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Teaching Oral Traditions

Editor(s): John Miles Foley

Pages: viii & 540 pp.
Published: 1998
ISBN: 9780873523714 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780873523707 (cloth)

Research is beginning to unearth the astounding wealth of oral traditions that have served as a vital cultural activity and verbal art for peoples throughout the world, from antiquity to the present. In this thirteenth volume of the MLA series Options for Teaching, forty-two scholar-teachers bring these discoveries and rediscoveries from the scholarly forum to the classroom.

The essays in this exciting field touch on more than a hundred traditions and draw from the methodologies of literary studies, folklore, anthropology, and linguistics. They are filled with vivid specifics. Among the subjects discussed are the unwritten roots of the Bible; the genesis and art of the Homeric poems; Native American traditions, like the Zuni "Deer Boy" tale and the Quechua proverb "Corn-Planting Day"; the performance of the African American toast "Stagolee"; Old English charms for afflictions; Mexican American corridos; the Travelling People of Scotland; African trickster tales; women's songs of mid-eleventh-century Andalusia; a Yiddish picaresque narrative; the fifth-century Indian Tale of an Anklet; South Slavic epics; the oral traditions behind Beowulf and behind the Canterbury Tales; the professional entertainers (jongleurs) of medieval France; and Icelandic sagas.

Teaching Oral Traditions demonstrates the importance of performance and challenges many current assumptions about the authority of the written word.

Table of Contents



Introduction: An Audience for Oral Traditions
John Miles Foley

Part 1: Canon or Cornucopia?

The Impossibility of Canon
John Miles Foley

What Would a True Comparative Literature Look Like?
Lee Haring

The Performing Body on the Oral-Literate Continuum: Old English Poetry
Katherine O'Brien O'Keeffe

Leading Proteus Captive: Editing and Translating Oral Tradition
Elizabeth C. Fine

Part 2: Critical Approaches

A Historical Glossary of Critical Approaches
Rosemary Lévy Zumwalt

Contemporary Critical Approaches and Studies in Oral Tradition
Mark C. Amodio

The Ethnography of Performance in the Study of Oral Traditions
Richard Bauman and Donald Braid

Thomas DuBois

Traditional Referentiality: The Aesthetic Power of Oral Traditional Structures
Nancy Mason Bradbury

Part 3: Praxis: Oral Traditions in the Classroom

Living Traditions

Native American Traditions (North)
Barre Toelken

Native American Traditions (South)
John H. McDowell

African Oral Narrative Traditions
Donald J. Cosentino

African American Traditions
Sw. Anand Prahlad

General Hispanic Traditions
John Zemke

Mexican American Oral Traditions
María Herrera-Sobek

Jewish Oral Traditions
Judith S. Neulander

Indian Oral Traditions
R. Parthasarathy

Oral Performance and Orally Related Literature in China
Mark Bender

Oral and Vocal Traditions of Japan
Shelley Fenno Quinn

Arabic Traditions
Susan Slyomovics

South Slavic Traditions
Ronelle Alexander

British American Balladry
John D. Niles

Teaching the Folktale Tradition
Steven Swann Jones

Women's Expressive Forms
Marta Weigle

Storytelling: Practice and Movement
Carol L. Birch

Texts with Roots in Oral Tradition

The Hebrew Scriptures
Martin S. Jaffee

New Testament Texts: Rhetoric and Discourse
Werner H. Kelber

Homer's Iliad and Odyssey
Richard P. Martin

Alexandra H. Olsen

Carl Lindahl

The Middle English Romance and the Alliterative Tradition
Leslie Stratyner

Old French Literature
Evelyn Birge Vitz

The Icelandic Sagas
Joseph Harris

The Frame Tale East and West
Bonnie D. Irwin

Part 4: Courses, Readings, and Resources

The National Curriculum and the Teaching of Oral Traditions
Lynn C. Lewis and Lori Peterson

Multiculturalism and Oral Traditions
Beverly J. Stoeltje and Nancy Worthington

Using Oral Tradition in a Composition Classroom
William Bernard McCarthy

Course Descriptions and Syllabi
Lynn C. Lewis and Lori Peterson

Selected Audiovisual and Internet Resources
Anastasios Daskalopoulos

Works Cited


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