The origins of the concept in Enlightenment intellectual culture

6 Chapter 8 The spoken word Constructing oral tradition Constructing oral tradition: the origins of the concept in Enlightenment intellectual culture Nicholas Hudson [M]any circumstances of those times we call barbarous are favourable to the poetical spirit. That state, in which human nature shoots wild and free, though unfit for other improvements, certainly encourages the high exertions of fancy and passion . . . An American chief, at this day, harangues at the head of his tribe, in a more bold and metaphorical style, than a modern European would adventure

in The spoken word
Open Access (free)
Oral culture in Britain 1500–1850
Editors: Adam Fox and Daniel Woolf

Human beings have developed a superabundance of ways of communicating with each other. Some, such as writing, are several millennia old. This book focuses on the relationship between speech and writing both within a single language, Welsh, and between two languages, Welsh and English. It demonstrates that the eighteenth-century Scottish clergy used the popular medium of Gaelic in oral and written form to advance the Gospel. The experience of literacy in early modern Wales was often an expression of legal and religious authority reinforced by the spoken word. This included the hearing of proclamations and other black-letter texts publicly read. Literate Protestant clergymen governed and shaped the Gaelic culture by acting as the bridge-builders between oral and literary traditions, and as arbiters of literary taste and the providers of reading material for newly literate people. The book also offers some illustrations of how anecdotes became social tools which used to make points not only in private correspondence but also in civil conversation in early modern England. Locating vagabonds and minstrels, and other wanderers on the margins of settled society depended on the survival of the appropriate historical record. Cautionary tales of the judgements God visited upon flagrant and incorrigible sinners circulated widely in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England: stories of sabbath-breakers, swearers, drunkards, adulterers and other ungodly livers struck down suddenly by the avenging arm of the Almighty. During the age of Enlightenment, intellectual culture nourished a new understanding of non-literate language and culture.

Open Access (free)
Cautionary tales and oral tradition in early modern England

6 Chapter 6 The spoken word Reformed folklore? Reformed folklore? Cautionary tales and oral tradition in early modern England Alexandra Walsham P rotestantism and print have often been presented as inherently hostile to oral tradition. Historians have credited both with a leading role in marginalizing, fossilizing, and ultimately suffocating the vernacular culture of late medieval England. Still widely regarded as a movement whose success depended upon the spread of literacy and the advent of the press, the Reformation is commonly associated with attempts to

in The spoken word
Customary society and oral culture in rural England, 1700–1900

eighteenth century. Rural popular culture was most often despised and derided by contemporaries whose judgements have been shared by some later commentators alike as merely a degraded reflection of urban civilization or as an irredeemably backward product of social and economic structures rooted in ignorance and folly and most usually thought of as surviving from earlier times. Historians have, in general, noted the decline of oral tradition in the English countryside as an early stage on the road to spreading popular literacy. One writes: ‘If the oral tradition largely

in The spoken word
Open Access (free)

with unresolved contradictions and puzzles such as this: at the same period that print was supposedly engineering the downfall of monastic and aristocratic medieval power, Innis suggested, Tudor censorship also restricted its use. This tension in turn facilitated a widespread contemporary interest in drama ‘and the flowering of the oral tradition in the plays of Shakespeare’.9 3 Introduction ORALITY AND LITERACY Within the broader study of communications, the relationship of the spoken word to other media has always been complex and problematic. As argued in

in The spoken word

. Characteristically, as Daniel Huws has argued, the poetry they contained was taken directly from oral tradition. Huws has drawn attention to the paradox that although a new poetic style (the cywydd) had developed in the mid-fourteenth century that was subsequently to dominate poetic composition, this new poetry did not find a written form until a century later. Huws arrives at the hypothesis that ‘there were no manuscript collections of the poetry of the cywyddwyr earlier than about 1450 for the reason that 55 The spoken word oral tradition was so predominant’. But he suggests

in The spoken word
Open Access (free)
Ben Okri, Chenjerai Hove, Dambudzo Marechera

mystical occurrences irrationally, even profligately, exhibit themselves, not only the nation as such but the violent and seductive dream of the nation is revealed as a key reagent, if not malign motive force, in recent neocolonial history. Okri favours invention – what he calls dreaming – over convention or tradition both in the composition of his fiction and in understanding the world.7 Breaking a dominant trend in African writing, his concern is to avoid handing down normative images of African national reality derived from the oral tradition or from the nationalist

in Stories of women
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Ontologies of connection, reconstruction of memory

islands. The power of the imaginary is evident in the craft of travel, which are always similes of social relations as well as the means of transport. The horizon contextualises the mythological heritage of the Pacific. Oceania’s myths make up cultural memory across four themes (Mills, 2005: 374–​81). First, the divergences in Polynesian, Melanesian and Micronesian oral tradition are variations on common elements. General threads can be discerned in otherwise diverse stories without denying the differences in their structure and content. One thread is that myth mediates

in Debating civilisations

evidence. They lack the genealogical histories’ partisan and ideological edge, and the indigenous dimension created by the use of Gaelic classical and vernacular sources. I suspect that their authors usually have no close bond with the lineage concerned. Vernacular history, or oral tradition in its unadulterated form, whether written down since the eighteenth century or tape-recorded in the twentieth century, fails primarily on the grounds not so much of date as of lack of variety or synthesis of source; it is a constituent of the genealogical histories, and not to be

in The spoken word
Crossing the (English) language barrier

disarray. (60) Disarray indeed. In this array, Deane, like many Irish authors, adopts a priestly tone, the high style, for first-person narrative. Like others too he laments the loss of Irish and upholds the idea of an oral tradition, yet still he opts in the end for a language that by and large uses an Irish accent only for comic effect or to represent speech. The narrative voice remains resolutely anglicised. Recently, one Irish critic, interviewing Patrick McCabe, asked why this anomaly arose between dialogue and narrative in Irish writing: ‘how is it that so many

in Across the margins