Sarah Holland

Sarah Holland

Sarah Holland

Describe your current area of research and/or your academic interests:

Much of my research throughout the program was around internet folklore: the Babadook as an identifier of queerness in virtual spaces, the memetic development of the W.A.P dance on TikTok, video games as folkloric objects through online fan and modding communities, and other, similar topics. I saw an opening in that space where little research was being done, and a lot of the thought leaders in that space were still a few years behind the current trends. And, quite frankly, I find those topics incredibly interesting and fun.

I’ve always enjoyed pushing the boundaries of what is considered “worthy” of academic research, looking at literature, for example, that has been historically maligned, like manga, science fiction, young adult, and others. One of the great things about the study of folklore is that the discipline really embraces this attitude of exploring the oft-unexplored.

Are there faculty or staff members who have made a difference thus far during your Mason career? Please give an example of this impact if possible.

Truly, every faculty member I had in the folklore program was exceptional. Professors Benjamin Gatling, Lisa Gilman, and Lijun Zhang were all incredible educators and supportive mentors.

When I said I wanted to write about genre intertextuality through a viral TikTok dance, Professor Gatling said, “Awesome!” When I presented a paper on Five Nights at Freddy’s, Professor Zhang said she was excited that she got to learn about a culture and community she’d never heard of. And when I said I wanted to look at Babadook memes on Tumblr in Professor Gilman’s “Gender, Sexuality, and Folklore” class, she encouraged me to consider developing the paper further into a journal article. I have never felt so encouraged in pursuing my intellectual interests.

What was/were your favorite class(es)?

All of them. I’m not kidding, every class I took I found valuable, and they all challenged me in positive, productive ways to become a better writer, scholar, and folklorist. One thing that I think was most engaging about these classes was their mix of theoretical insights, practical application, and engagement with both the history and current state of folklore studies through a critical lens. That sort of honesty is hard to come by in academic programs, and I appreciated that we were in real time grappling with issues of equity and ethics in our field.

What was your greatest accomplishment?

I had the opportunity to interview Margaret Yocom, professor emerita and founder of the Mason Folklore program, on how she utilizes her folklore expertise in her work as a creative writer. At the time, I was working on my seminar paper for one of the theory classes; I was writing about how marginalized scholars within the field have been leading the way on alternative, creative methods of ethnography for decades. Not only were Professor Yocom’s voice and perspective valuable in the construction of that paper, but I ended up submitting it for the Margaret R. Yocom Student Paper Prize and winning the award for it. It was really incredible to not only have my scholarship and work acknowledged but to have it be an award in her honor was just plain poetic.

How do you hope to use your degree and studies in the future?

As a creative writer, I hope to use what I’ve learned in my work to craft better worlds and stories. And in general, I hope to just...keep engaging in folklore scholarship and research. Who knows, maybe one day Mason will have a Folklore Ph.D.; if that day comes, I’ll be number 1 in line for a spot in that inaugural cohort.