Elaine Lawless, Curators' Professor of English and Folklore Studies

Elaine Lawless profile picture office: 308 Tate
phone: use email
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
office hours: T/R l:00-3:00; Wed l:00-3:00 
(WED ONLY BY appointment via email)

Research and teaching areas
Folklore Studies, Women's and Gender
Studies, Religious Studies, women's
literature and verbal art, and women's
narrative; human rights, social justice,
violence against women

Elaine Lawless is the author of six books, as well as many scholarly articles and is the co-producer (with Elizabeth Peterson) of the documentary film on Pentecostalism, "Joy Unspeakable."  She was on leave in 2013 to write her 7th book and make a documentary film  on a small African-American town in southern Missouri, Pinhook, that was totally destroyed when the Army Corp of Engineers flooded southern Missouri in an effort to save Cairo, Illinois.  The residents of this town have received NO FEMA assistance, help with rent, relocation help, or any other aid to re-establish their town.  The film "Taking Pinhook" will be shown during Black History Month, 2014, on Feb. 20 in the auditorium of the Student Union.


At MU she has received the Faculty Alumni Award, the Kemper Award for Excellence in Teaching, a Gold Chalk Award (for graduate instruction) and a Purple Chalk Award (for undergraduate instruction), and the Chancellor's Award for Research. In 2002, she was named a Curators' Professor by the MU Board of Curators; in 2004, she was named MU Alumni Distinguished Professor.


In 2003, she founded and is the producer of the Troubling Violence Performance Project, with Professor Heather Carver (director), MU Theatre Department.

From 2005-2008, Dr. Lawless served as the Director of the Center for Arts and Humanities, Conley House, on the MU campus.


She is the recent past President of the American Folklore Society (2007-2010).


Lawless served as the Nan Keohane Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of North Carolina and Duke University for 2011-12, where she taught in residence.


Lawless serves on the board of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and is currently serving as humanities coordinator for the national Veterans Oral History Project in Missouri.


PhD, Indiana University

Selected Publications

  • Elaine Lawless and M. Heather Carver. Troubling Violence: An Auto/Ethnographic Performance Project. Univ. of Miss. Press, 2009.
  • Elaine Lawless. "Ecstacy Across a Thin Line: Pentecostalism in the Deep South," New Territories, New Perspectives: The Religious Impact of the Louisiana Purchase, ed. by Richard Callahan. Univ. of Missouri Press, 2008
  • Elaine J. Lawless. "In Search of Our Mothers. . .and Our Selves" [non-fiction]; in The Folklore Muse: Nonfiction Writing by Folklorists in the Field, ed. by Frank deCaro. Logan: Utah State Univ. Press, 2008.
  • Elaine Lawless. Moving Targets: When violence hits home Folklore Summer, 2006.
  • Elaine J. Lawless. "A Call for Action: Improving Community Awareness of and Responses to Local Violence Against Women" Peace Studies Quarterly Fall, 2006.
  • Elaine Lawless. The 'Cycles of Violence' Narrative Prototype as a Folk Story: Recognizing Folklore Where it Works for Justice New York Folklore Quarterly 8 (Spring 2004). [Appeared in 2005]
  • Elaine Lawless. Performing Witchery: Cartography and Power in Ethnographic Fiction Louisiana Folklore Quarterly (Spring 2004): 20-31 [Appeared in 2005];
  • Elaine Lawless. Woman as Abject: Resisting Cultural and Religious Myths that Condone Violence against Women Western Folklore 9.4 (2004): 12-22;
  • Elaine Lawless. Women Escaping Violence: Empowerment Through Narrative (University of Missouri Press, 2001) www.umsystem.edu

Courses Taught

  • Eng/WGS 3180:01 Survey of Women's Writers
  • English 4780/7780: Women’s Folklore & Feminist Theory
  • English 8700: Seminar in Folklore

Selected Awards

  • Missouri Governor's Award for Excellence in Teaching
  • Nan Keohane Visiting Distinguished Professor, UNC and Duke, 2011;
  • (Elected) President, American Folklore Society, 2006-10
  • American Folklore Society Kenneth Goldstein Award for Academic Excellence, 2010
  • Curators' Professor, 2004;
  • MU Distinguished Professor, 2007;
  • Alumni Association Faculty/Alumni Award;
  • Gold Chalk Award;
  • Honor Tap;
  • Purple Chalk Award;
  • William T. Kemper Fellowship for Excellence in Teaching.