Folklore handbook featuring work by many Penn Staters given distinction by ALA

The Oxford Handbook of American Folklore and Folklife Studies was edited by PACF director emeritus Simon Bronner, and featuring chapters by current director Anthony Bak Buccitelli, as well as current or former Penn Staters David J. Puglia (CUNY Bronx), Mary Sellers (Penn State, University Park), Cory Thomas Hutcheson (Kutztown University), and Amy K. Milligan (Old Dominion University). It recently was placed on the 2020 American Library Association list of Most Outstanding Reference sources. It is one of seven works selected for this distinction, and the only work in folklore studies! See the link below for more information:


Reference experts announce annual Outstanding Reference Sources list for adults

AMST PhD candidate Brian Zang wins American Folklore Society’s Bill Ellis Prize!

Below is an article highlighting the award. Congrats Brian!

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Brian Zang, a doctoral student in Penn State Harrisburg’s American studies program, received the American Folklore Society’s Bill Ellis Prize for his article, “Conservative Cyborg Synagogues: Extending the Virtual Arms and Legs of Religious Communities.” The article focuses on Harrisburg’s conservative Jewish community and its use of digital media, showcasing the dynamic, but limited ways they engage in expanding their boundaries through an online presence.

The Bill Ellis Prize, offered by the New Directions in Folklore Section of American Folklore Society, is awarded to the best graduate student essay that combines research and analysis on folklore, broadly construed, and digital culture, popular culture, or new media. The winning essay is submitted for publication in the section’s journal, “New Directions in Folklore.” The award was presented in October 2019 at the American Folklore Society national meeting in Baltimore, Maryland.

Zang said, “This award is evidence of the good mentorship and long-standing expertise of the American studies program here at Penn State Harrisburg. I couldn’t have done it without the direction and skills-training I have received in my coursework from wonderful professors.”

Zang added that Anthony Buccitelli, assistant professor of American studies and communications at Penn State Harrisburg, introduced him to the hands-on approach to which he credits his recent achievement.

“He [Buccitelli] started me on the path of doing contemporary ethnography and community research,” Zang said. “The techniques were so new to me but we were encouraged to begin fieldwork immediately. This approach — evident in every other aspect of the program as well — has really driven theory into practice for a well-rounded approach to learning American Studies.”

Zang thanked Jeffrey Tolbert, assistant professor of American studies and folklore, who helped develop his writing from the bibliography to finished product. Zang also was mentored by Simon Bronner, distinguished professor emeritus of American studies.

Sign up for Folklore and Ethnography Courses in Spring 2020!

Undergraduate-only courses:

AMST 105 / ENGL 105 American Popular Culture and Folklife (Brandywine, Erie, Harrisburg, Schuylkill, Shenango, Web -Multiple Instructors)
AMST 170N/ ENGL 170N (formerly 196) Introduction to American Folklore (Mont Alto, Web -Multiple Instructors)
CAMS 45 Classical Mythology (Abington, Erie, UP, Wilkes-Barre, Web -Multiple Instructors)
CAMS 113 / CMLIT 113 / JST 113 / RLST 113 Myths and Legends of the Jews (University Park- Aaron Rubin)
CMLIT 108 Myths and Mythologies (UP, Web -Multiple Instructors)
CSD 269 Deaf Culture (UP, Web -Chilton)
HIST 203 History of Monsters, Aliens & The Supernatural (Harrisburg, Altoona)

Undergraduate/MA level courses:

AMST 482 Public Heritage Practices: Exhibit Design & Development (Harrisburg- Asbury-Newsome)
ANTH 457 / JST 457 / SOC 457 Jewish Communities: Identity, Survival, and Transformation in Unexpected Places (UP-Fleisch)
COMM 454 Documentary in Film and Television (Visual Ethnography Focused) (Harrisburg- Sadegh-Vaziri)

MA/PhD-Level courses:

AMST 530 Topics in American Folklore: Stories and Storytellers (Harrisburg- Buccitelli)
AMST 541 Ethnography of Technology and Media in the United States (Harrisburg- Tolbert)
CI 597-005 / AED 597-001 Special Topics: Sensory Ethnography (UP- Kimberly Powell)
LLED 563 Myths and Folktales in Children’s Literature (Web- Hopkins)

If you have questions about whether a course will qualify for the graduate certificate in folklore and ethnography, please contact Dr. Buccitelli.

Graduate students publish on folklore and ethnography topics in 2018-19!

Our American studies graduate students have had a great year in research overall, publishing and presenting their work on a wide range of topics and in many venues. Congratulations to these talented researchers!

Here’s a sampling of student publications related to folklore and ethnography from 2018-19:

Raven Haymond (PhD Candidate)

Tasting the Forbidden Fruit as Rite of Passage: Former Mormons Reflect on their First Sips of Alcohol and Coffee. Western Folklore 77, no. 3-4 (2018).

Jamie Kinsley (PhD Candidate)

 Pet Poultry: An Ethnography of York County, Pennsylvania Chicken Keepers. Food Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 9, no. 2 (2019).

Traci Langworthy (PhD Candidate)

The Many Lives of James Bird: From “Mournful Ballad” to Nostalgic Legend. Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 142, no. 1 (2018).

Mary Sellers (PhD Candidate)

Folklore and Aging. In Oxford Handbook of American Folklore and Folklife Studies, edited by Simon J. Bronner. Oxford University Press, 2019.

Brian Zang (PhD Candidate)

Review of “Hittin’ the Prayer Bones: Materiality of Spirit in the Pentecostal South,” by Anderson Blanton. Cultural Analysis: An Interdisciplinary Forum on Folklore and Popular Culture 17 (2019).

Review of “Jewish Magic before the Rise of Kabbalah,” by Yuval Harari, Western Folklore 77, no. 3/4 (Summer/Fall 2018), 368-71.

Note: If you have published work this year and would like to be included here, please email Dr. Buccitelli.

Sign up for fall classes in folklore and ethnography!

Undergraduate-only courses:

Cams 045 Classical Mythology (multiple sections, Abington/WEB)

Amst/Engl 105 Popular Culture and Folklife (multiple sections, locations)

Cmlit 108 Myths And Mythologies (multiple sections, locations/WEB)

Ger 157 Pennsylvania Germans (Putnam, UP)


Pro-seminars (Open to UG/MA/IUG/Certificate students):

Cmlit 408 Heroic Literature (Cheney, UP)

Amst 482 Public Heritage Practices (Fay- Archives; Asbury-Newsome-Curatorial, Harrisburg)

Amst 491W American Themes, America Eras: Religion and Belief in America (Tolbert, Harrisburg)


Graduate-level courses (Open to PhD/MA/IUG/Graduate Certificate students):

CI 512 Contemporary Educational Ethnography (Powell, UP)

CI 513 Video Ethnography in Education (Valente, UP)

Amst 540 Ethnography and Society (Tolbert, Harrisburg)

Lled 563 Myths and Folktales In Children’s Literature (Hopkins, WEB)


If you have questions about whether a course will qualify for the graduate certificate in folklore and ethnography, please contact Dr. Buccitelli.

Bronner publishes Oxford Handbook, featuring work by many Penn State folklorists.

PACF Director emeritus Simon J. Bronner’s newly released Oxford Handbook of American Folklore and Folklife presents 43 chapters on a wide range of aspects in folklore and folklife studies by leading scholars. Among these chapters are essays by Bronner himself, as well as PACF Director Anthony Bak Buccitelli, PSU lecturer Mary L. Sellers, and alumni Amy K. Milligan, David J. Puglia, and Cory Thomas Hutcheson. For more on this volume, see here.

Foster and Tolbert’s The Folkloresque featured on New Books Network

Below is an excerpt from the NBN post. Read the full post and listen to the interview with co-editor Michael Dylan Foster here.

This volume introduces a new concept to explore the dynamic relationship between folklore and popular culture: the “folkloresque.” With “folkloresque,” Foster and Tolbert name the product created when popular culture appropriates or reinvents folkloric themes, characters, and images. Such manufactured tropes are traditionally considered outside the purview of academic folklore study, but the folkloresque offers a frame for understanding them that is grounded in the discourse and theory of the discipline.

Apes of the State to play at PSH on April 25!

Thursday, April 25, 2019. Stacks Market Stage, Olmsted Building at 7:00 p.m. Go to our Facebook page to let us know you’re coming!

Hailing from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Apes of the State is a self-described “folk-pop-punk” group. Their first album, This City Isn’t Big Enough, debuted in 2016 and was followed with two national tours.

Influenced by storyteller singer/songwriters such as Paul Baribeau and Everyone Except Me, Apes of the State’s music combines a straightforward, emotional, and lyrical style with the drive and power of a full acoustic band. The group features Dan Ebersole on the mandolin/guitar, Mollie Swartz on the violin, and April Hartman on the guitar/lead vocals.

Their ever-changing sound is deeply rooted in punk rock, folk, and bluegrass, but with millennial sensibilities. Their songs explore love, heartbreak, student loan debt, regret, and overcoming addiction. As a band, they are driven by DIY ethics with a goal of helping as many people as possible with their music, and have been especially active in addiction recovery causes.

Whitney Phillips to lecture on “The Oxygen of Amplification: Folklore, Journalism, and Far-Right Trolls”

Monday, April 22, 2019. Morrison Gallery, Reception: 5:00 p.m., Lecture: 5:30 p.m. Go to our Facebook page to let us know your’re coming!

Whitney Phillips will provide a historical overview of the relationship between the news media and far-right manipulators who leveraged “trolling” and ”meme culture” during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. She will discuss the consequences of reporting on bigoted, damaging, or otherwise problematic information and the structural limitations of journalism (economic, labor, and cultural) that exacerbate these tensions.

Phillips is assistant professor of communication and rhetorical studies at Syracuse University. She teaches classes in media literacy and online ethics; online discourse and controversy; folklore and digital culture; and lore surrounding monster narratives, urban legends, hoaxes, and crime. She is the author of This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture (MIT, 2015) and the co-author of The Ambivalent Internet: Mischief, Oddity, and Antagonism Online with Ryan M. Milner of the College of Charleston (Polity, 2017). She is also the author of the three-part ethnographic report The Oxygen of Amplification: Better Practices for Reporting on Extremists, Antagonists, and Manipulators Online (Data & Society Media Manipulation Initiative, 2018). Phillips has published dozens of popular press pieces on digital culture and ethics in outlets such as The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Slate.

This event was jointly organized by the American studies program, the Pennsylvania Center for Folklore, and the School of Humanities at Penn State Harrisburg.