oral tradition

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{{About|oral tradition in general|the gospel tradition in Christianity|Oral gospel tradition|the journal|Oral Tradition (journal)}}File:Kyrgyz Manaschi, Karakol.jpg|thumb|A traditional Kyrgyz manaschi performing part of the epic poem at a yurt camp in KarakolKarakolOral tradition, or oral lore, is a form of human communication wherein knowledge, art, ideas and cultural material is received, preserved and transmitted orally from one generation to another.Vansina, Jan: Oral Tradition as History (1985), reported statements from present generation which "specifies that the message must be oral statements spoken, sung or called out on musical instruments only"; "There must be transmission by word of mouth over at least a generation". 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.g., sociology, stresses common knowledge. 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)."Ki-Zerbo, Joseph: "Methodology and African Prehistory", 1990, UNESCO International Scientific Committee for the Drafting of a General History of Africa; James Currey Publishers, {{ISBN|0-85255-091-X}}, 9780852550915; see Ch. 7; "Oral tradition and its methodology" at pages 54-61; at page 54: "Oral tradition may be defined as being a testimony transmitted verbally from one generation to another. Its special characteristics are that it is verbal and the manner in which it is transmitted." The transmission is through speech or song and may include folktales, ballads, chants, prose or verses. In this way, it is possible for a society to transmit oral history, oral literature, oral law and other knowledge across generations without a writing system, or in parallel to a writing system. Religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, for example, have used an oral tradition, in parallel to a writing system, to transmit their canonical scriptures, secular knowledge such as Sushruta Samhita, hymns and mythologies from one generation to the next.BOOK, Jack Goody, The Interface Between the Written and the Oral,weblink 1987, Cambridge University Press, 978-0-521-33794-6, 110–121, JOURNAL, Donald S. Lopez Jr., 1995, Authority and Orality in the Mahāyāna, Numen, 42, 1, 21–47, Brill Academic, 3270278, 10.1163/1568527952598800, Oral tradition is information, memories and knowledge held in common by a group of people, over many generations, and it is not the same as testimony or oral history.Henige, David. "Oral, but Oral What? The Nomenclatures of Orality and Their Implications" Oral Tradition, 3/1-2 (1988): 229-38. p 232; Henige cites Jan Vansina (1985). Oral tradition as history. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press In a general sense, "oral tradition" refers to the recall and transmission of a specific, preserved textual and cultural knowledge through vocal utterance.Oral Tradition {{webarchive|url= |date=2016-08-09 }}, Encyclopædia Britannica, John Miles Foley As an academic discipline, it refers both to a set of objects of study and a method by which they are studied.Dundes, Alan, "Editor's Introduction" to The Theory of Oral Composition, John Miles Foley. Bloomington, IUP, 1988, pp. ix-xiiThe study of oral tradition is distinct from the academic discipline of oral history,Henige, David. "Oral, but Oral What? The Nomenclatures of Orality and Their Implications" Oral Tradition, 3/1-2 (1988): 229-38. p 232; Henige cites Jan Vansina (1985). Oral tradition as history. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press which is the recording of personal memories and histories of those who experienced historical eras or events.WEB,weblinkweblink" title="">weblink y, Oral History, August 20, 2011, Oral tradition is also distinct from the study of orality defined as thought and its verbal expression in societies where the technologies of literacy (especially writing and print) are unfamiliar to most of the population.Ong, Walter, S.J., Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. London: Methuen, 1982 p 12 A folklore is a type of oral tradition, but knowledge other than folklore has been orally transmitted and thus preserved in human history.Degh, Linda. American Folklore and the Mass Media. Bloomington: IUP, 1994, p. 31Folklore in the Oral Tradition, Fairytales, Fables and Folk-legend {{webarchive|url= |date=2016-07-19 }}, Julie Carthy (1984), The Oral Tradition, Volume IV, Yale University, Quote: "Folklore is said to be in the oral tradition. 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. Therefore oral transmission itself is not sufficient to distinguish folklore from non-folklore."


According to John Foley, oral tradition has been an ancient human tradition found in "all corners of the world". Modern archaeology has been unveiling evidence of the human efforts to preserve and transmit arts and knowledge that depended completely or partially on an oral tradition, across various cultures:}}


In Asia, the transmission of folklore, mythologies as well as scriptures in ancient India, in different Indian religions, was by oral tradition, preserved with precision with the help of elaborate mnemonic techniques.JOURNAL, Donald S. Lopez Jr., 1995, Authority and Orality in the Mahāyāna, Numen, 42, 1, 21–47, Brill Academic, 3270278, 10.1163/1568527952598800, ; Quote: The early Buddhist texts are also generally believed to be of oral tradition, with the first Pali Canon written many centuries after the death of the Buddha. Some scholars such as Jack Goody state that the Vedas are not the product strictly of an oral tradition, basing this view by comparing inconsistencies in the transmitted versions of literature from various oral societies such as the Greek, Serbia and other cultures, then noting that the Vedic literature is too consistent and vast to have been composed and transmitted orally across generations, without being written down. According to Goody, the Vedic texts likely involved both a written and oral tradition, calling it a "parallel products of a literate society".

Ancient Greece and Middle East

In ancient Greece, the oral tradition was a dominant tradition. Homer's epic poetry, states Michael Gagarin, was largely composed, performed and transmitted orally.BOOK, Michael Gagarin, E. Anne MacKay, Signs of Orality,weblink 1999, BRILL Academic, 978-9004112735, 163–164, As folklores and legends were performed in front of distant audiences, the singers would substitute the names in the stories with local characters or rulers to give the stories a local flavor and thus connect with the audience, but making the historicity embedded in the oral tradition as unreliable.BOOK, Wolfgang Kullmann, E. Anne MacKay, Signs of Orality,weblink 1999, BRILL Academic, 978-9004112735, 108–109, The lack of surviving texts about the Greek and Roman religious traditions have led scholars to presume that these were ritualistic and transmitted as oral traditions, but some scholars disagree that the complex rituals in the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations were an exclusive product of an oral tradition.BOOK, John Scheid, Clifford Ando and Jörg Rüpke, Religion and Law in Classical and Christian Rome,weblink 2006, Franz Steiner Verlag, 978-3-515-08854-1, 17–28, John Scheid, The Torah and other ancient Jewish literature, the Judeo-Christian Bible and texts of early centuries of Christianity are rooted in an oral tradition, and the term "People of the Book" is a medieval construct.BOOK, Delbert Burkett, An Introduction to the New Testament and the Origins of Christianity,weblink 2002, Cambridge University Press, 978-0-521-00720-7, 124–125, 45–46, 106–107, 129–130, BOOK, Leslie Baynes, The Heavenly Book Motif in Judeo-Christian Apocalypses 200 BCE-200 CE,weblink 2011, BRILL Academic, 978-90-04-20726-4, 40–41 with footnotes, BOOK, Birger Gerhardsson, Eric John Sharpe, Memory and Manuscript: Oral Tradition and Written Transmission in Rabbinic Judaism and Early Christianity,weblink 1961, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 978-0-8028-4366-1, 71–78, This is evidenced, for example, by the multiple scriptural statements by Paul admitting "previously remembered tradition which he received" orally.BOOK, Terence C. Mournet, Oral Tradition and Literary Dependency: Variability and Stability in the Synoptic Tradition and Q,weblink 2005, Mohr Siebeck, 978-3-16-148454-4, 138–141,

Native America

Writing systems are not known to exist among Native North Americans before contact with Europeans. Oral storytelling traditions flourished in a context without the use of writing to record and preserve history, scientific knowledge, and social practices.BOOK, Native American Storytelling: A Reader of Myths and Legends, Blackwell Publishing, 2004, 978-1-4051-1541-4, Kroeber, Karl, Malden, MA, 1, While some stories were told for amusement and leisure, most functioned as practical lessons from tribal experience applied to immediate moral, social, psychological, and environmental issues.BOOK, Native American Storytelling: A Reader of Myths and Legends, Blackwell Publishing, 2004, 978-1-4051-1541-4, Kroeber, Karl, Malden, MA, 3, Stories fuse fictional, supernatural, or otherwise exaggerated characters and circumstances with real emotions and morals as a means of teaching. Plots often reflect real life situations and may be aimed at particular people known by the story's audience. In this way, social pressure could be exerted without directly causing embarrassment or social exclusion.BOOK, Native American Storytelling: A Reader of Myths and Legends, Blackwell Publishing, 2004, 978-1-4051-1541-4, Kroeber, Karl, Malden, MA, 2, For example, rather than yelling, Inuit parents might deter their children from wandering too close to the water's edge by telling a story about a sea monster with a pouch for children within its reach.WEB,weblink How Inuit Parents Teach Kids To Control Their Anger,, en, 2019-04-29, One single story could provide dozens of lessons.BOOK, Native American Stories, Told by Joseph Bruchac, Caduto, Michael, Bruchac, Michael, Fulcrum Publishing, 1991, 978-1-55591-094-5, Golden, Colorado, Stories were also used as a means to assess whether traditional cultural ideas and practices are effective in tackling contemporary circumstances or if they should be revised.BOOK, Native American Storytelling: A Reader of Myths and Legends, Blackwell Publishing, 2004, 978-1-4051-1541-4, Kroeber, Karl, Malden, MA, 6, Native American storytelling is a collaborative experience between storyteller and listeners. Native American tribes generally have not had professional tribal storytellers marked by social status.BOOK, Red Earth, White Lies: Native Americans and the Myth of Scientific Fact, Deloria, jr., Vine, Scribner, 1995, 978-0-684-80700-3, New York, NY, 54, Stories could and can be told by anyone, with each storyteller using their own vocal inflections, word choice, content, or form. Storytellers not only draw upon their own memories, but also upon a collective or tribal memory extending beyond personal experience but nevertheless representing a shared reality.JOURNAL, Ballenger, Bruce, Autumn 1997, Methods of Memory: On Native American Storytelling, College English, 59, 7, 789–800, JSTOR, 10.2307/378636, 378636, Native languages have in some cases up to twenty words to describe physical features like rain or snow and can describe the spectra of human emotion in very precise ways, allowing storytellers to offer their own personalized take on a story based on their own lived experiences.BOOK, Red Earth, White Lies: Native Americans and the Myth of Scientific Fact, Deloria, jr., Vine, Scribner, 1995, 978-0-684-80700-3, New York, NY, 51, JOURNAL, Lawrence, Randee, Spring 2016, What Our Ancestors Knew: Teaching and Learning Through Storytelling, New Directions for Adult & Continuing Education, 2016, 149, 63–72, Wile Online Library, 10.1002/ace.20177, Fluidity in story deliverance allowed stories to be applied to different social circumstances according to the storyteller's objective at the time. One's rendition of a story was often considered a response to another's rendition, with plot alterations suggesting alternative ways of applying traditional ideas to present conditions. Listeners might have heard the story told many times, or even may have told the same story themselves. This does not take away from a story's meaning, as curiosity about what happens next was less of a priority than hearing fresh perspectives on well-known themes and plots. Elder storytellers generally were not concerned with discrepancies between their version of historical events and neighboring tribes' version of similar events, such as in origin stories. Tribal stories are considered valid within the tribe's own frame of reference and tribal experience.Stories are used to preserve and transmit both tribal history and environmental history, which are often closely linked. Native oral traditions in the Pacific Northwest, for example, describe natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis. Various cultures from Vancouver Island and Washington have stories describing a physical struggle between a Thunderbird and a Whale.JOURNAL, Ludwin, Ruth, Smits, Gregory, 2007, Folklore and earthquakes: Native American oral traditions from Cascadia compared with written traditions from Japan, Geological Society of London Special Publications, 273, 67–94, 10.1144/GSL.SP.2007.273.01.07, One such story tells of the Thunderbird, which can create thunder by moving just a feather, piercing the Whale's flesh with its talons, causing the Whale to dive to the bottom of the ocean, bringing the Thunderbird with it. Another depicts the Thunderbird lifting the Whale from the Earth then dropping it back down. Regional similarities in themes and characters suggests that these stories mutually describe the lived experience of earthquakes and floods within tribal memory. According to one story from the Suquamish Tribe, Agate Pass was created when an earthquake expanded the channel as a result of an underwater battle between a serpent and bird. Other stories in the region depict the formation of glacial valleys and moraines and the occurrence of landslides, with stories being used in at least one case to identify and date earthquakes that occurred in CE 900 and 1700. Further examples include Arikara origin stories of emergence form an "underworld" of persistent darkness, which may represent the remembrance of life in the Arctic Circle during the last ice age, and stories involving a "deep crevice", which may refer to the Grand Canyon.JOURNAL, Echo-Hawk, Roger, Spring 2000, Ancient History in the New World: Integrating Oral Traditions and the Archaeological Record in Deep Time, American Antiquity, 65, 2, 267–290, 10.2307/2694059, 2694059, Despite such examples of agreement between geological and archeological records on one hand and Native oral records on the other, some scholars have cautioned against the historical validity of oral traditions because of their susceptibility to detail alteration over time and lack of precise dates.JOURNAL, Mason, Ronald J., 2000, Archaeology and Native North American Oral Traditions, American Antiquity, 65, 2, 239–266, 10.2307/2694058, 0002-7316, 2694058, The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act considers oral traditions as a viable source of evidence for establishing the affiliation between cultural objects and Native Nations.


File:Helsinki-Folk-singer-statue-1750.JPG|thumb|The legendary Finnish storyteller Väinämöinen with his kantelekanteleOral traditions face the challenge of accurate transmission and verifiability of the accurate version, particularly when the culture lacks written language or has limited access to writing tools. Oral cultures have employed various strategies that achieve this without writing. For example, a heavily rhythmic speech filled with mnemonic devices enhances memory and recall. A few useful mnemonic devices include alliteration, repetition, assonance, and proverbial sayings. In addition, the verse is often metrically composed with an exact number of syllables or morae - such as with Greek and Latin prosody and in Chandas found in Hindu and Buddhist texts.BOOK, Peter Scharf, Keith Allan, The Oxford Handbook of the History of Linguistics,weblink 2013, Oxford University Press, 978-0-19-164344-6, 228–234, The verses of the epic or text are typically designed wherein the long and short syllables are repeated by certain rules, so that if an error or inadvertent change is made, an internal examination of the verse reveals the problem.BOOK, Tatyana J. Elizarenkova, Language and Style of the Vedic Rsis,weblink 1995, State University of New York Press, 978-0-7914-1668-6, 111–121, Oral Traditions are able to be passed on through means of plays and acting which can be shown in the modern day Cameroon by the Graffis or Grasslanders who act out and deliver speeches to spread their history in the manner of Oral Tradition.BOOK, Oral tradition in African literature, Smith, Charles,, Ce, Chinenye, 9789783703681, [Nigeria], 927970109, Such strategies help facilitate transmission of information from individual to individual without a written intermediate, and they can also be applied to oral governance.BOOK, Crowley, David, Heyer, Paul, Communication in History: Technology, Culture, Society, 1999, Longman Publishers USA, 67, Third,

Oral transmission of law

{|style="border:1px; border: thin solid white; background-color:#f6f6FF; margin:20px;" cellpadding="10"
| The law itself in oral cultures is enshrined in formulaic sayings, proverbs, which are not mere jurisprudential decorations, but themselves constitute the law. A judge in an oral culture is often called on to articulate sets of relevant proverbs out of which he can produce equitable decisions in the cases under formal litigation before him.Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book provides an excellent demonstration of oral governance in the Law of the Jungle. Not only does grounding rules in oral proverbs allow for simple transmission and understanding, but it also legitimizes new rulings by allowing extrapolation. These stories, traditions, and proverbs are not static, but are often altered upon each transmission barring the overall meaning remains intact.WEB, Hanson, Erin, Oral Traditions,weblink Indigenous Foundations, 5 May 2015, yes,weblink" title="">weblink 18 May 2015, In this way, the rules that govern the people are modified by the whole and not authored by a single entity.

Indian religions

Ancient texts of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism were preserved and transmitted by an oral tradition.BOOK, Hartmut Scharfe, Handbook of Oriental Studies,weblink 2002, BRILL Academic, 978-90-04-12556-8, 24–29, 226–237, BOOK, Donald Lopez, Buddhist Scriptures,weblink 2004, Penguin Books, 978-0-14-190937-0, xi–xv, For example, the śrutis of Hinduism called the Vedas, the oldest of which trace back to the second millennium BCE. Michael Witzel explains this oral tradition as follows:, pages 68-71}}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.BOOK, Hartmut Scharfe, Handbook of Oriental Studies,weblink 2002, BRILL Academic, 978-90-04-12556-8, 24–29, 226–232, Many forms of recitation or paths were designed to aid accuracy in recitation and the transmission of the Vedas and other knowledge texts from one generation to the next. All hymns in each Veda were recited in this way; for example, all 1,028 hymns with 10,600 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:
  • Samhita-patha: continuous recitation of Sanskrit words bound by the phonetic rules of euphonic combination;
  • Pada-patha: a recitation marked by a conscious pause after every word, and after any special grammatical codes embedded inside the text; this method suppresses euphonic combination and restores each word in its original intended form;
  • Krama-patha: a step-by-step recitation where euphonically-combined words are paired successively and sequentially and then recited; for example, a hymn "word1 word2 word3 word4...", would be recited as "word1word2 word2word3 word3word4 ...."; this method to verify accuracy is credited to Vedic sages Gargya and Sakarya in the Hindu tradition and mentioned by the ancient Sanskrit grammarian Panini (dated to pre-Buddhism period);
  • Krama-patha modified: the same step-by-step recitation as above, but without euphonic-combinations (or free form of each word); this method to verify accuracy is credited to Vedic sages Babhravya and Galava in the Hindu tradition, and is also mentioned by the ancient Sanskrit grammarian Panini;
  • {{IAST|Jata-pāṭha}}, {{IAST|dhvaja-pāṭha}} and {{IAST|ghana-pāṭha}} are methods of recitation of a text and its oral transmission that developed after 5th century BCE, that is after the start of Buddhism and Jainism; these methods use more complicated rules of combination and were less used.
These extraordinary retention techniques guaranteed an accurate Śruti, fixed across the generations, not just in terms of unaltered word order but also in terms of sound.Wilke, Annette and Moebus, Oliver. Sound and Communication: An Aesthetic Cultural History of Sanskrit Hinduism (Religion and Society). De Gruyter (February 1, 2007). P. 495. {{ISBN|3110181592}}. That these methods have been effective, is testified to by the preservation of the most ancient Indian religious text, the {{IAST|Ṛgveda}} (ca. 1500 BCE).BOOK, Pierre-Sylvain Filliozat, Karine Chemla, History of Science, History of Text,weblink 2006, Springer, 978-1-4020-2321-7, 138–140,

Poetry of Homer

{{see|Oral-formulaic composition}}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").Milman Parry, L’epithèt traditionnelle dans Homère (Paris, 1928), p. 16; cf. Albert B. Lord, The singer of tales (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960), p. 4 In the case of the work of Homer, formulas included eos rhododaktylos ("rosy fingered dawn") and oinops pontos ("winedark sea") which fit in a modular fashion into the poetic form (in this case six-colon Greek hexameter). Since the development this theory, of Oral-formulaic composition has been "found in many different time periods and many different cultures",Dundes, Fables of the Ancients?, 2003: p.17 and according to another source (John Miles Foley) "touch[ed] on" over 100 "ancient, medieval and modern traditions."Foley, John Miles. The Theory of Oral Composition. Bloomington: IUP, 1991, p 36.{{#tag:ref|see also:Catherine S. Quick, ‘Annotated Bibliography 1986-1990’, Oral Tradition 12.2 (1997) 366-484Bannister, Oral-Formulaic Study, 65-106.|group=Note}}

Religion of Islam

The most recently revealed of the world's great religions,JOURNAL, EMONT, Jon, Why Are There No New Major Religions?, Atlantic, 6 August2017,weblink 10 July 2019, Islam had its two major sources of divine revelation — hadith and the Quran — compiled in written form relatively shortly after being revealed:WEB, Carroll, Jill, The Quran & Hadith,weblink World Religions, 10 July 2019,
  • hadith -- meaning "narrative" or "report" in Arabic, is the record of the words, actions, and the silent approval, of Muhammad -- was transmitted by "oral preachers and storytellers" for around 150-250 years. Each hadith includes the isnad (chain of human transmitters who passed down the tradition before it was sorted according to accuracy, compiled, and committed to written form by a reputable scholar.{{tag:ref|Muhammad is thought to have died 632 CE, the compilers of the six collections of Sunni hadith that have enjoyed near-universal acceptance as part of the official canon of Sunni Islam died (that is must have stopped compiling hadith) between 795 CE and 915 CE.|group=Note}}
  • the Quran -- meaning "recitation" in Arabic, is believed by Muslims to be God's revelation to the Islamic prophet Muhammad, delivered to him from 610 CE until his death in 632 CE -- is said to have been carefully compiled and edited into a standardized written form (known as the mushaf){{tag:ref|"During Abu Bakr's khalifate, at Omar's suggestion, all the pieces of the Qur'an were compiled in one place. It was a miscellaneous collection at first, because then the revelations were coming in, people recorded them on anything that came to hand -- a sheet of parchment, a piece of leather, a stone, a bone, whatever. As khalifa, Omar began a sorting process. In his presence, each written verse was checked against the memorized version kept by the professional reciters whom this society regarded as the most reliable keepers of information. Scribes then recorded the authorized copy of each verse before witnesses, and these verse were organized into one comprehensive collection."BOOK, Tamim Ansary, Destiny Disrupted, a History of the World Through Islamic Eyes, Public Affairs, 2009, |group=Note}} about two decades after the last verse was revealed.
Nonetheless, few disagree that the oral milieu the sources were revealed in, and their oral form in general were/are important. The Arab poetry that preceded the Quran and the hadith were orally transmitted.Bannister, "Retelling the Tale", 2014: p.2 Few Arabs were literate at the time and paper was not available in the Middle East.Michael Zwettler, The Oral Tradition of Classical Arabic Poetry, Ohio State Press, 1978, p.14.The written Quran is said to have been created in part from what had been memorized by Muhammad's companions, and the decision to create a standard written work is said to have come after the death in battle (Yamama) of a large number of Muslims who had memorized the work.WEB, Quran Project - Appendix - Preservation and Literary Challenge of the Quran,weblink Quran Project, 10 July 2019, For centuries copies of the Qurans/mushaf were written by hand, not printed, and their scarcity and expense made reciting the Quran from memory, not reading, the predominant mode of teaching it to others. To this day the Quran is memorized by millions and its recitation can be heard throughout the Muslim world from recordings and mosque loudspeakers (during Ramadan).WEB, Abu Zakariya, The Miraculous Preservation of the Qur’an.,weblink Many Prophets One Message, One Reason, 10 July 2019, 8 January 2014, Muslims state that some who teach memorization/recitation of the Quran constitute the end of an "un-broken chain" whose original teacher was Muhammad himself.NEWS, Qur’an and its preservation through chain of oral tradition,weblink 13 June 2019, Arab News, 27 February 2015, It has been argued that "the Qur’an’s rhythmic style and eloquent expression make it easy to memorize," and was made so to facilitate the "preservation and remembrance" of the work.{{#tag:ref|(The Qur’an asserts this in verses, 44:58; 54:17, 22, 32, 40)|group=Note}} Islamic doctrine holds that from the time it was revealed to the present day, the Quran has not been altered,{{#tag:ref|An alternative belief is that some of what was revealed to Muhammad was later abrogated in some way by God. "The mushaf is incomplete, in the sense that not everything that was once revealed to Muhammad is to be found today in our mushaf. The Quran, however, is complete, in the sense that everything that God intends us to find in the mushaf we shall find there, for whatever God intended to include, He made sure to preserve..." BOOK, John, Burton, The Sources of Islamic Law: Islamic Theories of Abrogation, Edinburgh University Press, 1990, 0-7486-0108-2,weblink 21 July 2018, JBSILITA1990, 44, |group=Note}} its continuity from divine revelation to its current written form insured by the large numbers of Muhammad's supporters who had reverently memorized the work, a careful compiling process and divine intervention. (Muslim scholars agree that although scholars have worked hard to separate the corrupt and uncorrupted hadith, this other source of revelation is not nearly so free of corruption because of the hadith's great political and theological influence.)But at least a couple of non-Muslim scholars (Alan Dundes and Andrew G. Bannister) have examined the possibility that the Quran was not just "recited orally, but actually composed orally".Bannister, "Retelling the Tale", 2014: p.1 Bannister postulates that some parts of the Quran — such as the seven re-tellings of the story of the Iblis and Adam, and the repeated phrases “which of the favours of your Lord will you deny?” in sura 55 — make more sense addressed to listeners than readers.Banister, Dundes and other scholars (Shabbir Akhtar, Angelika Neuwirth, Islam Dayeh)Bannister, "Retelling the Tale", 2014: p.1-4 have also noted the large amount of "formulaic" phraseology in the Quran consistent with "oral-formulaic composition" mentioned above.Dundes, Fables of the Ancients?, 2003: p.16 The most common formulas are the attributes of Allah — all-mighty, all-wise, all-knowing, all-high, etc. — often found as doublets at the end of a verse. Among the other repeated phrases{{#tag:ref|Dundes lists of repeated phrases come from an English translation and so those Quranic phrases in the original Arabic sometimes have slight differences|group=Note}} are "Allah created the heavens and the earth" (found 19 times in the Quran).{{#tag:ref|6:14, 79; 7:54, 10:3, 12:101, 14:10, 19, 32; 17:99, 29:44, 61; 30:8, 31:25, 32:4, 35:1, 39:38, 46; 42:11, 45:22, 46:33, cf. 2:117, 6:101Dundes, Fables of the Ancients?, 2003: p.32|group=Note}}As much as one third of the Quran is made up of "oral formulas", according to Dundes' estimates.Dundes, Fables of the Ancients?, 2003: p.65 Bannister, using a computer database of (the original Arabic) words of the Quran and of their "grammatical role, root, number, person, gender and so forth", estimates that depending on the length of the phrase searched, somewhere between 52% (three word phrases) and 23% (five word phrases) are oral formulas.Bannister, "Retelling the Tale", 2014: p.6-7 Dundes reckons his estimates confirm "that the Quran was orally transmitted from its very beginnings". Bannister believes his estimates "provide strong corroborative evidence that oral composition should be seriously considered as we reflect upon how the qur’anic text was generated."Bannister, "Retelling the Tale", 2014: p.10Dundes argues oral-formulaic composition is consistent with "the cultural context of Arabic oral tradition", quoting researchers who have found poetry reciters in the Najd (the region next to where the Quran was revealed) using "a common store of themes, motives, stock images, phraseology and prosodical options",{{#tag:ref| Dutch diplomat P. Marcel Kurpershoek in his comprehensive three volume study Oral Poetry and Narratives of Central ArabiaBOOK, P. Marcel, Kurpershoeck, 1994, 57, Oral Poetry and Narratives from Central Arabia, 1, Leiden, E.J.Brill, Bannister, "Retelling the Tale", 2014: p.68|group=Note}} and "a discursive and loosely structured" style "with no fixed beginning or end" and "no established sequence in which the episodes must follow".{{#tag:ref| scholar Saad Sowayan referring to the genre of "Saudi Arabian historical oral narrative genre called suwalif"BOOK, Saad, Sowayan, 1992, 22, The Arabian Oral Historical Narrative: An Ethnographic and Linguistic Analysis, Wiesbaden, Otto Harrassowitz, Dundes, Fables of the Ancients?, 2003: p.68-9|group=Note}} He also suggests that the possibility that at one point the text of the Quran was not fixed but had formulas used interchangeably in different "slots", might explain the story of Abdollah bin Sa'd, a scribe of Muhammad's revelations, who is alleged to have suggested that the attributes "knowing and wise" be substituted for "mighty and wise" in one Quranic revelation told to him by Muhammad, and that Muhammad accepted the suggestion.Dashti , 23 Years, 1994: p.98Dundes, Fables of the Ancients?, 2003: p.31.



File:Filip Visnjic guslar.jpg|thumb|right|Filip ViÅ¡njić (1767–1834), Serbian blind guslar ]]The following overview draws upon Oral-Formulaic Theory and Research: An Introduction and Annotated Bibliography, (NY: Garland Publishing, 1985, 1986, 1989); additional material is summarized from the overlapping prefaces to the following volumes: The Theory of Oral Composition: History and Methodology, (Indiana University Press, 1988, 1992); Immanent Art: From Structure to Meaning in Traditional Oral Epic (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991); The Singer of Tales in Performance (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995) and Comparative Research on Oral Traditions: A Memorial for Milman Parry (Columbus, Ohio: Slavica Publishers, 1987). in the work of the Serb scholar Vuk Stefanović Karadžić (1787–1864), a contemporary and friend of the Brothers Grimm. 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). Somewhat later, but as part of the same scholarly enterprise of nationalist studies in folklore,"Early Scholarship on Oral Traditions" {{webarchive|url= |date=2008-05-29 }}: Radloff, Jousse and Murko Oral Tradition 5:1 (1990) 73-90 the turcologist Vasily Radlov (1837–1918) 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.

Walter Ong

In a separate development, the media theorist Marshall McLuhan (1911–1980) would begin to focus attention on the ways that communicative media shape the nature of the content conveyed.See for example Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man. University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1962. He would serve as mentor to the Jesuit, Walter Ong (1912–2003), whose interests in cultural history, psychology and rhetoric would result in Orality and Literacy (Methuen, 1980) and the important but less-known Fighting for Life: Contest, Sexuality and Consciousness (Cornell, 1981)Walter J. Ong. Fighting for Life: Context, Sexuality, and Consciousness. Cornell University Press, Ithaca & London, 1981. These two works articulated the contrasts between cultures defined by primary orality, writing, print, and the secondary orality of the electronic age.Foley, John Miles. The Theory of Oral Composition. Bloomington: IUP, 1991, pp. 57 ff.
{|style="border:1px; border: thin solid white; background-color:#f6f6FF; margin:20px;" cellpadding="10"| I style the morality of a culture totally untouched by any knowledge of writing or print, 'primary orality'. It is 'primary' by contrast with the 'secondary orality' of present-day high technology culture, in which a new orality is sustained by telephone, radio, television and other electronic devices that depend for their existence and functioning on writing and print. Today primary culture in the strict sense hardly exists, since every culture knows of writing and has some experience of its effects. Still, to varying degrees many cultures and sub-cultures, even in a high-technology ambiance, preserve much of the mind-set of primary orality.Walter J. Ong. Orality and Literacy, p. 11.
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. This approach, like McLuhan's, kept the field open not just to the study of aesthetic culture but to the way physical and behavioral artifacts of oral societies are used to store, manage and transmit knowledge, so that oral tradition provides methods for investigation of cultural differences, other than the purely verbal, between oral and literate societies.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.Walter J. Ong. Orality and literacy: the technologizing of the word, pp. 31-76.

John Miles Foley

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.Foley, John Miles. The Theory of Oral Composition. Bloomington: IUP, 1991, p 76. Foley effectively consolidated oral tradition as an academic field weblink when he compiled Oral-Formulaic Theory and Research in 1985. 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. He also both established both the journal Oral Tradition and founded the Center for Studies in Oral Tradition (1986) at the University of Missouri. 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.Foley, John Miles. Oral Formulaic Theory and Research: An Introduction and Annotated Bibliography. NY: Garland, 1985. The Theory of Oral Composition. Bloomington: IUP, 1991, pp. 64-66.Foley's key works include The Theory of Oral Composition (1988);John Miles Foley. The Theory of Oral Composition: History and Methodology. Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1988. Immanent Art (1991); Traditional Oral Epic: The Odyssey, Beowulf and the Serbo-Croatian Return-Song (1993); The Singer of Tales in Performance (1995); Teaching Oral Traditions (1998); How to Read an Oral Poem (2002). His Pathways Project (2005–2012) draws parallels between the media dynamics of oral traditions and the Internet.

Acceptance and further elaboration

The theory of oral tradition would undergo elaboration and development as it grew in acceptance.Foley, John Miles. "Oral Formulaic Theory and Research: An Introduction and Annotated Bibliography." NY: Garland, 1985. The Theory of Oral Composition. Bloomington: IUP, 1991, p. 70 While the number of formulas documented for various traditions proliferated,A. Orchard, 'Oral Tradition', Reading Old English Texts, ed. K O'Brien O'Keeffe (Cambridge, 1997), pp. 101-23 the concept of the formula remained lexically-bound. However, numerous innovations appeared, such as the "formulaic system"{{#tag:ref|Fry, Donald K. "Old English Formulas and Systems" English Studies 48 (1967):193-204. Donald K. 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 Formula in Early Greek Poetry" Arion 4 (1965):295-311). Fry's model proposes underlying generative templates which provide for variation and even artistic creativity within the constraints of strict metrical requirements and extempore composition-in-performance|group=Note}} with structural "substitution slots" for syntactic, morphological and narrative necessity (as well as for artistic invention).Davis, Adam Brooke "Verba volent, scripta manent: Oral Tradition and the Non-Narrative Genres of Old English Poetry." Diss. Univ. of Missouri at Columbia. DAI 52A (1991), 2137 pp. 202, 205 Sophisticated models such as Foley's "word-type placement rules" followed.Foley, John Miles. Immanent Art: From Structure to Meaning in Traditional Oral Epic. Bloomington: IUP, 1991. 30, 31, 202n22, 207 n36, 211n43 Higher levels of formulaic composition were defined over the years, such as "ring composition",Foley, John Miles. "The Singer of Tales in Performance. Bloomington: IUP, 1995. 55, 60, 89 108, 122n40 "responsion"Olsen, Alexandra Hennessey. "Oral -Formulaic Research in Old English Studies:II" Oral Tradition 3:1-2 (1988) 138-90, p. 165) Olsen cites Foley's "Hybrid Prosody and Old English Half-Lines" in Neophilologus 64:284-89 (1980). and the "type-scene" (also called a "theme" or "typical scene"Foley, John Miles. The Singer of Tales in Performance. Bloomington: IUP, 1995. 2, 7, 8n15, 17 et passim.). Examples include the "Beasts of Battle"Magoun, Francis P. "The Oral-Formulaic Character of Anglo-Saxon Narrative Poetry." Speculum 28 (1953): 446-67 and the "Cliffs of Death".Fry, Donald K. "The Cliff of Death in Old English Poetry." In Comparative Research in Oral Traditions: A Memorial for Milman Parry, ed. John Miles Foley. Columbus: Slavica, 1987, 213-34. Some of these characteristic patterns of narrative details, (like "the arming sequence;"Zumthor, Paul "The Text and the Voice." Transl. Marilyn C. Englehardt. New Literary History 16 (1984):67-92 "the hero on the beach";D. K. Crowne, "The Hero on the Beach: An Example of Composition by Theme in Anglo-Saxon Poetry", Neuphilologische Mitteilungen, 61 (1960), 371. "the traveler recognizes his goal")Clark, George. "The Traveller Recognizes His Goal." Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 64 (1965):645-59. would show evidence of global distribution.Armstrong, James I. "The Arming Motif in the Iliad". The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 79, No. 4. (1958), pp. 337-354.At the same time, the fairly rigid division between oral and literate was replaced by recognition of transitional and compartmentalized texts and societies, including models of diglossia (Brian StockBrian Stock. "The Implications of Literacy. Written Language and Models of Interpretation in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries" (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983) Franz Bäuml,Bäuml, Franz H. "Varieties and Consequences of Medieval Literacy and Illiteracy", in Speculum, Vol. 55, No. 2 (1980), pp.243-244. and Eric Havelock).Havelock, Eric Alfred. Preface to Plato. "Vol. 1 A History of the Greek Mind", Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts: 1963. Perhaps most importantly, the terms and concepts of "orality" and "literacy" came to be replaced with the more useful and apt "traditionality" and "textuality".Davis, Adam Brooke. "Agon and Gnomon: Forms and Functions of the Anglo-Saxon Riddles" in De Gustibus: Essays for Alain Renoir. Ed John Miles Foley. NY: Garland, 1992 110-150 Very large units would be defined (The Indo-European Return Song)Foley, John Miles. Immanent Art Bloomington: IUP, 1991. 15, 18, 20-21, 34, 45, 63-64, 64n6, 64-68,, 74n23, 75, 76, 77n28, 78, 80, 82, 82n38, 83, 87-91, 92, 93, 94, 102, 103, 104n18, 105, 109, 110n32 and areas outside of military epic would come under investigation: women's song,Weigle, Marta. "Women's Expressive Forms" in Foley, John Miles, ed. "Teaching Oral Traditions" NY:MLA 1998. pp. 298- riddles and other genres.The methodology of oral tradition now conditions a large variety of studies, not only in folklore, literature and literacy, but in philosophy,{{#tag:ref|Kevin Robb. "Greek Oral Memory and the Origins of Philosophy." The Personalist: An International Review of Philosophy, 51:5-45.;A study of the AG oral mentality that assumes (1) the existence of composition and thinking that took shape under the aegis of oral patterns, (2) the educational apparatus as an oral system, and (3) the origins of philosophy as we know it in the abstract intellectual reaction against the oral mentality. 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" (14-22), 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... over alternative schema possible in other styles" (23). In sympathy with Havelock (1963), he interprets Plato's reaction against the poets as one against the oral mentality and its educative process.|group=Note}} communication theory,"Review: Communication Studies as American Studies" Daniel Czitrom American Quarterly, Vol. 42, No. 4 (Dec., 1990), pp. 678-683 Semiotics,Nimis, Stephen A. Narrative Semiotics in the Epic Tradition. Indiana University Press: Bloomington, 1988 and including a very broad and continually expanding variety of languages and ethnic groups, {{webarchive |url= |date=January 24, 2009 }}WEB,weblink Wayne State University Press - Language and Literature: - Page 1,, 2012-10-23, no,weblink" title="">weblink 2012-02-10, {{webarchive |url= |date=February 9, 2012 }} {{webarchive |url= |date=March 13, 2008 }}WEB,weblink Studies in Canadian Literature / Études en littérature canadienne,, 2012-10-23, no,weblink" title="">weblink 2011-08-05, and perhaps most conspicuously in biblical studies,WEB,weblink Archived copy, 2008-05-13, no,weblink" title="">weblink 2008-05-29, in which Werner Kelber has been especially prominent.JOURNAL,weblink Werner H. Kelber - Oral Tradition in Bible and New Testament Studies - Oral Tradition 18:1, 10.1353/ort.2004.0025,, 2012-10-23, The annual bibliography is indexed by 100 areas, most of which are ethnolinguistic divisions.WEB,weblink Oral Tradition, Oral Tradition, 2012-10-23, no,weblink" title="">weblink 2012-10-28, Present developments explore the implications of the theory for rhetoricBoni, Stefano. Contents and contexts : the rhetoric of oral traditions in the oman of Sefwi Wiawso, Ghana. Africa. 70 (4) 2000, pages 568-594. London and composition,Miller, Susan, Rescuing the Subject. A Critical Introduction to Rhetoric and the Writer. Southern Illinois University Press, 2004 interpersonal communication,Minton, John. "The Reverend Lamar Roberts and the Mediation of Oral Tradition". The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 108, No. 427 (Winter, 1995), pp. 3-37 cross-cultural communication,WEB,weblink Wayback Machine, 1 October 2006, 28 April 2018, yes,weblink" title="">weblink 1 October 2006, postcolonial studies,"Culture Education" and the Challenge of Globalization in Modern Nigeria by Ademola Omobewaji Dasylva. This paper has to do with the challenges of globalization in modern Nigeria and the process of "culture education," a terminology used to emphasize the peculiar means and methods of instruction by which a society imparts its body of values and mores in the pursuance and attainment of the society's collective vision, aspirations, and goals. Within this framework, this paper examines the legacies of imperialism and colonization within the Nigerian educational system––particularly in reference to the teaching of folklore and oral tradition––including the destruction of indigenous knowledge systems and the continuing lack of adequate resources in African universities. The paper concludes by offering suggestions for a more fully synthesized indigenous and formal Nigerian educational system as a method of addressing postcolonial rupture. PDF {{webarchive|url= |date=2008-05-29 }} Oral Tradition 21/2 (2006):325-41. rural community development,weblink" title="https:/-/">weblink popular cultureSkidmore, Thomas E. Black Into White: Race and Nationality in Brazilian Thought New York: Oxford University Press, 1974 p. 89 and film studies,weblink" title="https:/-/">weblink and many other areas. The most significant areas of theoretical development at present may be the construction of systematic hermeneuticsJ. A. (Bobby) Loubser, "Shembe Preaching: A Study in Oral Hermeneutics," in African Independent Churches. Today, ed. M. C. Kitshoff (Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 1996Kelber, Werner H. "The Oral and the Written Gospel: The Hermeneutics of Writing and Speaking in the Synoptic Tradition" Philadelphia: Fortress P 1983.Swearingen, C. Jan. "Oral Hermeneutics during the Transition to Literacy: The Contemporary Debate". Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 1, No. 2, The Dialectic of Oral and Literary Hermeneutics (May, 1986), pp. 138-156 and aestheticsFoley, John Miles. The Theory of Oral Composition: History and Methodology. Bloomington: IUP, 1988. 55, 64, 66, 72, 74, 77, 80, 97, 105, 110-111, 129n20,; artistic cp to mechanistic, 21, 25, 38, 58, 63-64, 65, 104, 118-119n20, 120-121n16, 124n31, 125n53, oral aesthetic cp to literate aestetics, 35, 58, 110-11, 121n26.Foley, John Miles. Immanent Art: From Structure to Meaning in Traditional Oral Epic. Bloomington: IUP, 1991. 245 specific to oral traditions.

Criticism and debates

The theory of oral tradition encountered early resistance from scholars who perceived it as potentially supporting either one side or another in the controversy between what were known as "unitarians" and "analysts" â€“ that is, scholars who believed Homer to have been a single, historical figure, and those who saw him as a conceptual "author function," a convenient name to assign to what was essentially a repertoire of traditional narrative.Frederick M. Combellack, "Milman Parry and Homeric Artistry" Comparative Literature, Vol. 11, No. 3 (Summer, 1959), pp. 193-208 . p. 194 A much more general dismissal of the theory and its implications simply described it as "unprovable"Rutherford, R.B. Homer: Odyssey Books XIX & XX,, Cambridge UP 1992 remarks on oral-formulaic diction, pp. 47-49 Some scholars, mainly outside the field of oral tradition,Botstein, Leon. "Hearing Is Seeing: Thoughts on the History of Music and the Imagination." The Musical Quarterly 1995 79(4):581-89Elliot Oring cites Bruchac, Joe Storytelling: Oral History or Game of 'Telephone'?" American Folklore Society Newsletter 19/2:3–4.WEB,weblink Christopher Butler cites Bart Ehrman, 'Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why',, 2006-04-28, 2012-10-23, no,weblink" title="">weblink 2012-11-05, WEB,weblink chapter4.DOC, 2012-10-23, yes,weblink" title="">weblink 2012-02-13, represent (either dismissively or with approval) this body of theoretical work as reducing the great epics to children's party games like "telephone" or "Chinese whispers". 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.Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Great Britain: Bantam, 2006 p. 118 -- Dawkins contradicts this view, however, on p. 227)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. Similarly, it was also discovered in other works of Germanic origin, Middle English poetry, and even an Icelandic prose saga. J.A. Dane, in an articleDane, J.A. "Finnsburh and Iliad IX: A Greek Survival of the Medieval Germanic Oral-Formulaic Theme The Hero on the Beach." Neophilologus 66:443-449 characterized as "polemics without rigor"Foley, John Miles. Oral-Formulaic Theory and Research: An Introduction and Annotated Bibliography, (NY: Garland Publishing, 1985), p. 200 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. 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".Kirk, Geoffrey S. The Songs of Homer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962. pp88 - 91.Foley, John M. Oral-Formulaic Theory and Research: An Introduction and Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc, 1985. p. 35. Shortly thereafter, Eric Havelock's Preface to Plato revolutionized how scholars looked at Homeric epic by arguing not only that it was the product of an oral tradition, but also that the oral-formulas contained therein served as a way for ancient Greeks to preserve cultural knowledge across many different generations.Foley, John M. Oral-Formulaic Theory and Research: An Introduction and Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc, 1985. p. 36. Adam Parry, in his 1966 work "Have we Homer's Iliad?", theorized the existence of the most fully developed oral poet to his time, a person who could (at his discretion) creatively and intellectually create nuanced characters in the context of the accepted, traditional story. In fact, he discounted the Serbo-Croatian tradition to an "unfortunate" extent, choosing to elevate the Greek model of oral-tradition above all others.Foley, John M. Oral-Formulaic Theory and Research: An Introduction and Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc, 1985. pp. 36, 505.Parry, Adam. "Have we Homer's Iliad?"Yale Classical Studies.20 (1966), pp.. 177-216. Lord reacted to Kirk's and Parry's essays with "Homer as Oral Poet", published in 1968, which reaffirmed Lord's belief in the relevance of Yugoslav poetry and its similarities to Homer and downplayed the intellectual and literary role of the reciters of Homeric epic.Foley, John M. Oral-Formulaic Theory and Research: An Introduction and Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc, 1985. pp. 40, 406.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 themesFoley, John M. Oral-Formulaic Theory and Research: An Introduction and Annotated Bibliography. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc. 1985. p. 42.; Foley cites "The Literary Character of Anglo-Saxon Formulaic Poetry" Publications of the Modern Language Association 81 (1966):, 334-41 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,George E. Dimock. "From Homer to Novi Pazar and B ack." Arion, 2, iv:40-57. Reacts against the Parry-Lord hypothesis of an oral Homer, claiming that, although Lord demonstrated that the oral poet thinks in verse and offered many explanations of the various facets of the Homeric Question by recourse to the Yugoslav analogy, the difference between Homer and other, literate poets is one of degree rather than kind. Wants to rescue Homer's art from what he sees as the dangers inherent in the oral theory model. and particularly what they regard as its implications for the creativity which may legitimately be attributed to the individual artist.Perhaps the most prominent and steadfast opponent of oral traditional theory on these grounds was Arthur Brodeur, in, e.g., The Art of Beowulf. Berkeley: University of California Press. 3rd printing 1969; "A Study of Diction and Style in Three Anglo-Saxon Narrative Poems." In Nordica et Anglica. Ed. Allan H. Orrick. The Hague: Mouton. pp. 97-114; "Beowulf: One Poem or Three?" In Medieval Literature and Folklore Studies in Honor of Francis Lee Utley. Ed. Jerome Mandel and Bruce A. Rosenberg. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press. pp. 3-26. However, at present, there seems to be little systematic or theoretically coordinated challenge to the fundamental tenets of the theory; as Foley put it, ""there have been numerous suggestions for revisions or modifications of the theory, but the majority of controversies have generated further understanding.Foley, John Miles. The Theory of Oral Composition: History and Methodology. Bloomington:IUP, 1988." p.93

See also







  • WEB, Bannister, Andrew G., Retelling the Tale: A Computerised Oral-Formulaic Analysis of the Qur’an. Presented at the 2014 International Qur’an Studies Association Meeting in San Diego,weblink, 20 May 2019, AGBRtT2014,
  • BOOK, Dundes, Alan, Fables of the Ancients?: Folklore in the Qur'an, 2003, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers,weblink 2 May 2019, ADFotA2003,
  • Foley, John Miles. Oral Formulaic Theory and Research: An Introduction and Annotated Bibliography. NY: Garland, 1985
  • Foley, John Miles. The Theory of Oral Composition. Bloomington: IUP, 1991

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