African Oral Literature / Edition 1

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"... its pages come alive with wonderful illustrative material coupled with sensitve and insightful commentary." —Reviews in Anthropology

"... the scope, breadth, and lucidity of this excellent study confirm that Okpewho is undoubtedly the most important authority writing on African oral literature right now... "—Research in African Literatures

"Truly a tour de force of individual scholarship... "—World Literature Today

"... excellent... " —African Affairs

"... a thorough synthesis of the main issues of oral literature criticism, as well as a grounding in experienced fieldwork, a wide-ranging theoretical base, and a clarity of argument rare among academics."—Multicultural Review

"This is a breathtakingly ambitious project... "—Harold Scheub

"... a definitive accounting of the evidence of living oral traditions in Africa today. Professor Okpewho’s authority as an expert in this important new field is unrivaled." —Gregory Nagy

"Isidore Okpewho’s 'African Oral Literature is a marvelous piece of scholarship and wide-ranging research. It presents the most comprehensive survey of the field of oral literature in Africa." —Emmanuel Obiechina

"... a tour de force of scholarship in which Okpewho casts his net across the African continent, searching for its verbal forms through voluminous recent writings and presents African oral literature in a new voice, proclaiming the literariness of African folklore." —Dan Ben-Amos

"This is an outstanding book by a scholar whose work has already influenced how African literature should be conceived.... Professor Okpewho is a scholar with a special talent to nurture scholarship in others. After this work, African literature will never be the same."—Mazisi Kunene

Isidore Okpewho, for many years Professor of English at the University of Ibadan, is one of the handful of African scholars who has facilitated the growth of African oral literature to its status today as a literary enterprise concerned with the artistic foundations of human culture. This comprehensive critical work firmly establishes oral literature as a landmark of high artistic achievement and situates it within the broader framework of contemporary African culture.

Indiana University Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780253207104
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/1992
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 408
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

ISIDORE OKPEWHO, Chair of Afro-American Studies at the State University of New York at Binghamton, is author of The Epic in Africa and Myth in Africa and editor of The Heritage of African Poetry and The Oral Performance in Africa. He has also published two novels, The Victims and The Last Duty. He was for many years Professor of English at the University of Ibadan.

Indiana University Press

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Table of Contents


Part One: Backgrounds and Resources

1. The Study of African Oral Literature
What Is "Oral Literature"?
An Interest in Culture
An Interest in Society
An Interest in Literature
Benefits of the New Trends

2. The Oral Artist
Training and Preparation
Artists and Patrons
The Artist as Maker
The Personality of the Artist
The Artis’s Place in Society

3. The Oral Performance
Varieties of Performance
Paralinguistic Resources
Performer and Accompanist
Performer and Audience
Performer and Recorder
Composition and Performance

4. Stylistic Qualities
Piling and Association

5. Social Relevance
Entertainment and Relaxation
Asserting Interests and Outlooks
Teaching Ideals and Conduct
Recording Life

Part Two: Types and Themes

6. Songs and Chants
Problems of Classification
The Nature of Songs and Chants
Major Themes

7. Oral Narratives
Schools of Thought
Categories of the Oral Narrative
Storytelling in Africa

8. Witticisms
Puns and Tongue-Twisters

9. Musical and Dramatic Forms
The Poetry of Tone Instruments
Ritual Drama
Popular Drama

Part Three: The Survival of Oral Literature

10. Oral Literature and Modern African Literature

11. Preserving Oral Literature: Fieldwork and After
Meeting the Artist
Recording the Artist
Transcription and Translation
What Do They Get for Their Pains?

12. Suggested Further Work
Fieldwork and Documentation
The Urban Scene
Biocritical Studies
Other Specialized Investigations


Indiana University Press

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