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With a joint appointment in Scandinavian and in Folklore and Mythology, Stephen Mitchell’s research and teaching address a wide variety of genres and periods of Nordic culture and literature, and issues in folklore, centering on popular traditions, mythology, and legends in the late medieval and early modern periods, but he has also written on such diverse topics as Scandinavian drama and women's autobiographical literature in the 17th century (Job in Female Garb: Studies on the Autobiography of Agneta Horn ). He is the author of Heroic Sagas and Ballads (1991), a study of the medieval Icelandic mythical-heroic sagas and their heritage in more recent Scandinavian ballads and other oral traditions, and of the medieval section of A History of Swedish Literature (1996), work for which he was awarded the Dag Strömbäck Prize from The Royal Gustav Adolf Academy. His recent research, including as a Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies and a visitor at the University of Aarhus, Denmark resulted in a book-length study of witchcraft and magic throughout medieval Scandinavia, Witchcraft and Magic in the Nordic Middle Ages (2011) for which he was named a Walter Channing Cabot Fellow. In 2013, Professor Mitchell was a Fellow of the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study in Uppsala, Sweden, extending this earlier research with a project on medieval and early modern Nordic charm magic. In recent years, his research has also become increasingly focused on memory studies and representations of the past (e.g., Minni and Muninn. Memory in Medieval Nordic Culture , edited with Pernille Hermann and Agnes S. Arnórsdóttir).
He attended the University of California, Berkeley (A.B. in Anthropology and Scandinavian Languages and Literatures), the University of Lund, Sweden and the University of Minnesota (Ph.D., in Scandinavian Languages and Literatures). In addition to being part of Harvard’s Scandinavian Program, and an active member (and former chairman) of The Committee on Degrees in Folklore and Mythology, he is also Curator of the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature and serves on the Committee on Medieval Studies. Since coming to Harvard in 1980, Professor Mitchell has been very involved in student life, and is the former Master of Eliot House (1991-2000). Together with colleagues from the University of Aarhus, he annually teaches in and directs Harvard’s Viking Studies Program in Scandinavia, recently featured in USA Today as one of the nation’s most unique study abroad programs. In September 2015, Professor Mitchell was deeply honored to be awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Aarhus.
Culture and Belief 16. Performance, Tradition and Cultural Studies: An Introduction to Folklore and Mythology