Oral Traditions Engl 337

Online Journal for Engl 337.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Okay, so I'm striking out on a kind of philological bent with this post, but bear with me.

The words we talked about in class on Tuesday, univocal and polyphony, say alot about their relation to orality and literacy from their etymologies. Univocal comes from uni-, one, and voc-, voice. It refers to a single utterance, where in the utterance is a voice.

Polyphonal, on the other hand, comes from poly- meaning many, and phone, which means sound (as in a linguistic phoneme). Polyphony then is multiple sounds, not just multiple voices. It is far broader than the simple definition would apply.

This is interesting in though and depending on how much you buy into the theory that words and language structure your thoughts it could change the way you speak.

Monday, April 04, 2005


An interesting side note of the posting of the poems: I know can place faces to most of the blogs I have been reading. I didn't know everyones name (and still don't) but I can know attach the song/poem I heard with the lyrics written on a blog.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Triple Play

Three thoughts for the day.

First, I doubt I will ever forget a few of the phrases I memorized from the oral poem. I figure in thirty years "capital counts of wood" will come to mind and I will have to idea what it means, but I will rememer it.

Second, orality and the Sipmsons.
I watched an episod of the Simpsons today in which part wants to go to a rap concert. He tells his mom that rap is "the music of the streets." He later engages a rapper on stage in flyting. It was interesting to apply Oral Traditions to the show.

Third, orality, time, and Tarantino.
The fact that oral stories would not necessarily follow a strict chronological order is still seen today in some secondary orailty, namely Pulp Fiction. For anyone who hasn't seen the movie (shame on you) the story follows no strict time line. Things will jump around time wise. The first scene is the same as the last. Unlike most oral stories, however, Tarantino had the lack of linearity planned out. He did not simply insert what was missed earlier into a later portion of the show. Rather, each piece builds off of a previous one in terms of dialogue or character development. Pulp Fiction is what oral stories would be with a script.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Oral Poem

I Sing now of the praises of
The one of the land of the Son of Mat,
Assiduous Allison, always a-work,
The strong-willed and smartly seen,
The collector of capital counts of wood.

The Noble Born, in bold banter
Spoke of the twice ten-thousand sticks, seen
And gathered for great gain in youth,
When her years were but of twice three and one.
A quest quite uncontainable was undertaken,
To do the unsurmountable in order to attain the awesome
Possession of that which is prized beyond the plain.
The gemmed and jeweled, the joyous jade
Tiny troll, treasurable and wondrous toy
That was forbid from the forces that forever reign.

And so to an impossible task indomitable Allison entered,
To do battle with the place of the big birches,
To lift not leaves but loads of light sprigs
And set them in soft stacks of several thousand.

To this Assiduous Allison set herself strongly, her sights
Going to the great gift of gold at the close,
And her cast-iron strength coasting through calamity.
For in the land of the large lake a lasting wind blew
And spawned a storm of swirling sounds
Which struck the trees and sprayed the earth
With twigs of number measureless to tell.
But the Noble Born basely backed out not
And she came to the task in splendid form
And did what is taken to be a towering triumph of time.

For when twice ten-thousand sticks were treasured
Did four five-spots flow to her,
And they were price enough to purchase the prize
Of the gemmed and jeweled and jaded Troll,
Treasure beyond the arms of ten tens of trees.
And so I sing of such a strong will,
And wish to witness new works of wonder.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Living Oral Poet

I have witnessed (second hand) the actions of a living oral story teller of old tradition. One of my friends, returning from spring break on a bus, had two ten year old children to occupy, so she decided to tell them a story. She choose the one she knew best, Casablanca. An hour later and the entire story (complete with accents and song) she finished with "And they walked out of this story and into a nother which does not come into our tale."
Of course, the kids wanted to hear the second story. And so, after a few moments to prepare, she launched into her own story of the sequal to Casablanca. In true storyteller fasion it involved parts of The Dirty Dozed, The African Queen, and assorted pieces of WWII history. Another hour was captivated by this new tale, never before sung to the ears of man.

Saturday, March 19, 2005


I was watching a couple of episodes from the original TV Dragnet and noticed somthing interesting. The characters, particularly the ones who are being interviewed by the cops repeat themselves regularly. It reminded me very much of the aggregative quialities of oral poetry and such.

Friday, March 18, 2005


While I was plaing around with the word *runar I began to wonder about humor and jokes in an oral culture. Do oral cultures have jokes as we know them? The closest I could get is either humorous stories or comedies (as in drama). Comedy doesn't really count because it is simply the movement from chaos to order (while tragedy is from order to chaos). Humorous stories, on the other hand, are like jokes but a think any presented in an oral culture will be much more like stories than like jokes. It also seems liekely that even the most dramatic piece had many elements of humor, laughter being one of the best ways of keeping an audience.