The Complexity of Oral Tradition
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"In challenging a remark I had once made while presenting a paper at a professional meeting, a member of the audience said that he could demonstrate that there was no oral tradition in sixteenth-century Spain. To me this meant that the speaker had proof that people living on the Iberian Peninsula at that time never spoke to one another. Obviously, to him, "oral tradition" meant something else entirely. The very concept, the comprehension of such a mode of life, is alien to literates; and despite the writing done on the subject in recent decades by Walter Ong, Albert Lord, Ruth Finnegan, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Jack Goody (to name only a few), "Oral Tradition" is not a concept widely understood by professional educators, let alone agreed upon. This essay will outline some of the major research and thinking done on this subject to date, to provide a context for uni-disciplinary work now done. It will not announce a truth; it will describe what the author has in mind when speaking of this mode."--Opening paragraph.
Oral Tradition, 2/1 (1987): 73-90.