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Sharon Sherman papers

 Collection — Box: 33
Identifier: UA 215

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of film, video and audiotapes, and papers related to Sherman’s fieldwork, other research, publications, correspondence, and teaching, from 1966 through 2010.


  • 1966-2013


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Conditions Governing Use

Property rights reside with Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries. Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs. All requests for permission to publish collection materials must be submitted to Special Collections and University Archives. The reader must also obtain permission of the copyright holder.

Biographical / Historical

Sharon Sherman, Professor Emerita (since 2008) of English and Folklore at the University of Oregon, is a well-known folklorist who demonstrated the importance and pioneered the expertise of folkloristic filmmaking. She was born in Toronto (April 16, 1943) but her family soon moved to Detroit. She attended Monteith College at Wayne State University, where she took a folklore class with Ellen Steckert and wrote her senior thesis on Anglo-American ballad scholarship. She received her PhB in Latin and Science of Society in 1965.

Sherman taught public school from 1964 to 1968 in Detroit and surrounding areas. She went to UCLA to pursue an M.A. in Folklore and Mythology, which she was awarded with in 1971. While there, she met her future husband, Steven J. Zibelman, a musician who is credited as a sound- or cameraman on some of her films. They have a son, Michael, who is a middle school teacher and drummer. Sherman participated in UCLA’s Ethnographic Film Program, which gave her access to equipment and an editing room. She took a class with filmmaker Jorge Preloran (and she later worked as camerawoman on his television series, Patagonia, 1992). She made her first film, Tales of the Supernatural, in 1970: this was the first film ever made by an academically-trained folklorist. Sherman went to Indiana University for her PhD in Folklore; her dissertation, directed by Richard Dorson, was titled, “The Folkloric Film: The Relevance of Film for Understanding Folkloric Events” (1978).

From her appointment as Assistant Professor of English and Folklore in 1976, Sherman spent her career at the University of Oregon. She became an Associate Professor in 1981, full Professor in 1994, and Professor Emerita in 2008. From 1985 through 2006, she served as Director of both the Folklore Program and the Randall V. Mills Archives of Northwest Folklore. For part of this time, she was the only fulltime folklorist in the department. The courses she taught include Introduction to Folklore, Film and Folklore, Folklore Fieldwork, Film and Video Production for Folklore Fieldwork, American Folklore, Narrative Theory, American Popular Culture, the History of Folklore Theory and Research, etc. Sherman received the University’s Rippey Teaching Innovation Award four times. She also served diligently on many university committees and as director of numerous student projects including student-made videos.

The subjects of Sherman’s teaching, her books, and her films all overlap and reinforce each other. Her books include Chainsaw Sculptor (1995), Documenting Ourselves (1998, 2006), and Folklore / Cinema: Popular Film as Vernacular Culture (co-edited with Mikel J. Koven, 2007). She published articles on a variety of subjects including folklore pedagogy, reflections on the subjects of her own and other people’s films, and folklore in popular culture such as video games, films, and hip-hop music. Much of her research focused on subjects suitable for filming such as folk art, ethnicity, and ritual; nevertheless, she was also interested in the nature and history of folklore as an academic discipline.

Sherman’s films and videos include Kathleen Ware, Quiltmaker (1979), Passover: A Celebration (1981), Spirits in the Wood (1991), Kid Shoes (2001), and Whatever Happened to Zulay (2012, a sequel to a film by Preloran and his wife, Mabel), which were screened at general and folklore film festivals and on other occasions. Sherman was influential (along with Tom Davenport and Daniel Patterson) in establishing the Folkstreams website, “a national preserve of documentary films about roots cultures.” In her reviews of many folklore-related films, and through her writings on film for folklore journals and handbooks and encyclopedias, she articulated the usefulness of film in the documentation and interpretation of folklore and helped to define professional practices in this emerging area.

Sherman was active in the American Folklore Society and in the Western States Folklore Society; she served as film review editor for these and other folklore journals. An effective and lively lecturer, she delivered many papers at conventions and conferences. She also promoted the field of folklore by making herself available for newspaper and radio interviews and by serving as a consultant on various arts and humanities projects, and by giving presentations on a wide variety of subjects (floodways, ritual, folk art, etc.) to community groups as well as through the Oregon Council for the Humanities Chautauqua program.


25 linear feet (34 containers) : 25 manuscript boxes, 5 flat manuscript boxes, 3 record storage boxes, 1 oversize box

Language of Materials



Sharon Sherman was a professor of English and Folklore at the University of Oregon. From 1976 to 2008 she taught courses and produced films and videos about folklore subjects. Her work—books, articles, reviews, and committee work in addition to her films—gave folkloric film a new prominence and led to its recognition as a valid form of academic research. The collection contains teaching and research files as well as film, video and audio recordings and correspondence.


Collection is organized into the following series:

Series I: Teaching Files Subseries A: Film and fieldwork Subseries B: Folklore Theory Subseries C: Myth Subseries D: English 250 Subseries E: American folklore Series II: Department Records: Promotion Files and Folklore Departmental Files Series III: Correspondence Series IV: Recommendations, Reviews, and Proposals Series V: Publications and Subject Files Subseries A: Articles Subseries B: Reviews of Films and Books Subseries C: Lectures and Presentations Subseries D: American Folklore Society Meetings Subseries E: Documenting Ourselves (book) Subseries F: Folklore/Cinema (co-edited book, 2007) Subseries G: Subject files Series VI: Other Professional Activities Series VII: Film Files Subseries A: Tales of the Supernatural Subseries B: Kathleen Ware, Quiltmaker Subseries C: Passover: A Celebration Subseries D: Spirits in the Wood Subseries E: Film Files Subseries F: Oversize Series VIII: Films, Videos and Audio Subseries A: Lecture Subseries B: Film: Tales of the Supernatural Subseries C: Film: Kathleen Ware, Quiltmaker Subseries D: Video: Passover: A Celebration Subseries E: Video: Spirits in the Wood

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated by Sharon Sherman.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Christine Goldberg.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Guide to the Sharon Sherman Papers
Complete Description
Christine Goldberg
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English

Repository Details

Part of the University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives Repository

1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR 97403-1299 USA