We know how a Shakespeare play sounds when performed today, but what would listeners have heard within the wooden "O" of the Globe Theater in 1599? What sounds would have filled the air in early modern England, and what would these sounds have meant to people in that largely oral culture?
In this ear-opening journey into the sound-worlds of Shakespeare's contemporaries, Bruce R. Smith explores both the physical aspects of human speech (ears, lungs, tongue) and the surrounding environment (buildings, landscape, climate), as well as social and political structures. Drawing on a staggeringly wide range of evidence, he crafts a historical phenomenology of sound, from reconstructions of the "soundscapes" of city, country, and court to detailed accounts of the acoustic properties of the Globe and Blackfriars theaters and how scripts designed for the two spaces exploited sound very differently.
Critical for anyone who wants to understand the world of early modern England, Smith's pathbreaking "ecology" of voice and listening also has much to offer musicologists and acoustic ecologists.
American Indian Rhetorics of Survivance presents an original critical and theoretical analysis of American Indian rhetorical practices in both canonical and previously overlooked texts: autobiographies, memoirs, prophecies, and oral storytelling traditions. Ernest Stromberg assembles essays from a range of academic disciplines that investigate the rhetorical strategies of Native American orators, writers, activists, leaders, and intellectuals.
The contributors consider rhetoric in broad terms, ranging from Aristotle's definition of rhetoric as “the faculty . . . of discovering in the particular case what are the available means of persuasion,” to the ways in which Native Americans assimilated and revised Western rhetorical concepts and language to form their own discourse with European and American colonists. They relate the power and use of rhetoric in treaty negotiations, written accounts of historic conflicts and events, and ongoing relations between American Indian governments and the United States.
This is a groundbreaking collection for readers interested in Native American issues and the study of language. In presenting an examination of past and present Native American rhetoric, it emphasizes the need for an improved understanding of multicultural perspectives.
Born in 1900 in French West Africa, Malian writer Amadou Hampâté Bâ was one of the towering figures in the literature of twentieth-century Francophone Africa. In Amkoullel, the Fula Boy, Bâ tells in striking detail the story of his youth, which was set against the aftermath of war between the Fula and Toucouleur peoples and the installation of French colonialism. A master storyteller, Bâ recounts pivotal moments of his life, and the lives of his powerful and large family, from his first encounter with the white commandant through the torturous imprisonment of his stepfather and to his forced attendance at French school. He also charts a larger story of life prior to and at the height of French colonialism: interethnic conflicts, the clash between colonial schools and Islamic education, and the central role indigenous African intermediaries and interpreters played in the functioning of the colonial administration. Engrossing and novelistic, Amkoullel, the Fula Boy is an unparalleled rendering of an individual and society under transition as they face the upheavals of colonialism.
After a career working and living with American Indians and studying their traditions, Barre Toelken has written this sweeping study of Native American folklore in the West. Within a framework of performance theory, cultural worldview, and collaborative research, he examines Native American visual arts, dance, oral tradition (story and song), humor, and patterns of thinking and discovery to demonstrate what can be gleaned from Indian traditions by Natives and non-Natives alike. In the process he considers popular distortions of Indian beliefs, demystifies many traditions by showing how they can be comprehended within their cultural contexts, considers why some aspects of Native American life are not meant to be understood by or shared with outsiders, and emphasizes how much can be learned through sensitivity to and awareness of cultural values.
Winner of the 2004 Chicago Folklore Prize, The Anguish of Snails is an essential work for the collection of any serious reader in folklore or Native American studies.
The similes in Homer are treasure troves. They describe scenes of Greek life that are not presented in their simplest form anywhere else: landscapes and seascapes, storms and calm weather, fighting among animals, civic disputes, athletic contests, horse races, community entertainment, women involved in their daily tasks, men running their farms and orchards. These basic paratactic additions to the narrative show how the Greeks found and developed parallels between two scenes—each of which elucidated and interpreted the other—then expressed those scenes in effective poetic language. In The Artistry of the Homeric Simile, Scott explores the variations and modifications that Homer employs in order to make similes blend expressively with the larger context. This engaging study will help unlock the richness of Homer for the modern reader.
A brilliant, experimental ethnography,Brushed by Cedar is destined to change the way anthropologists write about the people they befriend.
Crisca Bierwert has created a fresh poststructural ethnography that offers new insights into Coast Salish cultures. Arguing against the existence of a master narrative, she presents her understanding of these Native American peoples of Washington state and British Columbia, Canada, through poetic bricolage, offering the reader a pastiche of rich cultural images. Bierwert employs postmodern literary and social analyses to examine many aspects of Salish culture: legends and their storytellers; domestic violence; longhouse ceremonies; the importance and power of place; and disputes over fishing rights. Her reflections overlap as a dialogue would, weaving throughout the book significant threads of Salish knowledge and creating a nonauthoritative text that nonetheless speaks knowingly.
This book represents the future of contemporary anthropology. Unlike traditional ethnography, it makes no attempt to portray a complete picture of the Coast Salish. Instead, Bierwert utilizes a critical and diffuse approach that defies colonial, syncretic, and hegemonic structures and applies advanced literary theory to the creation of ethnography.
Brushed by Cedar is an important guideline for anyone who writes about other cultures and will be expecially useful to classes in the methodology and history of ethnography, as well as to scholars specializing in Native American studies or oral literatures.
Explores the power and artistry of prophecy among the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, who use predictions about the future to interpret the world around them
This book challenges the common assumption that American Indian prophecy was an anomaly of the 18th and 19th centuries that resulted from tribes across the continent reacting to the European invasion. Tom Mould’s study of the contemporary prophetic traditions of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians reveals a much larger system of prophecy that continues today as a vibrant part of the oral tradition.
Mould shows that Choctaw prophecy is more than a prediction of the future; it is a way to unite the past, present, and future in a moral dialogue about how one should live. Choctaw prophecy, he argues, is stable and continuous; it is shared in verbal discourse, inviting negotiation on the individual level; and, because it is a tradition of all the people, it manifests itself through myriad visions with many themes. In homes, casinos, restaurants, laundromats, day care centers, and grocery stores, as well as in ceremonial and political situations, people discuss current events and put them into context with traditional stories that govern the culture. In short, recitation is widely used in everyday life as a way to interpret, validate, challenge, and create the world of the Choctaw speaker.
Choctaw Prophecy stands as a sound model for further study into the prophetic traditions of not only other American Indian tribes but also communities throughout the world. Weaving folklore and oral tradition with ethnography, this book will be useful to academic and public libraries as well as to scholars and students of southern Indians and the modern South.
Clever Maids, Fearless Jacks, and a Cat showcases the stories of two Newfoundland storytellers, Philip Pius Power and Alice Lannon. Ethnopoetic transcriptions of these sensitive and artful tales, which have been passed on orally for generations as part of a community tradition, give accounts of living oral performances from the last quarter of the twentieth century and demonstrate the artistry that is possible without the written word.
Here, eight tales from Power and five tales from Lannon take up issues of vital concern—such as spousal abuse, bullying, and social and generational conflict—allusively, through a screen of fiction. In commentary following the stories Anita Best, Martin Lovelace, and Pauline Greenhill discuss the transmission of fairy tales in oral tradition, address the relation of these magic tales to Lannon’s and Power’s other stories, and share specifics about Newfoundland storytelling and the two tellers themselves. The text is further enriched by expressive illustrations from artist Graham Blair.
Clever Maids, Fearless Jacks, and a Cat presents the fairy-tale oeuvres of two superb storytellers as a contribution to interdisciplinary fairy-tale studies and folklore—countering fairy-tale studies’ focus on written traditions and printed texts—as well as to gender studies, cultural studies, Newfoundland studies, and Canadian studies. Students, scholars, and general readers interested in folk and fairy tales, contemporary Märchen, Newfoundland folklore, or oral tradition more generally will find much of value in these pages.
Support for this publication was provided, in part, by the University of Winnipeg.
This exceptional study of the Mongo people of the upper Congo River basin focuses on the evolution of Mongo work patterns from the period of the late nineteenth century to 1940, the high-water mark of the colonial period. It brings new evidence from oral histories, anthropological research, and archival records to build on or to correct colonial ethnographic accounts. From this fresh vantage point, Nelson reassesses colonial labor policies and relates them to today’s rural poverty and underdevelopment.
Because American Indian literatures are largely informed by their respective oral storytelling traditions, they may be more difficult to understand or interpret than the more text-based literatures with which most readers are familiar. In this insightful new book, Susan Berry Brill de Ramírez addresses the limitations of contemporary criticism and theory in opening up the worlds of story within American Indian literatures, proposing instead a conversive approach for reading and understanding these works. In order to fully understand American Indian literatures, Brill de Ramírez explains that the reader must become a listener-reader, an active participant in the written stories
. To demonstrate this point, she explores literary works both by established Native writers such as Sherman Alexie, N. Scott Momaday, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Luci Tapahonso and by less-well-known writers such as Anna Lee Walters, Della Frank, Lee Maracle, and Louis Owens. Through her literary engagements with many poems, novels, and short stories, she demonstrates a new way to read and understand the diverse body of American Indian literatures. Brill de Ramírez's conversive approach interweaves two interconnected processes: co-creating the stories by participating in them as listener-readers and recognizing orally informed elements in the stories such as verbal minimalism and episodic narrative structures.
Because this methodology is rooted in American Indian oral storytelling traditions, Native voices from these literary works are able to more directly inform the scholarly process than is the case in more textually based critical strategies. Through this innovative approach, Brill de Ramírez shows that literature is not a static text but an interactive and potentially transforming conversation between listener-readers, storyteller-writers, and the story characters as well. Her book furthers the discussion of how to read American Indian and other orally informed literatures with greater sensitivity to their respective cultural traditions and shows that the immediacy of the relationship between teller, story, and listener can also be experienced in the relationships between writers, literary works, and their listener-readers.
An essential resource exploring orality and literacy in the pre-Hellenistic southern Levant and the Hebrew Bible
Situated historically between the invention of the alphabet, on the one hand, and the creation of ancient Israel's sacred writings, on the other, is the emergence of literary production in the ancient Levant. In this timely collection of essays by an international cadre of scholars, the dialectic between the oral and the written, the intersection of orality with literacy, and the advent of literary composition are each explored as a prelude to the emergence of biblical writing in ancient Israel. Contributors also examine a range of relevant topics including scripturalization, the compositional dimensions of orality and textuality as they engage biblical poetry, prophecy, and narrative along with their antecedents, and the ultimate autonomy of the written in early Israel. The contributors are James M. Bos, David M. Carr, André Lemaire, Robert D. Miller II, Nadav Na'aman, Raymond F. Person Jr., Frank H. Polak, Christopher A. Rollston, Seth L. Sanders, Joachim Schaper, Brian B. Schmidt, William M. Schniedewind, Elsie Stern, and Jessica Whisenant.
Addresses questions of literacy and scribal activity in the Levant and Negev
Articles examine memory, oral tradition, and text criticism
This new edition brings back into print one of the classics in scholarly analysis and translation, written by one of the luminaries of American cultural anthropology. Melville Herskovits and his wife and collaborator Frances spent over twenty years studying the social networks, religion, music, and oral traditions of the peoples of West Africa and their descendants in the New World. Dahomey, the site of their major African work, is in the country now known as Benin.
Published as a companion piece to Northwestern University Press's West African Folktales, Dahomean Narrative provides the basic texts of material collected in the field, and shows how they were collected, analyzed, and theorized in the anthropological and folklore disciplinary traditions of Herskovits's day. The result is a wide-ranging collection, culled from an entire narrative tradition, that remains unique among anthropological publications.
Who in a society can speak, and under what circumstances? These questions are at the heart of both Native American literature and feminist literary and cultural theory. Despite the recent explosion of publication in each of these fields, almost nothing has been written to date that explores the links between the two. With Feminist Readings of Native American Literature, Kathleen Donovan takes an important first step in examining how studies in these two fields inform and influence one another. Focusing on the works of N. Scott Momaday, Joy Harjo, Paula Gunn Allen, and others, Donovan analyzes the texts of these well-known writers, weaving a supporting web of feminist criticism throughout. With careful and gracefully offered insights, the book explores the reciprocally illuminating nature of culture and gender issues.
The author demonstrates how Canadian women of mixed-blood ancestry achieve a voice through autobiographies and autobiographical novels. Using a framework of feminist reader response theory, she considers an underlying misogyny in the writings of N. Scott Momaday. And in examining commonalities between specific cultures, she discusses how two women of color, Paula Gunn Allen and Toni Morrison, explore representations of femaleness in their respective cultures. By synthesizing a broad spectrum of critical writing that overlaps women's voices and Native American literature, Donovan expands on the frame of dialogue within feminist literary and cultural theory. Drawing on the related fields of ethnography, ethnopoetics, ecofeminism, and post-colonialism, Feminist Readings of Native American Literature offers the first systematic study of the intersection between two dynamic arenas in literary studies today.
Simon J. Bronner Utah State University Press, 1998 Library of Congress GR105.B67 1998 | Dewey Decimal 398.0973
Following Tradition is an expansive examination of the history of tradition—"one of the most common as well as most contested terms in English language usage"—in Americans' thinking and discourse about culture. Tradition in use becomes problematic because of "its multiple meanings and its conceptual softness." As a term and a concept, it has been important in the development of all scholarly fields that study American culture. Folklore, history, American studies, anthropology, cultural studies, and others assign different value and meaning to tradition. It is a frequent point of reference in popular discourse concerning everything from politics to lifestyles to sports and entertainment. Politicians and social advocates appeal to it as prima facie evidence of the worth of their causes. Entertainment and other media mass produce it, or at least a facsimile of it. In a society that frequently seeks to reinvent itself, tradition as a cultural anchor to be reverenced or rejected is an essential, if elusive, concept. Simon Bronner's wide net captures the historical, rhetorical, philosophical, and psychological dimensions of tradition. As he notes, he has written a book "about an American tradition—arguing about it." His elucidation of those arguments makes fascinating and thoughtful reading. An essential text for folklorists, Following Tradition will be a valuable reference as well for historians and anthropologists; students of American studies, popular culture, and cultural studies; and anyone interested in the continuing place of tradition in American culture.
For more than four hundred years, members of the author's family have been telling stories about their American lives. They have told of impassioned elopements and heart-breaking kidnaps, of hairbreadth escapes and shocking murders, of bigamists, changelings, patriots, Indians, fires, floods, and how the great-grandmother of Chief Justice John Marshall married the pirate Blackbeard by mistake.
In this beautifully written work, Andie Tucher considers family stories as another way to look at history, neither from the top down nor the bottom up but from the inside out. She explores not just what happened—everywhere from Jamestown to Boonesborough, from the bloody field at Chickamauga to the metropolis of the Gilded Age—but also what the storytellers thought or wished or hoped or feared happened. She offers insights into what they valued, what they lost, how they judged their own lives and found meaning in them. The narrative touches on sorrow, recompense, love, pain, and the persistent tension between hope and disappointment in a nation that by making the pursuit of happiness thinkable also made unhappiness regrettable.
Based on extensive research in archives, local history societies, and family-history sources as well as conversations and correspondence, Happily Sometimes After offers an intimate and unusual perspective on how ordinary people used stories to imagine the world they wished for, and what those stories reveal about their relationships with the world they actually had.
Before they were written down, the poems attributed to Homer were performed orally, usually by rhapsodes (singers/reciters) who might have traveled from city to city or enjoyed a position in a wealthy household. Even after the Iliad and the Odyssey were committed to writing, rhapsodes performed the poems at festivals, often competing against each other. As they recited the epics, the rhapsodes spoke as both the narrator and the characters. These different acts—performing the poem and narrating and speaking in character within it—are seldom studied in tandem. Homer in Performance breaks new ground by bringing together all of the speakers involved in the performance of Homeric poetry: rhapsodes, narrators, and characters. The first part of the book presents a detailed history of the rhapsodic performance of Homeric epic from the Archaic to the Roman Imperial periods and explores how performers might have shaped the poems. The second part investigates the Homeric narrators and characters as speakers and illuminates their interactions. The contributors include scholars versed in epigraphy, the history of art, linguistics, and performance studies, as well as those capable of working with sources from the ancient Near East and from modern Russia. This interdisciplinary approach makes the volume useful to a spectrum of readers, from undergraduates to veteran professors, in disciplines ranging from classical studies to folklore.
By Gregory Nagy University of Texas Press, 1996 Library of Congress PA4037.N345 1996 | Dewey Decimal 883.01
A Choice Outstanding Academic Book
The "Homeric Question" has vexed Classicists for generations. Was the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey a single individual who created the poems at a particular moment in history? Or does the name "Homer" hide the shaping influence of the epic tradition during a long period of oral composition and transmission?
In this innovative investigation, Gregory Nagy applies the insights of comparative linguistics and anthropology to offer a new historical model for understanding how, when, where, and why the Iliad and the Odyssey were ultimately preserved as written texts that could be handed down over two millennia. His model draws on the comparative evidence provided by living oral epic traditions, in which each performance of a song often involves a recomposition of the narrative.
This evidence suggests that the written texts emerged from an evolutionary process in which composition, performance, and diffusion interacted to create the epics we know as the Iliad and the Odyssey. Sure to challenge orthodox views and provoke lively debate, Nagy's book will be essential reading for all students of oral traditions.
By Gregory Nagy University of Texas Press, 2003 Library of Congress PA4037.N347 2003 | Dewey Decimal 883.01
The Homeric Iliad and Odyssey are among the world’s foremost epics. Yet, millennia after their composition, basic questions remain about them. Who was Homer—a real or an ideal poet? When were the poems composed—at a single point in time, or over centuries of composition and performance? And how were the poems committed to writing? These uncertainties have been known as The Homeric Question, and many scholars, including Gregory Nagy, have sought to solve it. In Homeric Responses, Nagy presents a series of essays that further elaborate his theories regarding the oral composition and evolution of the Homeric epics. Building on his previous work in Homeric Questions and Poetry as Performance: Homer and Beyond and responding to some of his critics, he examines such issues as the importance of performance and the interaction between audience and poet in shaping the poetry; the role of the rhapsode (the performer of the poems) in the composition and transmission of the poetry; the “irreversible mistakes” and cross-references in the Iliad and Odyssey as evidences of artistic creativity; and the Iliadic description of the shield of Achilles as a pointer to the world outside the poem, the polis of the audience.
As contemporary Native Americans assert the legacy of their ancestors, there is increasing debate among archaeologists over the methods and theories used to reconstruct prehistoric identity and the movement of social groups. This is especially problematic with respect to the emergence of southwestern tribes, which involved shifting populations and identities over the course of more than a thousand years.
Wesley Bernardini now draws on an unconventional source, Hopi traditional knowledge, to show how hypotheses that are developed from oral tradition can stimulate new and productive ways to think about the archaeological record. Focusing on insights that oral tradition has to offer about general processes of prehistoric migration and identity formation, he describes how each Hopi clan acquired its particular identity from the experiences it accumulated on its unique migration pathway. This pattern of “serial migration” by small social groups often saw the formation of villages by clans that briefly came together and then moved off again independently, producing considerable social diversity both within and among villages.
Using Anderson Mesa and Homol’ovi as case studies, Bernardini presents architectural and demographic data suggesting that the fourteenth century occupation of these regions was characterized by population flux and diversity consistent with the serial migration model. He offers an analysis of rock art motifs—focusing on those used as clan symbols—to evaluate the diversity of group identities, then presents a compositional analysis of Jeddito Yellow Ware pottery to evaluate the diversity of these groups’ eventual migration destinations.
Evidence supporting serial migration greatly complicates existing notions of links between ancient and modern social groups, with important implications for the implementation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Bernardini’s work clearly demonstrates that studies of cultural affiliation must take into account the fluid nature of population movements and identity in the prehistoric landscape. It takes a decisive step toward better understanding the major demographic change that occurred on the Colorado Plateau from 1275 to 1400 and presents a strategy for improving the reconstruction of cultural identity in the past.
edited by Luisa Del Giudice & Gerald Porter Utah State University Press, 2001 Library of Congress GR72.I46 2001 | Dewey Decimal 398.42
An international ensemble of folklore scholars looks at varied ways in which national and ethnic groups have traditionally and creatively used imagined states of existence-some idealizations, some demonizations-in the construction of identities for themselves and for others. Drawing on oral traditions, especially as represented in traditional ballads, broadsides, and tale collections, the contributors consider fertile landscapes of the mind where utopias overflow with bliss and abundance, stereotyped national and ethnic caricatures define the lives of "others," nostalgia glorifies home and occupation, and idealized and mythological animals serve as cultural icons and guideposts to harmonious social life.
Many students come to African history with a host of stereotypes that are not always easy to dislodge. One of the most common is that of Africa as safari grounds—as the land of expansive, unpopulated game reserves untouched by civilization and preserved in their original pristine state by the tireless efforts of contemporary conservationists. With prose that is elegant in its simplicity and analysis that is forceful and compelling, Jan Bender Shetler brings the landscape memory of the Serengeti to life. She demonstrates how the social identities of western Serengeti peoples are embedded in specific spaces and in their collective memories of those spaces. Using a new methodology to analyze precolonial oral traditions, Shetler identifies core spatial images and reevaluates them in their historical context through the use of archaeological, linguistic, ethnographic, ecological, and archival evidence. Imagining Serengeti is a lively environmental history that will ensure that we never look at images of the African landscape in quite the same way.
The image of the ethnographer in the field who observes his or her subjects from a distance while copiously taking notes has given way in recent years to a more critical and engaged form of anthropology. Composed as a polyphonic dialogue of texts, Stefania Pandolfo's Impasse of the Angels takes this engagement to its limit by presenting the relationship between observer and observed as one of interacting equals and mutually constituting interlocuters.
Impasse of the Angels explores what it means to be a subject in the historical and poetic imagination of a southern Moroccan society. Passionate and lyrical, ironic and tragic, the book listens to dissonant, often idiosyncratic voices—poetic texts, legends, social spaces, folktales, conversations—which elaborate in their own ways the fractures, wounds, and contradictions of the Maghribî postcolonial present. Moving from concrete details in a traditional ethnographic sense to a creative, experiential literary style, Impasse of the Angels is a tale of life and death compellingly addressing readers from anthropology, literature, philosophy, postcolonial criticism, and Middle Eastern studies.
One of the most significant theoretical issues in contemporary American archaeology—the role of oral tradition in scientific research.
Ronald J. Mason explores the tension between aboriginal oral traditions and the practice of archaeology in North America. That exploration is necessarily interdisciplinary and set in a global context. Indeed, the issues at stake are universal in the current era of intellectual "decolonization" and multiculturalism.
Unless committed to writing, even the most esteemed utterances are inevitably forgotten with the passing of generations, however much the succeeding ones try to reproduce what they think they had heard. Writing shares with archaeo-logical remains a greater, if unequal, durability. Through copious examples across academic and ethnographic spectra and over millennia, Mason examines the disparate functions of traditional "ways of knowing" in contrast to the paradigm of science and critical historiography.
Just as today’s embrace of the digital has sparked interest in the history of print culture, so in eighteenth-century Britain the dramatic proliferation of print gave rise to urgent efforts to historicize different media forms and to understand their unique powers. And so it was, Paula McDowell argues, that our modern concepts of oral culture and print culture began to crystallize, and authors and intellectuals drew on older theological notion of oral tradition to forge the modern secular notion of oral tradition that we know today.
Drawing on an impressive array of sources including travel narratives, elocution manuals, theological writings, ballad collections, and legal records, McDowell re-creates a world in which everyone from fishwives to philosophers, clergymen to street hucksters, competed for space and audiences in taverns, marketplaces, and the street. She argues that the earliest positive efforts to theorize "oral tradition," and to depict popular oral culture as a culture (rather than a lack of culture), were prompted less by any protodemocratic impulse than by a profound discomfort with new cultures of reading, writing, and even speaking shaped by print.
Challenging traditional models of oral versus literate societies and key assumptions about culture’s ties to the spoken and the written word, this landmark study reorients critical conversations across eighteenth-century studies, media and communications studies, the history of the book, and beyond.
Contrary to modern theories of developing nations, Brunei Darussalam, which has a very high rate of literacy, is also one of the few countries where the traditional elite retains absolute political power. Professor Gunn's comprehensive study, which assesses the state's efforts to implement national language policies, explores the aspects of the complex relationship between language and power including the oral tradition, the rise of Islamic literacy, print culture and mass literacy, and the electronic media and its effects.
An especially comprehensive study of Brazilian Amazonian Indian history, The Last Cannibals is the first attempt to understand, through indigenous discourse, the emergence of Upper Xingú society. Drawing on oral documents recorded directly from the native language, Ellen Basso transcribes and analyzes nine traditional Kalapalo stories to offer important insights into Kalapalo historical knowledge and the performance of historical narratives within their nonliterate society. This engaging book challenges the familiar view of biography as a strictly Western literary form. Of special interest are biographies of powerful warriors whose actions led to the emergence of a more recent social order based on restrained behaviors from an earlier time when people were said to be fierce and violent. From these stories, Basso explores how the Kalapalo remember and understand their past and what specific linguistic, psychological, and ideological materials they employ to construct their historical consciousness. Her book will be important reading in anthropology, folklore, linguistics, and South American studies.
The Homeric poems were not intended for readers, but for a listening audience. Traditional in their basic elements, the stories were learned by oral poets from earlier poets and recreated at every performance. Individual nuances, tailored to the audience, could creep into the stories of the Greek heroes on each and every occasion when a bard recited the epics.
For a particular audience at a particular moment, "tradition" is what it believes it has inherited from the past--and it may not be particularly old. The boundaries between the traditional and the innovative may become blurry and indistinct. By rethinking tradition, we can see Homer's methods and concerns in a new light. The Homeric poet is not naive. He must convince his audience that the story is true. He must therefore seem disinterested, unconcerned with promoting anyone's interests. The poet speaks as if everything he says is merely the repetition of old tales. Yet he carefully ensures that even someone who knows only a minimal amount about the ancient heroes can follow and enjoy the performance, while someone who knows many stories will not remember inappropriate ones. Pretending that every detail is already familiar, the poet heightens suspense and implies that ordinary people are the real judges of great heroes.
Listening to Homer transcends present controversies about Homeric tradition and invention by rethinking how tradition functions. Focusing on reception rather than on composition, Ruth Scodel argues that an audience would only rarely succeed in identifying narrative innovation. Homeric narrative relies on a traditionalizing, inclusive rhetoric that denies the innovation of the oral performance while providing enough information to make the epics intelligible to audiences for whom much of the material is new.
Listening to Homer will be of interest to general classicists, as well as to those specializing in Greek epic and narrative performance. Its wide breadth and scope will also appeal to those non-classicists interested in the nature of oral performance.
Ruth Scodel is Professor of Greek and Latin, University of Michigan, and former president of the American Philological Association.
"Ruth Scodel's Listening to Homer proves it is still possible to explore the workings of epic without recourse to a battery of jargon or technicalities. This is not a 'one big idea' book but a rich . . . set of reflections; it makes refreshing reading . . . ."
---Greece & Rome
"This is an important book, putting the receiving rather than the sending side of the performance of the Homeric epics center stage. The many observations on narrative technique are often new and worthwhile."
---Irene J.F. de Jong, Gnomon
The Dunne-za, the Beaver Indians of British Columbia, say that people who speak from the authority of their experience "little bit know something." This knowledge, which comes through direct experience, dreaming, and the searing transformation of the vision quest, empowers a person to live in this world with intelligence and understanding.
In this sensitive, insightful volume, drawn from over twenty-five years' experience with the Dunne-za Indians, Ridington advocates his unique language of anthology—and in so doing he communicates the themes of cultural and individual knowledge, visionary empowerment, shamanic transformation, and the dialogic basis of ethnographic authority within the evolving context of a humanistic cultural anthropology.
In essays about communities as varied as Alaskan Native, East Indian, Palestinian, Mexican, and African American, oral historians, folklorists, and anthropologists look at how traditional and historical oral narratives live through re-tellings, gaining meaning and significance in repeated performances, from varying contexts, through cultural and historical knowing, and due to tellers' consciousness of their audiences.
Winner, Senior Book Prize, American Ethnological Society
Starting with the post-structuralist idea that truth systems are lodged in discourse, and that discourse varies from society to society, Greg Urban seeks to discover the nature and extent of that variation. His journey to an Amerindian society in which dreams are more prominent than everyday aspects of the sensible world leads him to radically reformulate one of the main problematics of Western thought: the relationship between our sensations of the world and the understandings we form of them.
Metaphysical Community proposes that this dichotomy comes from the interplay between two sides of discourse-its intelligible side as a carrier of meanings, and its sensible side as thing-in-the-world that must be replicated. This insight leads to the heart of the book-the exploration of the uneasy tension that binds experience and understanding, phenomena and noumena.
Urban challenges basic assumptions that underlie social and cultural anthropology and much of the social sciences and humanities. His provocative insights will be of interest to all those concerned with anthropology, cultural studies, literary criticism, the sociology and politics of culture, and philosophy.
"A major academic work that is also brilliantly, clearly, humanely, and poetically written. It can be enjoyed not only by ballad and bawdry scholars but by everyone who picks it up." -- Kenneth S. Goldstein, University of Pennsylvania, former president of the American Folklore Society
"Toelken's insights . . . are unique. His study broadens and deepens scholarly appreciation of how folksong metaphors carry their own semantic weight. . . . One of the best expressions of the power of music in folksong that I have seen in recent years." -- James Porter, author of The Traditional Music of Britain and Ireland
In this lively exploration of folksongs and their meanings, Barre Toelken looks closely at riddle songs and other ambiguous folksongs, as well as the various "ballad commonplaces." Ranging through metaphors such as weaving, plowing, plucking flowers, and walking in the dew, Toelken shows how each contributes to meaning in vernacular song. He includes comparisons to German folksongs, medieval poetry, Italian folk lyrics, and a wide range of Euro-American vernacular expression.
We were going down the road, and we came to this house. There was a little boy standing by the road just crying and crying.
We stopped, and we heard the biggest racket you ever heard up in the house.
“What’s the matter, son?”
“Why, Maw and Paw are up there fightin’.”
“Who is your Paw, son?”
“Well, that’s what they are fightin’ over.”
Brimming with ballads, stories, riddles, tall tales, and great good humor, My Curious and Jocular Heroes pays homage to four people who guided and inspired Loyal Jones’s own study of Appalachian culture. His sharp-eyed portraits introduce a new generation to Bascom Lunsford, the pioneer behind the “memory collections” of song and story at Columbia University and the Library of Congress; the Sorbonne-educated collector and performer Josiah H. Combs; Cratis D. Williams, the legendary father of Appalachian studies; and the folklorist and master storyteller Leonard W. Roberts. Throughout, Jones highlights the tales, songs, jokes, and other collected nuggets that define the breadth of each man’s research and repertoire.
This collection provides a benchmark that helps secure the position of collaboration between Native American and non-Native American scholars in the forefront of study of Native oral traditions. Seven sets of intercultural authors present Native American oral texts with commentary, exploring dimensions of perspective, discovery, and meaning that emerge through collaborative translation and interpretation. The texts studied all come from the American West but include a rich variety of material, since their tribal sources range from the Yupik in the Arctic to the Yaqui in the Sonoran Desert.
This presentation of jointly authored work is timely: it addresses increasing interest in, calls for, and movement toward reflexivity in the relationships between scholars and the Native communities they study, and it responds to the renewed commitment in those communities to asserting more control over representations of their traditions. Although Native and academic communities have long tried to work together in the study of culture and literature, the relationship has been awkward and imbalanced toward the academics. In many cases, the contributions of Native assistants, informants, translators, and field workers to the work of professional ethnographers has been inadequately credited, ignored, or only recently uncovered. Native Americans usually have not participated in planning and writing such projects. Native American Oral Traditions provides models for overcoming such obstacles to interpreting and understanding Native oral literature in relation to the communities and cultures from which it comes.
An American storyteller’s immersion In the Chinese folktale tradition
“Having traveled on the same People to People Ambassador journey to China with Julie, I have seen Julie's anthology from inception to fruition. It is a masterful, engaging, informative and scholarly addition to our understanding and appreciation of Chinese culture, particularly storytelling and folk traditions, from ancient days to today. Practicing storytellers will especially appreciate her tips for telling and context clues at the end of each story.” --Judith Heineman, storyteller, producer and Illinois Humanities Road Scholar
With her 1976 book Oral Literature in Africa, Ruth Finnegan almost single-handedly created the field of ethnography of language. Now, Finnegan has gathered and updated a selection of her best work on oral literature, performance, and the creative use of language in Africa, along with several new essays that broaden and extend her ideas.
The Oral and Beyond looks simultaneously backwards and forwards, reviewing and critiquing the achievements of scholarship on African oral literature, revisiting issues of perennial contention, and highlighting some of the most interesting new ideas and approaches in the field. Exploring such fundamental questions as how texts and textuality relate to performance, how ideology inflects language, and how traditional forms adapt to modern media and popular culture, Finnegan essentially crafts an intellectual history of her field. At the same time, she propels the ethnography of language forward, bringing the techniques and knowledge developed through her fieldwork in Africa to bear on issues that transcend African studies and reach into the larger world of anthropology and beyond.
The major purpose of this book is to illustrate and explain the fundamental similarities and correspondences between humankind's oldest and newest thought-technologies: oral tradition and the Internet. Despite superficial differences, both technologies are radically alike in depending not on static products but rather on continuous processes, not on "What?" but on "How do I get there?" In contrast to the fixed spatial organization of the page and book, the technologies of oral tradition and the Internet mime the way we think by processing along pathways within a network. In both media it's pathways--not things--that matter.
To illustrate these ideas, this volume is designed as a "morphing book," a collection of linked nodes that can be read in innumerable different ways. Doing nothing less fundamental than
challenging the default medium of the linear book and page and all that they entail, Oral Tradition and the Internet shows readers that there are large, complex, wholly viable, alternative
worlds of media-technology out there--if only they are willing to explore, to think outside the usual, culturally constructed categories. This "brick-and-mortar" book exists as an extension of
The Pathways Project (http://pathwaysproject.org), an open-access online suite of chapter-nodes, linked websites, and multimedia all dedicated to exploring and demonstrating the
dynamic relationship between oral tradition and Internet technology
Oral Tradition as History
Jan M. Vansina University of Wisconsin Press, 1985 Library of Congress D16.V2784 1985 | Dewey Decimal 960
Jan Vansina’s 1961 book, Oral Tradition, was hailed internationally as a pioneering work in the field of ethno-history. Originally published in French, it was translated into English, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, and Hungarian. Reviewers were unanimous in their praise of Vansina’s success in subjecting oral traditions to intense functional analysis.
Now, Vansina—with the benefit of two decades of additional thought and research—has revised his original work substantially, completely rewriting some sections and adding much new material. The result is an essentially new work, indispensable to all students and scholars of history, anthropology, folklore, and ethno-history who are concerned with the transmission and potential uses of oral material.
“Those embarking on the challenging adventure of historical fieldwork with an oral community will find the book a valuable companion, filled with good practical advice. Those who already have collected bodies of oral material, or who strive to interpret and analyze that collected by others, will be forced to subject their own methodological approaches to a critical reexamination in the light of Vansina’s thoughtful and provocative insights. . . . For the second time in a quarter of a century, we are profoundly in the debt of Jan Vansina.”—Research in African Literatures
“Oral Traditions as History is an essential addition to the basic literature of African history.”—American Historical Review
In this rich and dynamic work, David Carey Jr. provides a new perspective on contemporary Guatemalan history by allowing the indigenous peoples to speak for themselves.
Combining the methodologies of anthropology and history, Carey uses both oral interviews and meticulous archival research to construct a history of the last 130 years in Guatemala from the perspective of present-day Mayan people. His research took place over five years, including intensive language study, four summers of fieldwork, and a year-long residence in Comalapa, during which he conducted most of the 414 interviews. By casting a wide net for his interviews—from tiny hamlets to bustling Guatemala City—Carey gained insight into more than a single community or a single group of Maya.
The Maya-Kaqchikel record their history through oral tradition; thus, few written accounts exist. Comparing the Kaqchikel point of view to that of the western scholars and Ladinos who have written most of the history texts, Carey reveals the people and events important to the Maya, which have been virtually written out of the national history.
A motto of the Guatemalan organization Maya Decinio para el Pueblo Indigena (Maya Decade for the Indigenous People) is that people who do not know their past cannot build a future. By elucidating what the Kaqchikel think of their own past, Carey also illuminates the value of non-Western theoretical and methodological approaches that can be applied to the history of other peoples. Valuable to historians, anthropologists, archaeologists, or anyone interested in Mayan and Latin American studies, this book will inform as well as enchant.
In the highland region of Sullk’ata, located in the rural Bolivian Andes, habitual activities such as sharing food, work, and stories create a sense of relatedness among people. Through these day-to-day interactions—as well as more unusual events—individuals negotiate the affective bonds and hierarchies of their relationships. In Performing Kinship, Krista E. Van Vleet reveals the ways in which relatedness is evoked, performed, and recast among the women of Sullk’ata. Portraying relationships of camaraderie and conflict, Van Vleet argues that narrative illuminates power relationships, which structure differences among women as well as between women and men. She also contends that in the Andes gender cannot be understood without attention to kinship. Stories such as that of the young woman who migrates to the city to do domestic work and later returns to the highlands voicing a deep ambivalence about the traditional authority of her in-laws provide enlightening examples of the ways in which storytelling enables residents of Sullk’ata to make sense of events and link themselves to one another in a variety of relationships. A vibrant ethnography, Performing Kinship offers a rare glimpse into an compelling world.
Fact and fiction meet at the boundaries, the betwixt and between where transformations occur. This is the area of ambiguity where fiction and fact become endowed with meaning, and this is the area—where ambiguity, irony, and metaphor join forces—that Harold Scheub exposes in all its nuanced and evocative complexity in The Poem in the Story.
In a career devoted to exploring the art of the African storyteller, Scheub has conducted some of the most interesting and provocative investigations into nonverbal aspects of storytelling, the complex relationship between artist and audience, and, most dramatically, the role played by poetry in storytelling. This book is his most daring effort yet, an unconventional work that searches out what makes a story artistically engaging and emotionally evocative, the metaphorical center that Scheub calls "the poem in the story." Drawing on extensive fieldwork in southern Africa and decades of experience as a researcher and teacher, Scheub develops an original approach—a blend of field notes, diary entries, photographs, and texts of stories and poems—that guides readers into a new way of viewing, even experiencing, meaning in a story. Though this work is largely focused on African storytelling, its universal applications emerge when Scheub brings the work of storytellers as different as Shakespeare and Faulkner into the discussion.
Race and Nation in Puerto Rican Folklore: Franz Boas and John Alden Mason in Porto Rico explores the historic research trip taken to Puerto Rico in 1915. As a component of the Scientific Survey of Porto Rico and the Virgin Islands, Boas intended to perform field research in the areas of anthropology and ethnography while other scientists explored the island’s natural resources. A young anthropologist working under Boas, John Alden Mason, rescued hundreds of oral folklore samples, ranging from popular songs, poetry, conundrums, sayings, and, most particularly, folktales while documenting native Puerto Rican cultural practices. Through his extensive excursions, Mason came in touch with the rural lives of Puerto Rican peasants, the jíbaros, who served as both his cultural informants and writers of the folklore samples. These stories, many of which are still part of the island’s literary traditions and collected in a bilingual companion volume by Rafael Ocasio, reflect a strong Puerto Rican identity coalescing in the face of the U.S. political intervention on the island. A fascinating slice of Puerto Rican history and culture sure to delight any reader!
So They Understand
William Schneider Utah State University Press, 2002 Library of Congress GR72.S35 2002 | Dewey Decimal 398.35
Illustrated with numerous stories collected from Alaska, the Yukon, and South Africa and further enlivened by the author's accessible style and experiences as a longtime oral historian and archivist, So They Understand is a comprehensive study of the special challenges and concerns involved in documenting, representing, preserving, and interpreting oral narratives. The title of the book comes from a quotation by Chief Peter John, the traditional chief of the Tanana Chiefs region in central Alaska: "In between the lines is something special going on in their minds, and that has got to be brought to light, so they understand just exactly what is said."
William Schneider discusses how stories work in relation to their cultures and performance settings, sorts out different types of stories-from broad genres such as personal narratives and life histories to such more specific and less-often considered types as presentations at hearings and other public gatherings-and examines a variety of critical issues, including the roles and relationships of storytellers and interviewers, accurate representation and preservation of stories and their performances, understanding and interpreting their cultural backgrounds and meanings, and intellectual property rights. Throughout, he blends a diverse selection of stories, including his own, into a text rich with pertinent examples.
William Schneider is curator of oral history and associate in anthropology at the Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he introduced oral history "jukeboxes," innovative interactive, multimedia computer files that present and cross-reference audio oral history and related photos and maps. Among other works, his publications include, as editor, Kusiq: An Eskimo Life History from the Arctic Coast of Alaska and, with Phyllis Morrow, When Our Words Return: Writing, Hearing, and Remembering Oral Traditions of Alaska and the Yukon.
Motivated by a love of her Mexican American heritage, Patricia Preciado Martin set out to document the lives and memories of the women of her mother's and grandmother's eras; for while the role of women in Southwest has begun to be chronicled, that of Hispanic women largely remains obscure. In Songs My Mother Sang to Me, she has preserved the oral histories of many of these women before they have been lost or forgotten.
Martin's quest took her to ranches, mining towns, and cities throughout southern Arizona, for she sought to document as varied an experience of the contributions of Mexican American women as possible. The interviews covered family history and genealogy, childhood memories, secular and religious traditions, education, work and leisure, environment and living conditions, rites of passage, and personal values. Each of the ten oral histories reflects not only the spontaneity of the interview and personality of each individual, but also the friendship that grew between Martin and her subjects.
Songs My Mother Sang to Me collects voices not often heard and brings to print accounts of social change never previously recorded. These women document more than the details of their own lives; in relating the histories of their ancestors and communities, they add to our knowledge of the culture and contributions of Mexican American people in the Southwest.
Sounding the Center is an in-depth look at the power behind classical music and dance in Bangkok, the capital and sacred center of Buddhist Thailand. Focusing on the ritual honoring teachers of music and dance, Deborah Wong reveals a complex network of connections among kings, teachers, knowledge, and performance that underlies the classical court arts.
Drawing on her extensive fieldwork, Wong lays out the ritual in detail: the way it is enacted, the foods and objects involved, and the people who perform it, emphasizing the way the performers themselves discuss and construct aspects of the ceremony.
Grounded in existing understandings of Yup’ik cosmology and worldview, this work is the first to look at how a Yup’ik community uses stories of place in social life. On the Bering coast of southwest Alaska, Cusack-McVeigh accompanied storytellers during their daily activities. Hearing many narratives repeatedly over a span of years, she came to understand how stories reflected interactions of people and places.
For the Yup’ik people, places are also social actors that react to human actions and emotions. Stories tell how people learn about each other through encounters on the land, and thereby places also learn about people. Places comment on human behavior through the land's responses to specific actions. Stories variously reveal ideas about human associations and relationships between humans and nonhuman beings. Pointing to a systematic correlation between places and narrative elements that has not been previously explored, this volume makes a unique contribution to the literature on place.
Winner of the Brian McConnell Book Award from the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research.
Winner, Distinguished Literary Achievement Award, Governor's Humanities Award in Exemplary Community Achievement given by the Missouri Humanities Council, 2010
All along the river, from the front porches of Hannibal to the neighborhoods of St. Louis to the cotton fields of the Bootheel and west to Kansas City, stories are being told.
This collection of family stories and traditional tales brings to print down-home stories about all walks of African American life. Passed down from grandparents and great-grandparents, they have been lovingly gathered by Gladys Caines Coggswell as she visited Missouri communities and participated in storytelling events over the last two decades. These stories bring to life characters with uncommon courage, strength, will, and wit as they offer insight into African American experiences throughout the state’s history.
Often profound, always entertaining, some of these stories hark back to times barely remembered. Many tell of ordinary folks who achieved victories in the face of overwhelming odds. They range from recollections of KKK activities—recalling a Klan leader who owned property on which a black family lived as “the man who was always so nice to us”—to remembered differences between country and city schools and black schoolchildren introduced to Dick and Jane and Little Black Sambo. Stories from the Bootheel shed light on family life, sharecropping, and the mechanization of cotton culture, which in one instance led to a massive migration of rats as the first mechanical cotton pickers came in.
As memorable as the stories are the people who tell them, such as the author’s own “Uncle Pete” reporting on a duck epidemic or Evelyn Pulliam of Kennett telling of her resourceful neighbors in North Lilburn. Loretta Washington remembers sitting on her little wooden stool beside her great-grandmother’s rocking chair on the front porch in Wardell, mesmerized by stories—and the time when rocking chair and little wooden stool were moved inside and the stories stopped. Marlene Rhodes writes of her mother’s hero, Odie, St. Louis “Entrepreneur and English gentleman.”
Whether sharing previously unknown stories from St. Louis or betraying the secret of “Why Dogs Chase Cats,” this book is a rich repository of African American life. And if some of these tales seem unusual, the people remembering them will be the first to tell you: that’s the way it was. Coggswell preserves them for posterity and along with them an important slice of Missouri history.
The Kuna Indians of Panama, probably best known for molas, their colorful appliqué blouses, also have a rich literary tradition of oral stories and performances. One of the largest indigenous groups in the South American tropics, the majority of them (about 70,000) reside in Kuna Yala, a string of island and mainland villages stretching along the Caribbean coast. It is here that Joel Sherzer lived among them, photographing and recording their verbal performances, which he feels are representative of the beauty, complexity, and diversity of the oral literary traditions of the indigenous peoples of Latin America. This book is organized into three types of texts: humorous and moralistic stories; myths and magical chants; and women’s songs. While quite different from one another, they share features characteristic of Kuna literature as a whole, including appreciation of their environment and a remarkable knowledge of their plants and animals; a belief in spirits as an important component of their world in curing, magic, and aesthetics; and, especially, great humor and a sense of play. Vividly illustrated by a Kuna artist and accompanied by photographs that lend a sense of being present at the performances, the texts provide readers with a unique aesthetic perspective on this rich culture while preserving an endangered and valuable indigenous oral tradition.
The first of two studies included is “Music in Kelantan, Malaysia and Some of Its Cultural Implications,” by William P. Malm. Kelantan is the northernmost province on the east coast of Malaysia. It is considered to be the most orthodox area in a nation whose state religion is Islam. At the same time it must be noted that it borders to the north with the Buddhist country of Thailand and to the west is the Malaysian province of Perak whose jungles and mountains contain many “pagan” tribal traditions. Beyond Perak is Kedah with its larger Indian and Chinese populations and to the south is Trengganu where some Indonesian traits are still to be found. It is in this context that Malm’s study of music is made.
The second study is “Professional Malay Story-Telling: Some Questions of Style and Presentation” by Amin Sweeney. In view of the hitherto almost exclusive concern with the content of such tales as those of Sang Kanchil or Pak Pandir, Sweeney throws some light on the form, style, and presentation of oral Malay literature, with special reference to that class of story-telling popularly known as penglipur lara, or what Winstedt termed “folk romances.”
How can traditions be subversive? The kinship between African traditions and novels has been under debate for the better part of a century, but the conversation has stagnated because of a slowness to question the terms on which it is based: orality vs. writing, tradition vs. modernity, epic vs. novel. These rigid binaries were, in fact, invented by colonialism and cemented by postcolonial identity politics. Thanks to this entrenched paradigm, far too much ink has been poured into the so-called Great Divide between oral and writing societies, and to the long-lamented decline of the ways of old. Given advances in social science and humanities research—studies in folklore, performance, invented traditions, colonial and postcolonial ethnography, history, and pop culture—the moment is right to rewrite this calcified literary history. This book is not another story of subverted traditions, but of subversive ones. West African epics like Sunjata, Samori, and Lat-Dior offer a space from which to think about, and criticize, the issues of today, just as novels in European languages do. Through readings of documented performances and major writers like Yambo Ouologuem and Amadou Hampâté Bâ of Mali, Ahmadou Kourouma of Ivory Coast, and Aminata Sow Fall and Boubacar Boris Diop of Senegal, this book conducts an entirely new analysis of West African oral epic and its relevance to contemporary world literature.
In the years between the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960 and the Soweto Uprising of 1976—a period that was both the height of the apartheid system in South Africa and, in retrospect, the beginning of its end—Harold Scheub went to Africa to collect stories.
With tape-recorder and camera in hand, Scheub registered the testaments of Swati, Xhosa, Ndebele, and Zulu storytellers, farming people who lived in the remote reaches of rural South Africa. While young people fought in the streets of Soweto and South African writers made the world aware of apartheid’s evils, the rural storytellers resisted apartheid in their own way, using myth and metaphor to preserve their traditions and confront their oppressors. For more than 20 years, Scheub kept the promise he made to the storytellers to publish his translations of their stories only when freedom came to South Africa. The Tongue Is Fire presents these voices of South African oral tradition—the historians, the poets, the epic-performers, the myth-makers—documenting their enduring faith in the power of the word to sustain tradition in the face of determined efforts to distort or eliminate it. These texts are a tribute to the storytellers who have always, in periods of crisis, exercised their art to inspire their own people.
In Tracing Southern Storytelling in Black and White, Sarah Gilbreath Ford explores how both black and white southern writers such as Joel Chandler Harris, Charles Chesnutt, Zora Neale Hurston, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Ralph Ellison, Ellen Douglas, and Ernest Gaines have employed oral storytelling in literature.
Tracing Southern Storytelling in Black and White is a study of the historical use of oral storytelling by southern writers in written works. In each chapter, Sarah Gilbreath Ford pairs a white and an African American writer to highlight points of confluence in black and white southern oral traditions. She argues that the connections between white and African American southern writers run deeper than critics have yet explored, and she uses textual comparisons to examine the racial mixing of oral culture.
On porches, in kitchens, and on the pages of their work, black and white southerners exchanged not just stories but strategies for telling stories. As a boy, Joel Chandler Harris listened to the stories of African American slaves, and he devised a framework to turn the oral stories into written ones. Harris’s use of the frame structure influenced how Charles Chesnutt recorded oral stories, but it led Alice Walker to complain that her heritage had been stolen. Mark Twain listened to African American storytellers as a child. His use of oral dialects then impacts how Ralph Ellison and William Faulkner employ oral storytelling and how Toni Morrison later writes in response to Faulkner. The interactions are not linear, not a chain of influence, but a network of interactions, borrowings, and revisions.
Ford’s pairings lead to new readings that reveal how the writers employ similar strategies in their narratives, due in part to shared historical context. While Zora Neale Hurston and William Faulkner, for example, use oral storytelling in the 1930s to examine the fear of racial mixing, Ellen Douglas and Ernest Gaines use it in the 1970s to build bridges between the races. Exploring the cultural crossing that occurs in the use of oral storytelling, Ford offers a different view of this common strategy in southern narrative and a new perspective on how culture is shared.
In Tradition in the Twenty-First Century, eight diverse contributors explore the role of tradition in contemporary folkloristics. For more than a century, folklorists have been interested in locating sources of tradition and accounting for the conceptual boundaries of tradition, but in the modern era, expanded means of communication, research, and travel, along with globalized cultural and economic interdependence, have complicated these pursuits. Tradition is thoroughly embedded in both modern life and at the center of folklore studies, and a modern understanding of tradition cannot be fully realized without a thoughtful consideration of the past’s role in shaping the present.
Emphasizing how tradition adapts, survives, thrives, and either mutates or remains stable in today’s modern world, the contributors pay specific attention to how traditions now resist or expedite dissemination and adoption by individuals and communities. This complex and intimate portrayal of tradition in the twenty-first century offers a comprehensive overview of the folkloristic and popular conceptualizations of tradition from the past to present and presents a thoughtful assessment and projection of how “tradition” will fare in years to come. The book will be useful to advanced undergraduate or graduate courses in folklore and will contribute significantly to the scholarly literature on tradition within the folklore discipline.
Additional Contributors: Simon Bronner, Stephen Olbrys Gencarella, Merrill Kaplan, Lynne S. McNeill, Elliott Oring, Casey R. Schmitt, and Tok Thompson
The oral and written traditions of the Africans of South Africa have provided an understanding of their past and the way the past relates to the present. These traditions continue to shape the past by the present, and vice versa. From the time colonial forces first came to the region in 1487, oral and written traditions have been a bulwark against what became 350 years of colonial rule, characterized by the racist policies of apartheid. The Uncoiling Python: South African Storytellers and Resistance is the first in-depth study of how Africans used oral traditions as a means of survival against European domination.
Africans resisted colonial rule from the beginning. They participated in open insurrections and other subversive activities in order to withstand the daily humiliations of colonial rule. Perhaps the most effective and least apparent expression of subversion was through indigenous storytelling and poetic traditions. Harold Scheub has collected the stories and poetry of the Xhosa, Zulu, Swati, and Ndebele peoples to present a fascinating analysis of how the apparently harmless tellers of tales and creators of poetry acted as front-line soldiers.
The title to this interdisciplinary collection draws on the Yupik Eskimo belief that seals, fish, and other game are precious gifts that, when treated with respect and care, will return to be hunted again. Just so, if oral traditions are told faithfully and respectfully, they will return to benefit future generations. The contributors to this volume are concerned with the interpretation and representation of oral narrative and how it is shaped by its audience and the time, place, and cultural context of the narration. Thus, oral traditions are understood as a series of dialogues between tradition bearers and their listeners, including those who record, write, and interpret.
Written Voices, Spoken Signs is a stimulating introduction to new perspectives on Homer and other traditional epics. Taking advantage of recent research on language and social exchange, the nine essays in this volume focus on performance and audience reception of oral poetry.
These innovative essays by leading scholars of Homer, oral poetics, and epic invite us to rethink some key concepts for an understanding of traditional epic poetry. Egbert Bakker examines the epic performer's use of time and tense in recounting a past that is alive. Tackling the question of full-length performance of the monumental Iliad, Andrew Ford considers the extent to which the work was perceived as a coherent whole in the archaic age. John Miles Foley addresses questions about spoken signs and the process of reference in epic discourse, and Ahuvia Kahane studies rhythm as a semantic factor in the Homeric performance. Richard Martin suggests a new range of performance functions for the Homeric simile. And Gregory Nagy establishes the importance of one feature of epic language, the ellipsis. These six essays centered on Homer engage with fundamental issues that are addressed by three essays primarily concerned with medieval epic: those by Franz Bäuml on the concept of fact; by Wulf Oesterreicher on types of orality; and by Ursula Schaefer on written and spoken media. In their Introduction the editors highlight the underlying approach and viewpoints of this collaborative volume.