The West Virginia University Department of English in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences will present its 2011 Summer Seminar in Literary and Cultural Studies June 9-12. The seminar, “American Magic: The Fates of Folk & Fairy Tales in the Appalachians,” will officially begin with a free public lecture at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 9, in 130 Colson Hall.

Registration is required for other parts of the seminar, which will include five, two-hour sessions in Lincoln Hall. The event concludes at noon Sunday (June 12). Dr. Rosemary Hathaway, assistant professor at WVU is hosting the seminar to be led by Dr. Carl Lindahl, professor of English and folklore at the University of Houston.

The Europeans who migrated to the Appalachians in the 18th Century brought with them extensive traditions of oral fiction, including the m�rchen, the oral equivalent of the literary fairy tale. By the 19th Century, the Europeans who had stayed behind were drawing upon oral works to fashion a new literature: the tales of the Brothers Grimm (first ed., 1812) inspired imitators throughout the continent. In the United States, however, oral fiction went underground, and it was not until 1943 that the first anthology of British-American fairy tales (Richard Chase’s “The Jack Tales”) appeared. This American anthology was based exclusively on performances by Appalachian narrators; since the book’s appearance, notions of an American m�rchen tradition have centered on Appalachia.

This seminar addresses several issues in the history and conceptions of Appalachian oral fiction, including why American m�rchen went almost totally undocumented for two centuries, between the time it was first attested and the publication of “The Jack Tales”; why American m�rchen collectors concentrate almost exclusively upon male narrators and tales in which the protagonists were males; why the collection and study of m�rchen thrived in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, but not in fifth core Appalachian state, West Virginia; and most importantly, the nature of the m�rchen tradition as it has actually been practiced, and largely ignored, in recent generations.

To assess Appalachia’s oral m�rchen traditions, the seminar will draw upon the collections of Leonard W. Roberts (1912-1983), who assembled the nation’s largest corpus of field-recorded m�rchen (now housed at Berea College) as well as Lindahl’s own collection, recorded in the same region where Roberts worked and sometimes from the same narrators whom Roberts recorded. The vast majority of Roberts’ published tales were recorded in southeastern Kentucky near the Virginia border, but Roberts conducted substantial unpublished research at West Virginia Wesleyan University, and that work will be discussed in the seminar.

Seminar participants will read historical and critical pieces by Bill Ellis, Carl Lindahl, W.B. McCarthy, Charles Perdue, Joseph Sobel, and others, as well as published tales, including Chase’s literary Jack Tales and Roberts’s “South from Hell-fer-Sartin,” his earliest and most extensive print collection of oral m�rchen.
The seminar is open to students, faculty, and independent scholars. The cost is $250 for students and $350 for faculty and community members. Rooms for seminar attendees are available in accessible Lincoln Hall. Participants can choose single or double occupancy, and fully accessible rooms are available. Local hotels are close by for those who prefer non-dormitory housing. For more information, visit


CONTACT: Rosemary Hathaway, Department of English

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