Original Research

'Did you say oral literature?' asked Walter Ong

J. Alant
Literator | Vol 17, No 2 | a609 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v17i2.609 | © 1996 J. Alant | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 April 1996 | Published: 30 April 1996

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J. Alant, Department of Modern European Languages (French Section), University of Durban-Westville, South Africa

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Abstract

This article investigates whether there is a theoretical framework for the notion of oral literature that is common to both oral theory and literary theory. The notion of oral literature has, within oral theory, generally been put to an anthropological - rather than literary - use. Because of particular difficulties involved with the appreciation of the textual properties of the oral text, a modernist approach proves unsatisfactory. A solution for the theoretical difficulty of integrating oral literature into literary theory is sought via a particular post-modernist view of literature, namely Anthony Easthope’s reconceptualisation of literary studies as study of signifying practice ("cultural studies") open to both literary and popular texts. Given the exclusivity of the notion of popular culture, centred on misconceptions relating to the constructedness of the oral text, the notion of oral literature continues, however, to operate in a theoretical void.

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