Theo Meder has been appointed Professor by Special Appointment in Folktales and narrative culture from the Middle Ages to the present day in the Netherlands in an international perspective by the Faculty of Arts. The chair is sponsored by the Meertens Institute of the KNAW.
Theo Meder (1960) also works as a senior researcher at the Meertens Institute, which conducts research and documentation on the Dutch language and culture. He is specialized in folktales, oral transmission and narrative culture in the Netherlands. Meder studied Dutch language and literature at Leiden University. After gaining his PhD in 1991, he conducted research on narrative cultures, the fairytale repertoire of the Frisian raconteur Anders Bijma and urban legends in everyday life. He also conducted fieldwork in the multicultural Lombok neighbourhood in Utrecht, where he collected stories from ethnic minority and indigenous inhabitants, and in New Age circles, where he was looking for religious repertoires and witness narratives. He founded the digital Nederlandse Volksverhalenbank [Dutch Folktales database], which is not only a digital heritage archive but also an advanced research instrument (www.verhalenbank.nl). In addition, Meder has initiated various projects that can be clustered under the heading of digital humanities. For example the ‘Folktales as classifiable texts’ project, whereby computers automatically generate metadata from stories, such as keywords, language, names and genre. In the www.tweetgenie.nl project, Twitter tweets can be used to discover whether the tweeter is a man or a woman and how old they are. The ‘Tunes and Tales’ project conducts research on the variability and continuity in melodies and stories in the oral tradition. In www.sagenjager.nl, the Dutch Folktales database is used to design walking and bicycling routes for tourists whereby people can travel from story to story. Theo Meder is the editor-in-chief of the free e-zine Vertelcultuur and the Facebook group of the same name.
At the University of Groningen, Meder will mainly concentrate on oral tradition and the transmission of folktales in the Netherlands, embedded in an international context. This will involve
repertoires of folktales, such as sagas, fairy tales, legends, riddles, jokes and urban legends that have circulated for a longer or shorter period of time among groups of people, and more specifically folktales that can be identified in national and international catalogues of folktales. Research on the oral transmission of folktales cannot be conducted without research on the written tradition. Sources for this include printed farces, fairy tales, fabliaux, saints’ lives, chronicles, chapbooks, almanacs and travel writings. Research on modern transmission includes fieldwork, interviews, sound and image recording, Twitter and Facebook. Meder will particularly focus on Groningen and Friesland in his work at the University of Groningen.
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