John Miles Foley

John Miles Foley profile picture office: 243 Walter Williams Hall
phone: 573-882-9720
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
office hours: By appointment

Research and teaching areas:
medieval literature, oral tradition,
classical literature

John Miles Foley has written or edited eighteen books, the most recent being A Companion to Ancient Epic (Blackwell, 2005), an edition-translation of a South Slavic oral epic (Helsinki, 2004; eEdition available at, How to Read an Oral Poem (Illinois, 2002), Homer's Traditional Art (Penn State, 1999), Teaching Oral Traditions (Modern Language Association, 1998), The Singer of Tales in Performance (Indiana, 1995), Immanent Art (Indiana, 1991), Traditional Oral Epic (California, 1990), and more than 170 articles. Two of his books, The Theory of Oral Composition and How to Read an Oral Poem, have been translated into Chinese. A fellow of the American Folklore Society, Finnish Folklore Fellows, and Russian Academy of Sciences, he has directed dissertations on comparative oral traditions as well as medieval English, ancient Greek, and contemporary literature and oral tradition. Under his direction at MU's Center for Studies in Oral Tradition and Center for eResearch, graduate students assist in editing Oral Tradition and working on hypertext and other digital projects. He has been awarded Guggenheim, NEH, ACLS, Mellon, Fulbright, and IREX fellowships, among others.


PhD 1974, University of Massachusetts

Selected Publications

  • John Miles Foley, ed. and trans. The Wedding of Mustajbey's Son Becirbey as Performed by Halil Bajgoric (Federation of Finnish Learned Societies, 2004)
  • John Miles Foley. How To Read an Oral Poem. (Illinois University Press, 2002)
  • John Miles Foley. Homer's Traditional Art. (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999)
  • John Miles Foley. The Singer of Tales in Performance. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995)
  • John Miles Foley. Immanent Art: From Structure to Meaning in Oral Traditional Epic. (Indiana University Press, 1991)
  • John Miles Foley. Traditional Oral Epic: The Odyssey, Beowulf, and the Serbo-Croatian Return Song. (University of California Press, 1990. Rpt. 1993)
  • John Miles Foley. The Theory of Oral Composition: History and Methodology. (Indiana University Press, 1988. Rpt. 1992)
  • John Miles Foley. Oral-Formulaic Theory and Research: An Introduction and Annotated Bibliography.(Garland Publishing, 1985. Rpt. 1986, 1989)

Courses Taught

  • English 8200: Seminar in Old English Literature
  • English 8770: Seminar in Oral Tradition

Selected Awards

  • Walter J. Ong Award for Career Achievement in Scholarship (Media Ecology Association) (2009)
  • Kalevala Society (Finland) (2007)
  • Gold Chalk Award (2004)
  • Choice, Outstanding Academic Title for How to Read an Oral Poem (2003)
  • Choice, Outstanding Academic Title for Homer’s Traditional Art (1999)
  • American Council of Learned Societies, fellowship (1995-1996)
  • Guggenheim Fellowship (1980-1981)
  • Fulbright Fellowship (1979)
  • American Council of Learned Societies, fellowship (1976-1977)
  • MLA Prize for a Distinguished Scholarly Edition
  • Modern Language Association Awards