Or Words to That Effect: Orality and the Writing of Literary History

Chamberlain, Daniel F., and J. Edward Chamberlain, eds.

(Amsterdam: Benjamin, 2016)

Or Words to That EffectThis volume raises questions about why oral celebrations of language receive so little attention in published literary histories when they are simultaneously recognized as fundamental to our understanding of literature. It aims to prompt debate regarding the transformations needed for literary historians to provide a more balanced and fuller appreciation of what we call literature, one that acknowledges the interdependence of oral storytelling and written expression, whether in print, pictorial, or digital form. Rather than offering a summary of current theories or prescribing solutions, this volume brings together distinguished scholars, conventional literary historians, and oral performer-practitioners from regions as diverse as South Africa, the Canadian Arctic, the Roma communities of Eastern Europe and the music industry of the American West in a conversation that engages the reader directly with the problems that they have encountered and the questions that they have explored in their work with orality and with literary history.

Read more for the Table of Contents


Section I. Taking up the Issues

Histories of literature and the questions of comparative oral literary history / Daniel F. Cahmberlain

Levelling the Orality-Literacy Playing Field: Marcel Jousse’s Laboratory of Awareness and the Oral-Literary Continuum / Edgard Sienaert

Modes of Discourse, Modes of Rationality / David R. Olson

Performing Writing and Singing Silence in the Anglo-Saxon Riddle Tradition / Andy Orchard

Section II. Listening performances

In The Storyteller’s House / Dan Yashinsky

The Game of the Little Secrets or How to Learn (and to Teach) Mechanisms of Orality / Paloma Diaz-Mas

Significant Spaces Between: Making Room for Silence / Daniel Heath Justice

The Story of Story and a Canon of Story / Stuart McHardy

Made for You and Me: Treaties with First Nations and the Settlement of Canada / Michael Asch

Section III. Stories of Storytelling

“Oral” in Literary History: The Case of Southern African Literatures / Michael Chapman

Making Space for the Spoken Word / Keavy Martin

Orality in Basque Literary Historiography / Jon Kortazar

The Ladder Holds Up the World Above / Lee Haring

Oral and Written Šukar Laviben of the Roma: The Beginning of a Romani Literary Historiography / Beate Eder-Jordan

Section IV. Communities in Comparative Encounters

Guaman Poma and His Traces: A Colonial Proposal to the Academic Debate Regarding Orality and Writing / Roberto Viereck Salinas

The Study of the Elements of Literary History of the Khoekhoe and Khomani Languages of Southern Africa / Levi Namaseb

The Stream of Khomani Stories / Neil Ten Kortenaar

The Puzzle of Voice: Oral Poetry and Literary Studies / Frederico Augusto Garcia Fernandes

Talking Technologies: Digital Poetry Meets Orality / María Teresa Vilariño Picos