College of Humanities and Social Sciences
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Joy Fraser

Joy Fraser

Joy Fraser

Assistant Professor

Folklore: folk narrative; foodways; folk custom and drama; cultural tourism

Joy Fraser earned her PhD in Folklore from Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, in 2011. She is working on her first book project, Addressing the Haggis: Culture and Contestation in the Making of Scotland's National Dish. In 2012, the project was selected for the prestigious Folklore Studies in a Multicultural World multi-press book series workshop. The series publishes exceptional first books that exemplify the interdisciplinary and international nature of contemporary folklore scholarship. Fraser's essays have appeared in the journals Contemporary Legend, Scottish Studies, and Ethnologies, among others.

Current Research

Addressing the Haggis is the first book-length study of Scotland’s national dish and its relationship to Scottish cultural identity. Haggis is among the best-known symbols of Scotland in the world today, yet the issue of when, how, and why it came to be regarded as distinctively Scottish has been largely a matter of speculation. Addressing the Haggis traces the dish’s evolving status as a contested symbol of Scottish nationality from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. Drawing on evidence from Scotland, England, and from Scotland’s global diaspora, the project explores how the dish became embroiled in a transnational debate about what it means to be Scottish that continues to this day.

Fraser is also working on a project investigating the violence surrounding the folk custom of Christmas mumming in mid-nineteenth-century urban Newfoundland. Archival research conducted so far has uncovered contemporary documentation of over twenty criminal cases involving men accused of committing violent or antisocial acts while disguised as mummers. The project explores what these materials reveal about the practice of mumming in the communities concerned, the backgrounds of participants, the motivations underlying the violent incidents, and the responses of the authorities. It also reexamines the links that have been posited between mumming-related violence and the wider social, ethnic, religious, and political tensions that characterized life in urban Newfoundland during this period.

Selected Publications

“Mummers on Trial: Mumming, Violence and the Law in Conception Bay and St. John’s, Newfoundland, 1831-1863.” Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures 3.2 (2009): 70-88.

“Performing Tradition and Ethnicity at the Newfoundland St. Andrew's Society Burns Supper.” Ethnologies 30.2 (2008): 181-200.

“A Study of Scottish Gaelic Versions of 'Snow-White.'” Scottish Studies 34 (2006): 60-76.

“'Gie her a Haggis!': Haggis as Food, Legend and Popular Culture.” Contemporary Legend n.s. 6 (2003): 1-43.

Courses Taught

ENGH 315: Folklore and Folklife

ENGH 412: Topics in Folklore Studies: Legend

ENGH 590: Topics in Folk Narrative: Legend

ENGH 591: Topics in Folklore Studies: Folklore, Cultural Heritage, and Tourism

HNRS 122: Reading the Arts: Traditional Arts in Performance

HNRS 131: Contemporary Society in Multiple Perspectives: Food and Culture

Recent Presentations

“Addressing the Haggis: Culture and Contestation in the Making of Scotland’s National Dish.” Hylton in the Highlands: A Festival of Scotland, Hylton Performing Arts Center, Manassas, VA. January 2013.

“Mummers and Murder: Reinvestigating the Death of Isaac Mercer.” Newfoundland and Labrador Mummers Festival. December 2012. Presented via videoconference to audiences at GMU’s Fairfax campus and in St. John’s, NL.

In the Media

McClain, Buzz. “Mason Folklorist Uncovers New Evidence in Pivotal 153-Year-Old Murder.” About Mason: Research. January 2013.

MacLean, Colin. “Murdered by Mummers: New Facts Uncovered in the Unsolved Case of Man Killed by Masked Christmas Visitors in 1860.” Telegram (St. John’s, NL), December 20, 2012.

“Murder and Mummers.” St. John’s Morning Show (St. John’s, NL), CBC Radio 1. December 3, 2012.

“Haggis as a Symbol of Scotland.” Topical feature for Robert Burns Day. On the Go (Newfoundland and Labrador), CBC Radio 1. January 25, 2011.

Fitzpatrick, Ashley. “Mummers and Murder: Researchers Mark Tradition’s Past Connections with Violence.” Telegram (St. John’s, NL). December 20, 2010.

“The Dark Side of Mummering.” Radio Noon (Newfoundland and Labrador), CBC Radio 1. December 15, 2010.