UGA English professor Elissa R. Henken named American Folklore Society Fellow

Athens, Ga. – Elissa R. Henken, a professor of English at the University of Georgia, has been selected as a Fellow by the American Folklore Society. Previous AFS Fellows have been such prominent scholars as Richard M. Dorson, Alan Dundes, Alan Lomax, Albert B. Lord, Charles Seeger and Archer Taylor (whose papers and personal library are housed in the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library at UGA).

Henken said of her election, “This is an honor I never, ever expected to receive; I am thoroughly astonished and delighted.”

Henken teaches folklore and Celtic studies, areas for which she trained with an A.B. in folklore and mythology at Radcliffe College-Harvard University; an M.A. in Welsh language and literature at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth; and a Ph.D. at the Folklore Institute at Indiana University.

“Professor Henken is not only a distinguished student of legends and the legend-making energy that lies behind them,” said Douglas Anderson, head of the English department, “she has made herself something of a legend in our classrooms: a tireless, passionate, and demanding teacher, as well as a productive and versatile scholar. She richly deserves this honor.”

Henken’s published works include two books on legends about medieval Welsh saints, one on the Welsh national-redeemer Owain Glyndŵr (Shakespeare spelled the name “Owen Glendower” in his Henry IV plays), and, most recently, Did You Hear about the Girl Who…?: Contemporary Legend, Folklore, and Human Sexuality, as well as articles on Civil War legendry and on developments in contemporary horror legends.

At UGA Henken coordinates the student exchange program with the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. A member of the Teaching Academy, she has been a Senior Teaching Fellow and winner of the university’s Creative Research Medal. She also serves as the Secretary-Treasurer of the Celtic Studies Association of North America.

“Being an AFS Fellow is simply the highest honor that a folklore scholar can garner,” said Charles Doyle, Henken’s colleague in the UGA English department and fellow folklorist.

The American Folklore Society, founded in 1888, is an association of researchers who collect and study the folklore of groups from all counties and times. Its 2,200 current members include academicians (mostly in departments of English, other languages, anthropology and ethnomusicology) and also professionals in arts and cultural organizations, librarians and museum curators – as well as some independent scholars and collectors.

The AFS Fellows are an honorary body of folklorists, whose selection recognizes the magnitude and stature of their contributions to the field. Henken was honored at the most recent AFS meeting in Milwaukee, Wis.

The University of Georgia’s English department is housed in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.