Glasgow 204 - (270) 659-6948



Folk Studies 373

Folklore & Mass Media


“The study of popular culture from the perspective of folklore is to study it as part of everyday life.”       -Torunn Selberg



Course Goals

The purpose of this course is to develop and promote media literacy through an exploration of mass-mediated popular culture.  We will examine the nature of enculturation via mass media in order to better understand their effect on folk groups, worldview, and modern society.  


Popular Culture Studies Major

This course counts as a required course for the major in Popular Culture Studies.  This program offers WKU undergraduates the chance to broaden their understanding of the arts and culture of everyday life including such areas as television, film, music, sports, advertising, customs and rituals. Through innovative interdisciplinary coursework the major helps students critically analyze a wide range of popular cultural forms, their uses by audiences, and their impact on the broader social, political and economic landscape. If you are interested in learning more about this exciting and innovative program, contact your instructor or check out the Popular Culture Studies website at



Occasionally this course may deal with material that may be considered suggestive or obscene.  When exploring folklore you may encounter examples you find to be offensive or contrary to your own values or beliefs.  The purpose in exploring and discussing such topics is neither to offend nor to necessarily promote the specific ideas under consideration.  Rather, this class is designed as an open forum to air out these subjects in an environment where each student is free to express his or her own opinions and reach conclusions based on their own life experience and the information presented in this class.  We must be free to discuss these issues frankly and critically in order to understand them as meaningful and relevant features of American culture.    


Required Texts


Readings are due the day they are listed on the course schedule.  You are expected to arrive in class having completed the readings and made earnest effort to understand them.  This means you should be able to answer questions about the readings and contribute to class discussions with informed statements concerning their meanings or possible interpretations.  It is also important that you demonstrate an ability to draw connections between various readings, lectures, discussions, and your own life.


Attendance Policy

You are allowed to miss up to 2 classes without direct penalty.  Missing beyond two classes for any reason will result in the deduction of half a letter grade from your final grade.  Beyond that there are no excused absences and points will be deducted for any absences beyond two.  This class is designed around the exchange of ideas, which you must be present for.  Also note that class participation makes up a substantial portion of your grade (see below) and is a crucial part of the learning experience in this course.  Please come to class not only for your own sake (and grade), but also for your fellow classmates as your input is unique and enhances the learning environment for all present.  (NOTE: arriving late or leaving early results in half an absence.)



Students with disabilities who require accommodations (academic adjustments, and/or auxiliary aids or services) for this course must contact the Office for Student Disability Services (OFSDS), Downing University Center, Room A200. The OFSDS telephone number is (270) 745-5004 V/(270) 745-3030/TDD. Please do not request accommodations directly from the professor or instructor without a letter of accommodation from the Office for Student Disability Services.



*Assignments are due at the beginning of class on the day they are listed on the course schedule.  Please be advised that unexcused late work will not be graded.  Talk to me in advance if you are having trouble completing an assignment or meeting a specific deadline so special arrangements may be discussed.  (This policy also applies to exams, etc.) 

Reading summaries (x11)...…...110*            

Midterm exam……….……...…100                                                               

Final exam………….…….……100                                                                 

Personal journal (x4)…….…… 80

Ethnographic journal (x4)….…80                            

Class participation………….….30**                                                  


TOTAL…………………...…….500 pts***                                                               

90%+=A, 80%+=B, 70%+=C, 60%+=D, lower than 60%=F


*Typed one-paragraph summary of readings due weekly.  Ten points each.


**This grade includes in-class assignments, discussion participation, etc.


***Students are responsible for keeping up with their own grades.  Do not ask me what your average is or what your grades are.  I only calculate grades at the end of the semester.  Please use the grading scale above to keep up with your grade.  (Divide total points earned by total points possible to find your average at any given point in the semester.)


·         Student work may be checked using plagiarism detection software.  There is a zero tolerance policy for acts of academic dishonesty (plagiarism, cheating, etc.).  Please refer to the WKU Student Handbook for details on the university’s policy regarding academic offenses.  Plagiarism FAQ here.


·         Use of cell phones/laptops (or any other electronic device) is not permitted.  Failure to comply with this policy will result in the deduction of participation points and/or dismissal from class.  (Exceptions made under certain conditions.  Speak with me in advance.)



Folklore Minor

Undergraduate students at Western have a rare opportunity to take a broad variety of folklore courses and also to minor in Folklore. A Folklore Minor is fun, challenging, and involves many fascinating topics related to contemporary American life. It also helps you to develop valuable and important critical and problem solving skills for use in the complex personal, social, occupational, and political environments in which we work and live. These skills will make you a better candidate for employment, for admission into graduate programs in many fields, and for advancement on just about any career path. Courses include Introduction to Folklore, Urban Folklore, Cultural Diversity, Folklore and Mass Media, Foodways, Roots of Southern Culture, Fieldwork Methods, Folk Art, Supernatural Folklore, and many more offerings. The Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology also offers a Masters Degree in folklore. For more information, see Mr. Kaufkins or the Folk Studies home page (