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This study takes issue with the disputed but persistent notion of a dichotomy between the cultures (and even mentalities) of literate and oral societies. Focusing on several distinct genres of eighteenth-century Irish song, Henigan demonstrates in each case that the interaction between the elite and vernacular, the written and oral, is pervasive and characteristic of the Irish song tradition to the present day. Ultimately, she argues, it is neither literacy nor orality, but performance within community that most truly defines the tradition.