Article Title

Rethinking Epic


This article surveys the record of oral epic study, foregrounding the comparative scholarship of the “oral-formulaic” school of Milman Parry and Albert Lord, with the elaborations and refinements of their arguments especially by John Miles Foley. Further contributions both from African studies and from research in ethnolinguistics and ethnopoetics are also highlighted. The article argues that despite the brilliance of the scholarship so far in this field, there has been too much emphasis on the idea of tradition and too little sensitivity to the social and political realities of life among the folk who produce these epics. The article argues for greater consideration of both the contexts of performance of epic texts and especially for their historical connections with the times in which we, the present-day consumers of their messages, live.