Oral Poetry: Its Nature, Significance, and Social Context

Synopsis

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.

Additional information

Contributors:
Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Bloomington, IN
Publication year:
  • 1992