John Miles Foley

Curators' Professor and William H. Byler Distinguished Professor in the Humanities Emeritus
Director: The Center for eResearch and The Center for Studies in Oral Tradition
Editor: Oral Tradition
Education: Ph.D. Massachusetts
Interests: Medieval English traditions, South Slavic traditions to Homer and Oral Traditions


My specialty is comparative oral traditions, in particular ancient Greek, early medieval English, and South Slavic. My major publications have reflected this focus: The Theory of Oral Composition (1988), Traditional Oral Epic (1990), Immanent Art (1991), The Singer of Tales in Performance (1995), Teaching Oral Traditions (1998), Homer's Traditional Art (1999), and How to Read an Oral Poem (2002).

More recently, I have published an edition and translation of a South Slavic oral epic (The Wedding of Mustajbey's Son Bećirbey as Performed by Halil Bajgorić, 2004), which is also available open-access with hypertext and audio at; and edited, along with Michael Barnes, the Blackwell Companion to Ancient Epic (2005). In progress is a multimedia study of oral tradition and the Internet as homologous technologies of communication; when complete, it will be published as a "morphing book" by the University of Illinois Press and will continue to evolve as an online wiki (

In addition to serving as director of Missouri's Center for Studies in Oral Tradition ( and Center for eResearch (, I am the founding editor of the journal Oral Tradition (est. 1986), which can now be accessed online in a searchable and free-of-charge format ( and has as a result established a readership in 169 countries and territories. I have also edited three series of books: Lord Studies in Oral Tradition at Garland, Voices in Performance and Text at Indiana University Press, and Poetics of Orality and Literacy at the University of Notre Dame Press. My articles and essays have appeared in approximately 180 journals and collections, among them the Cambridge Companion to Homer and the New Companion to Homer. Over the past few years I have lectured at a variety of institutions in China, Japan, South Africa, several European countries, Canada, and the United States. The current academic year will include lecture series in Mexico, Greece, Vietnam, and Tibet.

Both of my Centers offer opportunities for graduate students to participate in editorial activities as paid research assistants. In my experience, M.A. and Ph.D. candidates in Classical Studies make excellent editors, and they are able to develop skills that will serve them in important ways during their post-graduate careers.

Most of my teaching in Classical Studies has centered around Homer, epic, and mythology at both graduate and undergraduate levels; I also teach Anglo-Saxon language and Beowulf in the English department and South Slavic language and poetry in the German and Russian Studies department. Among my favorite teaching assignments is the comparatively oriented course entitled "Oral Tradition," which covers the Iliad or Odyssey along with oral poetry from India, China, Africa, Native America, and different areas in Europe from ancient times to the present.