Epic and Other Higher Narratives: Essays in Intercultural Studies

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  1. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East
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Ancient Indians developed techniques for listening, memorization and recitation of their knowledge, in schools called Gurukul , while maintaining exceptional accuracy of their knowledge across the generations. All hymns in each Veda were recited in this way; for example, all 1, hymns with 10, verses of the Rigveda was preserved in this way; as were all other Vedas including the Principal Upanishads , as well as the Vedangas. Each text was recited in a number of ways, to ensure that the different methods of recitation acted as a cross check on the other.

Pierre-Sylvain Filliozat summarizes this as follows: [45]. Research by Milman Parry and Albert Lord indicates that the verse of the Greek poet Homer has been passed down at least in the Serbo-Croatian epic tradition not by rote memorization but by " Oral-formulaic composition ". In this process extempore composition is aided by use of stock phrases or "formulas" expressions that are used regularly "under the same metrical conditions, to express a particular essential idea".

Since the development this theory, of Oral-formulaic composition has been applied to a number of languages and works. Vuk pursued similar projects of "salvage folklore" similar to rescue archaeology in the cognate traditions of the Southern Slavic regions which would later be gathered into Yugoslavia , and with the same admixture of romantic and nationalistic interests he considered all those speaking the Eastern Herzegovinian dialect as Serbs.

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Somewhat later, but as part of the same scholarly enterprise of nationalist studies in folklore, [48] the turcologist Vasily Radlov — would study the songs of the Kara-Kirghiz in what would later become the Soviet Union; Karadzic and Radloff would provide models for the work of Parry. In a separate development, the media theorist Marshall McLuhan — would begin to focus attention on the ways that communicative media shape the nature of the content conveyed.

Ong's works also made possible an integrated theory of oral tradition which accounted for both production of content the chief concern of Parry-Lord theory and its reception. The most-often studied section of Orality and Literacy concerns the " psychodynamics of orality" This chapter seeks to define the fundamental characteristics of 'primary' orality and summarizes a series of descriptors including but not limited to verbal aspects of culture which might be used to index the relative orality or literacy of a given text or society.

In advance of Ong's synthesis, John Miles Foley began a series of papers based on his own fieldwork on South Slavic oral genres, emphasizing the dynamics of performers and audiences. The bibliography gives a summary of the progress scholars made in evaluating the oral tradition up to that point, and includes a list of all relevant scholarly articles relating to the theory of Oral-Formulaic Composition.

Foley developed Oral Theory beyond the somewhat mechanistic notions presented in earlier versions of Oral-Formulaic Theory, by extending Ong's interest in cultural features of oral societies beyond the verbal, by drawing attention to the agency of the bard and by describing how oral traditions bear meaning. The bibliography would establish a clear underlying methodology which accounted for the findings of scholars working in the separate Linguistics fields primarily Ancient Greek , Anglo-Saxon and Serbo-Croatian.

Perhaps more importantly, it would stimulate conversation among these specialties, so that a network of independent but allied investigations and investigators could be established. His Pathways Project — draws parallels between the media dynamics of oral traditions and the Internet. The theory of oral tradition would undergo elaboration and development as it grew in acceptance. However, numerous innovations appeared, such as the "formulaic system" [Note 1] with structural "substitution slots" for syntactic , morphological and narrative necessity as well as for artistic invention.

Examples include the "Beasts of Battle" [65] and the "Cliffs of Death". The methodology of oral tradition now conditions a large variety of studies, not only in folklore , literature and literacy , but in philosophy , [Note 2] communication theory , [78] Semiotics , [79] and including a very broad and continually expanding variety of languages and ethnic groups, [80] [81] [82] [83] [84] and perhaps most conspicuously in biblical studies , [85] in which Werner Kelber has been especially prominent.

Present developments explore the implications of the theory for rhetoric [88] and composition , [89] interpersonal communication , [90] cross-cultural communication , [91] postcolonial studies , [92] rural community development , [5] popular culture [93] and film studies , [6] and many other areas. The most significant areas of theoretical development at present may be the construction of systematic hermeneutics [94] [95] [96] and aesthetics [97] [98] specific to oral traditions. While games provide amusement by showing how messages distort content via uncontextualized transmission, Parry's supporters argue that the theory of oral tradition reveals how oral methods optimized the signal-to-noise ratio and thus improved the quality, stability and integrity of content transmission.

There were disputes concerning particular findings of the theory. For example, those trying to support or refute Crowne's hypothesis found the "Hero on the Beach" formula in numerous Old English poems.

Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East

Similarly, it was also discovered in other works of Germanic origin, Middle English poetry , and even an Icelandic prose saga. Dane, in an article [] characterized as "polemics without rigor" [] claimed that the appearance of the theme in Ancient Greek poetry, a tradition without known connection to the Germanic, invalidated the notion of "an autonomous theme in the baggage of an oral poet.

Within Homeric studies specifically, Lord's The Singer of Tales , which focused on problems and questions that arise in conjunction with applying oral-formulaic theory to problematic texts such as the Iliad , Odyssey , and even Beowulf , influenced nearly all of the articles written on Homer and oral-formulaic composition thereafter.

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However, in response to Lord, Geoffrey Kirk published The Songs of Homer , questioning Lord's extension of the oral-formulaic nature of Serbian and Croatian literature the area from which the theory was first developed to Homeric epic. Kirk argues that Homeric poems differ from those traditions in their "metrical strictness", "formular system[s]", and creativity. In other words, Kirk argued that Homeric poems were recited under a system that gave the reciter much more freedom to choose words and passages to get to the same end than the Serbo-Croatian poet, who was merely "reproductive".

In fact, he discounted the Serbo-Croatian tradition to an "unfortunate" extent, choosing to elevate the Greek model of oral-tradition above all others. Many of the criticisms of the theory have been absorbed into the evolving field as useful refinements and modifications. For example, in what Foley called a "pivotal" contribution, Larry Benson introduced the concept of "written-formulaic" to describe the status of some Anglo-Saxon poetry which, while demonstrably written, contains evidence of oral influences, including heavy reliance on formulas and themes [] A number of individual scholars in many areas continue to have misgivings about the applicability of the theory or the aptness of the South Slavic comparison, [] and particularly what they regard as its implications for the creativity which may legitimately be attributed to the individual artist.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about oral tradition in general. For the gospel tradition in Christianity, see Oral gospel tradition. For the journal, see Oral Tradition journal. Further information: Oral-formulaic composition. Fry responds to what was known, pejoratively, in Greek studies as the "hard Parryist" position, in which the formula was defined in terms of verbatim lexical repetition see Rosenmyer, Thomas G.

The opening section on historical background covers developments in archaeology and textual criticism including Parry's work since the late nineteenth century, with descriptions of and comments on formulaic and thematic structure. In "The Technique of the Oral Poet" , he sketches both a synchronic picture of the singer weaving his narrative and a diachronic view of the tradition developing over time. In the third part, on the psychology of performance, he discusses "the prevalence of rhythmic speech over prose; the prevalence of the event' over the abstraction'; and the prevalence of the paratactic arrangement of parts In sympathy with Havelock , he interprets Plato's reaction against the poets as one against the oral mentality and its educative process.


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He points out, "Our definition is a working definition for the use of historians. Sociologists, linguists or scholars of the verbal arts propose their own, which in, e. In linguistics, features that distinguish the language from common dialogue linguists , and in the verbal arts features of form and content that define art folklorists. Its special characteristics are that it is verbal and the manner in which it is transmitted. The Interface Between the Written and the Oral. Cambridge University Press. Lopez Jr. Brill Academic. Oral tradition as history.

Anne MacKay ed. Signs of Orality. Bloomington, IUP, , pp.

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American Folklore and the Mass Media. Bloomington: IUP, , p. Dundes states that the most common criterion for a definition of folklore is its means of transmission that is, orally. He clarifies however that materials other than folklore are also orally conveyed. Being reviewed by the University of Washington Press. Hangzhou: Zhejiang guji chubanshe, forthcoming. Harvard University Press, , pp. Columbia University Press, forthcoming , pp. State University of New York Press, , pp. Oxford University Press, , pp. McGill University, , pp. Harrasowitz Verlag, , pp. Hsia, and Kark Kao.

Columbia University Press, Harvard University Asia Center, , pp. Chinese University Press Hong Kong , , pp. Brill, , pp. Beijing University Press, , pp. Pearson, , pp. Cambridge University Press, , pp. Shanghai guji chubanshe, , pp.

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Harrasowitz Verlag, , pp. Hsia, and Kark Kao. Columbia University Press, Harvard University Asia Center, , pp. Chinese University Press Hong Kong , , pp. Brill, , pp. Beijing University Press, , pp. Pearson, , pp. Cambridge University Press, , pp.

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Shanghai guji chubanshe, , pp. Oxford University Press, Hawaii University Press, , pp. Academia Sinica, Institute of Literature and Philosophy, , pp. Columbia University Press, , pp. Stanford University Press, , pp.