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Posted 01.22.07


MU Professor to Lead American Folklore Society

COLUMBIA, MO - An MU professor and folklorist has been elected president of the American Folklore Society, the society announced in January.

Elaine J. Lawless, director of MU's Center for Arts and Humanities and a curator's distinguished professor of English and women's studies, will take over as head of the 2,200 member organization in February. She will serve one four-year term.

"I am thrilled to continue my association with folklorists around the world as I move into the position of President-Elect and, then, President of AFS," Lawless said. "This is the true icing on the cake for anyone's career, to be elected by my peers, colleagues, associates, students and former students for this important position."

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The American Folklore Society, founded in 1888, is the oldest and largest disciplinary society created for scholars and practitioners who document, preserve, and study the world's folklore traditions. Its members, according to the AFS Web site, include scholars, teachers, and librarians at colleges and universities; professionals in arts and cultural organizations; and members of the public involved in folklore work.

Lawless had previously served as general editor of the society's Journal of American Folklore, one of the world's most respected folklore studies publications.

Lawless herself is a noted author. Her 2001 book, "Women Escaping Violence", won the Ellie Köngäs-Miranda award for the best book on women's and gendered issues in folklore. Her other books include: "God's Peculiar People" (1988); "Holy Women/Wholly Women" (1988); "Handmaidens of the Lord" (1993); and "Women Preaching Re-Volution" (1996). Lawless has also written extensively on religion, women's sermons, orality, narrative, ethnographic writing, and domestic violence for a range of scholarly journals.

Lawless says serving as AFS president will further boost the stature of the folklore program in MU's Department of English, an area of study that already boasts the services of such noted scholars as Anand Prahlad, John Foley, and Joanna Hearne.

"We have received national attention by bringing the Journal of American Folklore to this campus, and now claiming the AFS president. Recognition for our program has grown through our many highly successful graduates who now hold faculty and public sector positions in folklore throughout the US," Lawless said. "At first, upon hearing that I had won the election, I freaked, thinking there was no way to do this new job as President of AFS while also teaching, directing dissertations, and serving as Director of the Center for Arts and Humanities. But, I've settled down a bit and see it now as just another challenge to add to my already full plate of interesting things to do. Actually, I would be bored if it were any other way. I'm delighted to have this opportunity to serve both AFS and the University of Missouri in this very public way."



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