A New Approach to the Classification of Gaelic Song

This essay illustrates the importance of songs and singing in traditional Gaelic society, revisits earlier attempts to classify Gaelic song, and examines whether or not the effort of constructing a classification system is still worthwhile. Finally, it examines the place and role occupied by singing in Gaelic in our own time, and in particular with […]

Between the Oral and the Literary: The Case of the Naxi Dongba Texts

This essay considers the orality of ritual texts written in the Naxi dongba script from southwest China. Historically, the inherent orality of these texts has been largely ignored in favor of seeing them as a kind of visual “hieroglyphics.” Here, a case will be made that the Naxi texts represent an intermediary stage between the […]

Eall-feala Ealde Sæge: Poetic Performance and “The Scop’s Repertoire” in Old English Verse

This essay identifies “The Scop’s Repertoire” as an Old English traditional theme. The theme associates the making of verse with three motifs: copiousness, orality, and antiquity. With close analogues in Old Saxon, Old and Middle High German, and Old Norse poetry, “The Scop’s Repertoire” originates in an oral Germanic tradition of versification. The theme thus […]

A Pebble Smoothed by Tradition: Lines 607-61 of Beowulf as a Formulaic Set-piece

In this essay Drout and Smith use new “lexomic” methods of computer-assisted statistical analysis to identify a concentration of unusual lexical, metrical, grammatical, and formulaic features in lines 607-61 of Beowulf, a scene in which Queen Wealhtheow passes the cup of friendship to the assembled warriors. Although the passage contains a number of proper names, […]

Oral Features of the Qur’ān Detected in Public Recitation

This essay examines textual features of the Qur’ān that may emerge more prominently as a result of listening to it, features that might enhance insight gained during slow or silent reading sessions. Comparison with ancient Greek oral works, such as Homer, and an examination of Classical memory methodologies provide support for some of the oral […]

The Fairy-Seers of Eastern Serbia: Seeing Fairies—Speaking through Trance

The fairy-seers of Southeastern Europe are generally women who are able to communicate with the invisible world. They claim to see women-like creatures and transmit messages from them. Sometimes they fell into a trance-like state in order to establish a communication. During this process the fairy-seers can prophesy future events. They bring messages to the […]