Rewards and Issues in Studying Oral Literature: Some personal reflections


  • Ruth Finnegan


This paper is not attempting some organised overview of the extensive subject of oral literature; even if I was capable of that, space limitations would forbid. Rather it consists merely of comments from my own experience of studying aspects of oral literature over several decades, principally in Africa but also in Fiji, Britain, and comparatively. I see the complications around oral literature not as obstacles to its study but as indicators of its rich complexity and deep human significance. It helps us all that ‘oral literature’ is now both a recognised and inspiring concept and at the same time one that deserves to be treated with care. Oral literary forms are still being created, and for all the successes so far there remains much to be done, the more so that its scintillating examples are often – though certainly not only – to be found in parts of world seen as remote from western centres of scholarship. Even now they are still sometimes clouded by that typographic prejudice that would rank the oral below the written. All the more reason then to accord the most cordial of welcomes to the World Oral Literature Project for its leadership...


oral literatureWorld Oral Literature Projectscholarship
  • Year: 2010
  • Volume: 8
  • Page/Article: 13-26
  • DOI: 10.25894/ldd213
  • Published on 31 Jul 2014