Stith Thompson  

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Stith Thompson (March 7, 1885 – January 13, 1976) was an American scholar of folklore. He is the "Thompson" of the Aarne-Thompson classification system. He was born in Bloomfield, Kentucky, the son of John Warden and Eliza (McCluskey) Thompson. He is best known for his work on the classification of motifs in folk tales. His six-volume Motif-Index of Folk-Literature (1932–37) is considered the international key to traditional material.

He joined the English faculty of Indiana University (Bloomington), teaching composition. Interested in traditional ballads and tales, he organized summer institutes on the subject at the university that ran from the 1940s to the 1960s. These led, in 1962, to the foundation of the University's still active Folklore Institute with another preeminent student of folklorist, Richard Dorson.

While Thompson was the author, coauthor, or translator of numerous books and articles on folklore, he was perhaps best known for his work on the classification of motifs in folk tales. His six-volume Motif-Index of Folk-Literature (1932–37) is considered the international key to traditional material.

Much of author Ben Marcus's The Age of Wire and String was inspired by his folklore indexes.

Biography

Stith Thompson was born in Nelson county, Kentucky on March 7, 1885. His family moved to Indianapolis when he was twelve. He attended Butler College, obtained his BA degree from University of Wisconsin. For the next two years, he taught high school in Portland, Oregen, where he learned Norwegian. He earned his master’s degree in English literature from University of California, Berkeley in 1912. He studied at Harvard University from 1912 to 1914, and taught English at the University of Texas, Austin from 1914 to 1918, and obtained his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1919.



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