I am a folklorist currently completing my doctorate at Indiana University. My work looks at the relationship between folklore and literature: I am interested in how authors engage with folk culture and transform folk narratives into literary texts. My main research area is medieval religious narrative, particularly saint's legends and exempla. I find these genres fascinating because they represent the perfect interaction between large-scale religious institutions and small local communities. Educated, literate clergy collect tales told orally about local people and events, commit them to writing, and connect them to larger theological issues. These written collections are then used by preachers as guides to assist them in instruct the common people. Stories flow back and forth between written and oral domains, clergy and layman.
I am also interested in contemporary youth culture, particularly the ways in which children and adolescents articulate their aesthetics, creativity, and identity through verbal folklore genres performed on the Internet. Although Internet folklore is temporally distant from the medieval world, many of the same issues persist, particularly how ordinary people create art in their everyday lives. In my research, I have focused on how contemporary yo' momma jokes performed on YouTube adapt and reimagine a traditional African-American verbal art form into complex folk dramas. My most recent work on Internet folklore looks at how communities of amateur poets conceptualize and articulate their own aesthetic values that emphasize familiarity and functionality over originality and creativity.Top of page
I began designing this website while working on my MA thesis, which dealt extensively with medieval legends concerning the Virgin. I was struck by how these legends were both deadly serious but touched by a streak of playfulness. Mary assisted those who were devoted to her, regardless of their virtue or lack thereof. She intervenes in the outcome of duels and ordeals, protects cherished pets, and even assists knights, thieves, and lovers. My masthead reflects the ambiguity of the medieval Mary—sacred, powerful, but a bit mischevious and over-the-top. These are the qualities that draw me to the study of folk religion and culture.Top of page
This site was designed by Steve Stanzak as a way to learn web design. The news feed on the home page is powered by Wordpress, and search capability is powered by Sphider. All other sections were designed by the author.Top of page
I am a graduate student in folklore and medieval studies at Indiana University. I work generally with medieval religious folk culture. My current research is on medieval saints' legends and vernacular models of sanctity.