Division of Applied Undergraduate Studies

Oral Traditions in Literature

For thousands of years, humans learned their history, science, religious beliefs, customs, and laws only through oral stories. Contact with writing cultures changed all that. The cultural significance of most oral forms were transformed, if not destroyed, by European written literature. This course explores the question of how bards, singers, and shamans from those preliterate cultures kept alive the vitality, language, and communal aspects of their ways of knowing. In this course students will encounter the cultural contexts and performance modes of various oral traditions as well as the implications of their transformation from voice to written forms. Students may study oral stories from Aboriginal, African, Caribbean, Native American, South American, or other storytelling traditions.