Alan Dundes Biography

Alan Dundes was a famous folklorist. Read on to know more about Alan Dundes’s profile, childhood, life and timeline in this biography.

Alan Dundes

Quick Facts

Also known as: Alan
Gender: Male
Birthday: 08 September 1934
Died: 30 March 2005
Nationality: American
Sun Sign: Virgo
Education: Yale University, Indiana University

Alan Dundes was a famous folklorist at the University of California at Berkeley. Dundes was instrumental in developing folklore as a prominent academic discipline. The author of 12 books, both academic and popular, he also edited and co-authored two dozen more. One of his prominent articles include ‘Seeing Is Believing’, in which stated that Americans value the sense of sight other than other senses.

Early Life & Career

Completing his studies from the Yale University, Dundes received the training to become the naval communications officer. Once he completed two years of service maintaining artillery guns on a ship in the Mediterranean, he attended Indiana University and received a Ph.D. in folklore. Starting the career as teacher at the University of Kansas, she joined the University of California where she taught folklore as a part of anthropology. He remained in the position for 42 years till his death in 2005.
In the folklore course which Dundes taught, students were introduced to varied forms of folklore such as legends, myths, folk speech, folk belief and so on. Dundes also gave lectures on American folklore in seminars and Psychoanalytic approach to folklore and its history on an international perspective. Dundes also supported New Student Orientation Program and often gave opening address during the summer orientation programs where students’ opinion about the type of instruction was sought.
As a scholar who is in in-depth research on folklore, he often quote controversies. Some of his works included his examination of New Testament and the Qur'an and one of his works, ‘Into the Endzone for a Touchdown’ which explores the homoerotic implications which are explicit in the rituals and terminologies surrounding American football even earned him death threats. In 1980, Dundes gave the presidential address at the American Folklore Society annual meeting; his presentation was later published by the name, ‘Life is Like a Chicken Coop Ladder’.
Dundes has been a great champion of folkloristic all through his life. In the later phases of his life, he was awarded a cheque of $1,000,000 which enabled Dunes to endow the university with a distinguished professorship. This ensured that his retirement wouldn’t abandon folklore in the department. Dundes passed away due to a heart attack on 30 March 2005 at the age of 70. He collapsed while giving lectures in a graduate seminar in the University of California.

Major Works

The Morphology of North American Indian Folktales (1964)
The Study of Folklore (1965)
The Number Three in American Culture (1968)
Thinking Ahead: A Folkloristic Reflection of the Future Orientation in American Worldview (1969)
A Study of Ethnic Slurs (1971)
From Game to War and Other Psychoanalytic Essays on Folklore (1997)
Bloody Mary in the Mirror: Essays in Psychoanalytic Folkloristic (2002)
The Shabbat Elevator and Other Sabbath Subterfuges (2003)
Fables of the Ancients?: Folklore in the Qur'an (2003)
Parsing Through Customs: Essays by a Freudian Folklorist (2003)
As the Crow Flies: A Straightforward Study of Lineal Worldview in American Folk Speech (2004)
Sacred Narrative, Readings in the Theory of Myth


Alan Dundes has a son and two daughters namely, David, Lauren Dundes and Alison Dundes

Media Representations

One of his popular article was ‘Seeing is Believing’ in which he says that Americans value the sense of sight other than anything else.
Prior to his death, Dundes was interviewed by the Brian Flemming, the film maker for the documentary, ‘The God Who Wasn't There’.


1934: Alan Dundes married on 8 September 1934 in New York City.
1955: Dundes earned a B. A in English literature.
1962: Dundes completed the Ph.D. in folklore from Indiana University.
2005: Dundes passed away on March 2005 while presenting a seminar.

Citation Information

Article Title

Alan Dundes Biography

Author Editors

Website Name

The website


Last Updated

May 03, 2020

Related Biographies