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Posted 01.18.06

MU's John Foley Receives Award from Modern Language Association

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- A project that has roots two decades old has finally paid off for John Miles Foley, professor of classical studies and English at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Foley recently received the Modern Language Association's (MLA) Prize for a Distinguished Scholarly Edition for his edition of The Wedding of Mustajbey's Son Becirbey as Performed by Halil Bajgoric, published by the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies. The prize, awarded every two years, was one of 18 awards that were presented on Dec. 28 during the association's annual convention, held in Washington, D.C.

"This is the top national prize for editions of all kinds, whether in English or foreign languages, by the MLA, the major professional organization in my field," Foley said. "So from that point of view the award is extremely gratifying."

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His edition of a 1935 recorded performance of a Yugoslavian oral epic took three and a half years to complete, but his interest in the project started two decades ago when he was pursuing postdoctoral studies at Harvard University. The tale tells the story of the loss, recovery, and eventual wedding of a Turkish maiden who was about to be betrothed to an important hero's son.

"My chief interest is oral tradition, but the other two traditions I study -- ancient Greek and early medieval English ¿ have survived only in manuscripts," Foley said. "South Slavic represents an opportunity to work with a living oral tradition, where you can be an audience member instead of a reader of texts. I have lived in the former Yugoslavia for a total of three years, so my acquaintance with its verbal art is close and longstanding."

Foley is a specialist in the world's oral traditions. He serves as W.H. Byler Distinguished Chair in the Humanities and as Curators' Professor of Classical Studies and English at MU. He is the founding director of the Center for Studies in Oral Tradition and the Center for eResearch at MU. Foley has received grants and fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Fulbright Program and the Mellon Foundation. He is a fellow of the Finnish Folklore Society and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

John Foley and his work was featured in the Spring 2005 issue of Illumination magazine.



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