Oral poetry: its nature, significance, and social context
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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The importance of oral poetry
Some forms of oral poetry
What is oral in oral poetry?
The poetry in oral poetry
Performance and text
Some approaches to the study of oral poetry
Repetition style and structure
Language and diction
Is there a special oral style?
Transmission distribution and publication
Poets and their positions
Sociological approaches and the sociology of literature
Two ideal types of society and poetry
Compositioninperformance and the oralformulaic theory
How valid is the oralformulaic theory?
Prior composition memorisation and performance
Style and performance
Are oral poets anonymous?
The poet as seer
Audience context and function
Poetry and society