Teaching Oral Traditions

  • Editor: John Miles Foley
  • Pages: viii & 540 pp.
  • Published: 1998
  • ISBN: 9780873523714 (Paperback)
  • ISBN: 9780873523707 (Cloth)
Teaching Oral Traditions Cover

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.