Oral Poetry

Oral Poetry : Its Nature, Significance and Social Context

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This classic study is an introduction to oral poetry, a broad subject which Ruth Finnegan interprets as ranging from American folksongs, Eskimo lyrics, and modern popular songs to medieval oral literature, the heroic poems of Homer, and recent epic compositions in Asia and the Pacific. The book employs a wide comparative perspective, to consider oral poetry from Africa, Asia, and Oceania as well as Europe and America. The results of Finnegan's vast research suggest fresh approaches to many current controversies: the nature of oral tradition and oral composition; the notion of a special oral style; possible connections between types of poetry and types of society; the differences between oral and written communication; and the role of poets in nonliterature societies. The reissue of this text, widely used in folklore, anthropology, and comparative literature courses, comes at an appropriate juncture in interdisciplinary scholarship, which is witnessing the breakdown of traditional disciplinary boundaries and an increase in the comparative study of oral poetry. Finnegan provides a new foreword relating the text to these recent developments.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 324 pages
  • 149.86 x 226.06 x 25.4mm | 498.95g
  • Indiana University Press
  • Bloomington, IN, United States
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 4ill.
  • 0253207088
  • 9780253207081

Review quote

"No student should embark on a study of poetry in any culture without first reading this book."Research in African Literatures
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Table of contents

List of plates Preface to the Midland edition Corrigenda Preface to the first edition Acknowledgements 1 Introductory 1 The importance of oral poetry 2 Some forms of oral poetry 3 What is OoralO in oral poetry? 4 The OpoetryO in oral poetry 5 Performance and text 2 Some approaches to the study of oral poetry 1 Romantic and evolutionist theories 2 The Ohistorical-georgraphicalO school 3 Sociological approaches and the sociology of literature 4 Two Oideal typesO of society and poetry 3 Composition 1 Is memorisation the key factor? 2 Composition-in-performance, and the oral-formulaic theory 3 How valid is the oral-formulaic theory? 4 Prior composition, memorisation and performance 5 Conclusion 4 Style and performance 1 The relevance of style and performance 2 Prosodic systems 3 Repetition, style and structure 4 Language and diction 5 Performance 6 Is there a special oral style? 7 Conclusion 5 Transmission, distribution and publication 1 Oral transmission over space and time: some striking cases 2 Inert tradition, memorisation or re-creation? 3 How do oral poems reach their audiences? 4 OOral transmissionO and writing 5 Conclusion 6 Poets and their positions 1 The poet: five case studies 2 Some types of poets: specialists, experts and occasional poets 3 Are oral poets anonymous? 4 The poet as seer 5 The poet as individual genius 7 Audience, context and function 1 Some types of audience 2 The effect and the composition of audiences 3 The purpose and meaning of poetry: local theories 4 Some effects of oral poetry 8 Poetry and society 1 The link between poetic and social institutions 2 Does one type of poetry always go with a particular form of society? OHeroic ageO, Oballad societyO and Ooral cultureO 3 Literature as the reflection adn consequence of social forms 4 Literature as social action Concluding comment References Index
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