9780202308197

Oral Tradition: A Study in Historical Methodology

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780202308197

  • ISBN10:

    0202308197

  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2006-02-28
  • Publisher: TAYLOR

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Summary

Oral traditions are historical sources of a special nature. Their special nature derives from the fact that they are unwritten” sources couched in a form suitable for oral transmission, and that their preservation depends on the powers of memory of successive generations of human beings. In many parts of the world inhabited by peoples without writing, oral tradition forms the main available source for a reconstruction of the past. Based on the author’s many years of fieldwork in Africa, this definitive work explores the possibility of reconstructing the history of non-literate peoples from their oral traditions, surveys existing literature, and evaluates methods of collection and interpretation. On first publication, Daniel McCall in the American Anthropologist called Oral Tradition a tour de force.”

Table of Contents

ALDINETRANSACTION PREFACE x
ALDINETRANSACTION INTRODUCTION xi
PREFACE xvii
I. ORAL TRADITION AND HISTORICAL METHODOLOGY 1(18)
1. AIMS AND PLAN OF THE WORK
1(1)
2. THE RELATION OF ORAL TRADITION TO WRITTEN HISTORY
2(6)
3. THE TREATMENT OF ORAL TRADITION IN ETHNOLOGICAL LITERATURE
8(11)
II. TRADITION AS A CHAIN OF TESTIMONIES 19(28)
1. DEFINITION AND CHARACTERISTICS
19(2)
1. Definition
19(1)
2. Characteristics
20(1)
2. THE VERBAL TESTIMONY OF THE CHAIN OF TRANSMISSION
21(10)
1. The verbal testimony
22(2)
2. The verbal testimony and the chain of transmission
24(2)
3. The text and variant versions of a testimony
26(1)
4. The manner of testifying
27(3)
(a) The group testimony
28(1)
(b) Dispute between informants
29(1)
(c) Interrogation of informants
29(1)
5. Summary
30(1)
3. THE METHOD OF TRANSMISSION IN ORAL TRADITION
31(9)
1. Instruction
31(2)
2. Control over recital of traditions
33(1)
3. Esoteric traditions
34(2)
4. Mnemonic devices
36(3)
5. Summary
39(1)
4. DISTORTIONS DUE TO TRANSMISSION
40(7)
1. Failure of Memory
40(4)
(a) The method of transmission
41(1)
(b) Control over recital
41(2)
(c) Frequency of repetition
43(1)
(d) How to evaluate the effects of failure of memory
43(1)
2. Explanatory interpolations
44(1)
3. Summary
45(2)
III. UNDERSTANDING THE TESTIMONY 47(29)
1. CHARACTERISTIC FEATURES OF A TESTIMONY
47(7)
1. Intentional and unintentional testimonies
48(1)
2. Significance
49(2)
3. Structure and literary categories
51(1)
4. Method of transmission
52(1)
5. The manner of testifying
52(1)
6. Other criteria of classification
53(1)
7. Summary
54(1)
2. THE STRUCTURE OF THE TESTIMONY
54(11)
1. The outward formal structure
54(3)
(a) Formal factors affecting the testimony
55(1)
(b) Formal factors affecting transmission
56(1)
2. The internal structure
57(6)
3. The light thrown on the testimony by its structure
63(2)
4. Summary
65(1)
3. THE MEANING OF THE TESTIMONY
65(11)
1. The literal meaning of a testimony
65(2)
2. The purport of a testimony
67(8)
(a) Literary categories
67(2)
(b) Symbolism and poetic allusions
69(3)
(c) Stereotypes
72(3)
3. Summary
75(1)
IV. THE TESTIMONY AS A MIRAGE OF REALITY 76(38)
1. THE SOCIAL SIGNIFICANCE OF A TESTIMONY
77(18)
1. The testimonies of the chain
80(7)
(a) Purpose
80(4)
(b) Significance
84(3)
2. The initial testimony
87(4)
3. The final testimony
91(4)
(a) The informant and his fellow countrymen
91(1)
(b) The informant and the investigator
92(3)
4. Summary
95(1)
2. CULTURAL VALUES AND THE TESTIMONY
95(13)
1. Cultural values and the initial informant
97(2)
2. Cultural concepts concerning history
99(7)
(a) The measurement of time
100(2)
(b) The idea of historical truth
102(2)
(c) Historical development
104(2)
3. Idealization of the past
106(2)
4. Summary
108(1)
3. THE PERSONALITY OF THE INFORMANT AND THE TESTIMONY
108(6)
Summary
111(3)
V. THE EVALUATION OF TESTIMONIES 114(27)
1. THE ORIGIN OF TESTIMONIES
114(6)
1. The initial testimony
115(3)
2. Hearsay testimonies
118(2)
3. Summary
120(1)
2. COMPARISON OF TESTIMONIES
120(21)
1. Textual comparison
121(8)
(a) Fixed texts
121(5)
(b) Free texts
126(3)
2. Comparison of the circumstances of transmission
129(8)
(a) The informant
129(4)
(b) The locality of transmission
133(1)
(c) The type of testimony
134(3)
3. Results obtained by the comparative method
137(2)
4. Summary
139(2)
VI. HISTORICAL KNOWLEDGE 141(42)
1. TYPES OF TRADITIONS AND THEIR CHARACTERISTICS AS HISTORICAL SOURCES
142(22)
1. The typology
143(1)
2. Formulae
143(4)
(a) Titles
145(1)
(b) Slogans
145(1)
(c) Didactic formulae
146(1)
(d) Ritual formulae
146(1)
3. Poetry
147(4)
(a) Historical poetry
148(1)
(b) Panegyric poetry
149(1)
(c) Religious poetry
150(1)
(d) Personal poetry
151(1)
4. Lists
151(3)
(a) Place-names
152(1)
(b) Personal names
153(1)
5. Tales
154(6)
(a) Tales concerning general history
155(1)
(b) Tales concerning local history
155(1)
(c) Tales concerning family history
156(1)
(d) Myths
157(1)
(e) Aetiological myths
158(1)
(f) Tales of artistic merit
159(1)
(g) Personal recollections
160(1)
6. Commentaries
160(4)
(a) Legal precedents
161(1)
(b) Explanatory commentaries
161(2)
(c) Occasional comments
163(1)
7. Summary
164(1)
2. HOW TRADITIONS ARE BIASED
164(9)
1. Types of tradition and political organization, as exemplified by Rwanda and Burundi
166(4)
2. The limitations of oral tradition
170(3)
3. THE CONTRIBUTION OF AUXILIARY DISCIPLINES
173(14)
1. Archaeology
174(2)
2. The methods of cultural history
176(4)
3. Linguistics
180(1)
4. Physical anthropology
181(1)
5. Summary
182(1)
VII. THE INTERPRETATION OF HISTORY 183(4)
APPENDIX: IN SEARCH OF ORAL TRADITIONS 187(18)
1. Getting to know the environment
188(2)
2. The search for informants
190(4)
3. The systematic collection of sources
194(4)
4. How to record one's sources
198(4)
5. Summary
202(3)
NOTES 205(11)
BIBLIOGRAPHY OF WORKS CITED 216(7)
INDEX 223

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