations in research and collaborative practice, particularly with reference to cultural, economic, religious, ethnic, and gender diversity.

Students interested in the Folklore Certificate should contact Joanna Schuth, Undergraduate Advisor, for more assistance.

Joanna Schuth, Undergraduate Advisor
Make an appointment through Starfish

L&S career resources

Every L&S major opens a world of possibilities.  SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students turn the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and other coursework into fulfilling lives after graduation, whether that means jobs, public service, graduate school or other career pursuits.

In addition to providing basic support like resume reviews and interview practice, SuccessWorks offers ways to explore interests and build career skills from their very first semester/term at UW all the way through graduation and beyond.

Students can explore careers in one-on-one advising, try out different career paths, complete internships, prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications, and connect with supportive alumni and even employers in the fields that inspire them.

Folklore Program Core Faculty and Instructional Staff

Folklore Course Teaching Core:

B. Marcus Cederström, Assistant Faculty Associate; German, Nordic and Slavic
Thomas DuBois, Professor; German, Nordic and Slavic
Christine Garlough*, Professor; Gender and Women’s Studies
Nathan Gibson, Audio-Visual Preservation Archivist, UW-Madison General Library System
Janet Gilmore, Professor; Planning and Landscape Architecture
Jennifer Gipson, Assistant Professor; French and Italian
Scott Mellor, Faculty Associate; German, Nordic and Slavic
Anna Rue, Assistant Faculty Associate; Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures

Folklore Cross-listed Course Teaching Core:

Matthew H. Brown, Assistant Professor; African Cultural Studies
Jerome Camal, Associate Professor, Anthropology
Nadia Chana, Assistant Professor; Music: Ethnomusicology
Peggy Choy, Associate Professor; Dance
Susan Cook, Professor, School of Music
Laurie Beth Clark, Professor, Art and Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies
Mary Hoefferle, Faculty Associate, Art
Rob Howard, Professor; Communication Arts
Evelyn Howell, Professor, Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture
Maria Lepowski, Professor, Anthropology
Chris Livanos, Professor, Comparative Literature
Alfonso Morales, Professor, Urban and Regional Planning
Michael Peterson, Professor, Art and Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies
Ann Smart Martin, Professor, Art History
J. Randolph Valentine, Professor; Language Sciences & American Indian Studies
Rebekah Willett, Associate Professor, iSchool

*unit head