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AFS Review: In Memoriam

John Miles Foley​ (1947-2012)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Jesse A. Fivecoate

By Claire Schmidt (Missouri Valley College) — 

Few knew that John Miles Foley had been battling cancer since 2010, since his illness did little to slow him down or interrupt his work. John Foley was born in Massachusetts in 1947. After completing his Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Massachusetts-Amhurst, he continued the field research begun by his mentor, Albert Bates Lord in the former Yugoslavia on living oral epic. Foley’s subsequent work in oral tradition and oral formulaic theory drove his groundbreaking work as a medievalist and classicist. As a professor at the University of Missouri for more than thirty years, John Foley will be remembered for his commitment to the accessibility of knowledge and resources for all, the fierce loyalty and trust he placed in his students, and his rare ability to look at the familiar and see strange and new possibilities. In his final years, John Foley continued to expand the boundaries of his field. As editor of Oral Tradition he ensured that the journal would remain open access and free of charge to scholars around the world. Foley built strong relationships with Chinese scholars of folklore and oral tradition, and he pushed our understanding of knowledge and transmission through his work with oral tradition and information technology in the Pathways Project. It is hard for us, his former students and colleagues, to separate our understanding of John Foley from our understanding of the epics he unfolded for us, but perhaps by turning to the death of warriors like Beowulf or Hector we can begin to appreciate what we have lost and what we can yet learn. See also Obituary, Columbia Missourian (May 8, 2012). 

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