Epic Inside-Out

Oral Tradition, 35/1 (2021):37-66  In spite of ourselves, epic absorbs us.1 And then we encounter issues that are more tangled than grass roots. For example, we have now identified two other versions of the adventures of Ajkuna, wife of Muj, and they give quite different explanations for what happened to her. It must have been […]

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Coast Miwok Oral Tradition

Oral Tradition, 35/1 (2021):67-86  Little has been published on the oral traditions of the Coast Miwok that provides any information on the original language and linguistic verbal art of this group.1 The Coast Miwok language was spoken north of San Francisco Bay, largely in an area corresponding to modern Marin County and parts of Sonoma County, […]

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The Oral Style of the R̥gveda

Oral Tradition, 35 (2021):3-36 1. The Study of R̥gvedic Repetitions1  In the second volume of his 1877 edition of the R̥gveda, Theodor Aufrecht collects about three thousand repeated verses and phrases from that text. Beginning with the paired Vālakhilya hymns 8.49-52, which he describes as “two versions of the same material . . . like two […]

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Editor’s Column

Readers of Oral Tradition will find in this issue an exceptionally rich and varied assortment of topics. The six essays presented here discuss texts and performances in eight different languages, several of them appearing for the very first time in the journal’s pages. As George E. Dunkel (“The Oral Style of the R̥gveda”) points out […]

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Dynamics of Voiced Poetry

Oral Tradition, 35 (2021):167-88 Introduction In African Muslim societies, religious values are transmitted and reinforced through “voiced texts,” poetic texts recorded in writing but designed to be performed orally and received aurally (Foley 2002). Aural reception implies the participatory and/or virtual involvement of an audience within sacred or hybrid frames. For most Muslim preachers, voiced […]

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The Musical Poetry of Endangered Languages

Oral Tradition, 35 (2021):103-66 Many peoples of the world conceptualize what English speakers call poetry and music or song as a single integrated unit, what I will call the “poem-song.” Poem-songs may function as models or molds, opening up possibilities for singers, poets, and composers to structure and remember texts, and to convey their ideas […]

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About the Authors

Oral Tradition Volume 35, Number 1 George Eugene Dunkel After studying Greek, Sanskrit, and Comparative Indo-European Linguistics in Paris, Philadelphia, and Erlangen, George Dunkel taught in the Departments of Classics at Johns Hopkins University (from 1975) and Princeton University (from 1978). He then served as chairman of the Indogermanisches Seminar of the University of Zurich, […]

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Founding Fathers, Patrons, Mothers, and Other Bertso-School Groupies

Oral Tradition, 35/1 (2021):87-102   In March, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced hundreds of thousands of Basque citizens into full lockdown,1 the electronic revolution in communications allowed the Association of the Friends of Bertsolaritza (Bertsozale Elkartea)2 to extensively share, advertise, and disseminate their online offerings. (Bertsolaritza is the Basque cultural practice of singing improvised verses.3) The scheme presented bertso followers with an […]

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Unraveling the Knot

Oral Tradition, 34 (2020):45-72  Introduction Proverbs are storehouses of traditional wisdom and are highly valued in Africa. Among the Akan of Ghana, proverbs are used in everyday conversations, storytelling, ancestral and royal praise singing, and conflict resolution, among other contexts. Proverbs may be expressed through drumming, horn-blowing, and dance gestures, and they may be illustrated […]

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Editor’s Column

I am pleased to present to readers Oral Tradition Volume 34, comprising four essays that demonstrate, in the diversity of their topics and approaches, the broad reach of the study of orality and oral tradition. This volume brings together traditions from three continents—as well as, perhaps unexpectedly, the work of one of the twentieth century’s […]

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Back in the Foundation

Oral Tradition, 34 (2020):3-441 On an 1820-21 trip into the fledgling Serbian Principality, Vuk Stefanović Karadžić (hereafter “Vuk”), the language reformer, orthographer, folklorist, and ideological father of the modern Serbian state,2 collected the song “The Building of Skadar” (“Zidanje Skadra”) from the guslar (bard) Old Man (Starac) Raško3 at Prince Miloš Obrenović’s manor in Kragujevac.4 […]

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Learning to be Satisfied

Oral Tradition, 34 (2020):73-104 In memory of Barre Toelken “This is so, isn’t it?” —F. R. Leavis (1972:62) “Hane’ doo t’óó saad t’éí át’é jinóózį́į́’ át’éé da, t’áá bí be’iina’ haleeh.” —Rex Lee Jim (cited in Casaus 1996:10) Rough translation: “Stories (poems) are not just words to be thought about, they are to become life.” “[Poetry] […]

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Orality and Social Memory in Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita

Oral Tradition, 34 (2020):105-20 As any reader of Lolita knows, Vladimir Nabokov’s novel is characterized by the strong, central voice of its narrator, Humbert Humbert, opening as it does with one of the most famous apostrophes in literary history. Humbert lures readers in, seducing them with his confiding tone and the ornate register of his […]

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About the Authors

Oral Tradition Volume 34 Dorian Jurić Dorian Jurić is a Canadian cultural anthropologist, folklorist, and railroad maintenance foreman whose research explores the political life of folklore in the Western Balkans. He has also recently become the Vice President of the Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Folklore Association. His writing, on topics ranging from oral traditions […]

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About the Authors

Oral Tradition Volume 33, Number 1 Richard Hughes Gibson Richard Hughes Gibson is Associate Professor of English at Wheaton College and the author of Forgiveness in Victorian Literature: Grammar, Narrative, and Community (2015). With the designer Jeremy Botts, he directs the Manibus Press, an occasional publisher of artists’ books. Shem Miller Shem Miller is Assistant Teaching Professor of Religion at […]

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Editors’ Column

Volume 33 marks a major transition for Oral Tradition. After thirty-two fruitful years at the University of Missouri, the journal has now found a new home at Harvard University. In the “Editor’s Column” that prefaced the first issue of Oral Tradition in 1986, John Miles Foley justified the creation of the new journal by speaking of the need […]

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Magic Questions

Oral Tradition, 33/1 (2019):51-88 People who pose questions and practitioners of magic have one thing in common: they claim power and authority over others. They lay their claim using language that positions them as speakers with access to, and control over, the unknown. Analyzing questions in multiple versions of “The Song of Bagdad,” a South Slavic epic, […]

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An Examination of the Poetics of Tibetan Secular Oratory

Oral Tradition, 33/1 (2019):23-501  On an auspicious day, two families from Ne’u na Village, a small village along the Yellow River in Western China’s Qinghai Province, gather to celebrate a wedding. The day has been chosen specifically for this purpose. Midway through the wedding banquet, a man stands before the crowd already so drunk that his words are almost unintelligible, and he speaks. He […]

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The Myth of Milman Parry

Oral Tradition, 33/1 (2019):115-142 The Myth of Milman Parry Oral traditions are creative: they romanticize and sensationalize otherwise mundane events. The memory of a historical but probably minor conflict between the Mycenaeans and Trojans over commercial interests—access to the straits of the Hellespont that connected the Black Sea to the Aegean—evolved over time into an […]

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Oral Tradition and the Dead Sea Scrolls

Oral Tradition, 33/1 (2019):3-22 The Dead Sea Scrolls are a cache of ancient manuscripts written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek discovered in eleven caves from 1947-1956. Most scholars associate the Dead Sea Scrolls with an ancient Jewish community who lived in a complex of ruins on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea known as […]

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Does Hector’s Helmet Flash?

Oral Tradition, 33/1 (2019):89-114 The most important question raised by studies in oral tradition is “So what?” —John Miles Foley, “Oral Tradition and Its Implications” With the publication of his fine press Odyssey in view, the great American printer and typographer Bruce Rogers wrote in April 1931 to his translator, T. E. Lawrence, with a […]

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