R UTH F INNEGAN W o r l d O r a l L i t e r a t u r e S e r i e s
ORAL LITERATURE IN AFRICA
The praise singer Mqhyai, distinguished Xhosa imbongi, in traditional garb, with staff (courtesy Jeff Opland).
World Oral Literature Series: Volume 1 ORAL LITERATURE IN AFRICA Ruth Finnegan
Open Book Publishers CIC Ltd., 40 Devonshire Road, Cambridge, CB1 2BL, United Kingdom © 2012 Ruth Finnegan. Forward © 2012 Mark Turin. This book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license (CC-BY 3.0), details available at This license allows you to share, copy, distribute and transmit the work; to adapt the work and to make commercial use of the work. The work must be attributed to the respective authors (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work). This is the first volume in the World Oral Literature Series, published in association with the World Oral Literature Project. World Oral Literature Series: Volume 1. ISSN: 2050-7933 Digital material and resources associated with this volume are hosted by the World Oral Literature Project ( rfinnegan001 ) and Open Book Publishers ( . com/product/97 ). ISBN Hardback: 978–1-906924–71-3 ISBN Paperback: 978–1-906924–70-6 ISBN Digital (PDF): 978–1-906924–72-0 ISBN Digital ebook (epub version): 978–1-906924–73-7 ISBN Digital ebook (mobi version): 978–1-906924–74-4 Cover image: West African epic singer with lyre, probably Mandingo or Fula (courtesy Anne-Marie Dauphin and Jean Derive). Typesetting by All paper used by Open Book Publishers is SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative), and PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes) Certified. Printed in the United Kingdom and United States by Lightning Source for Open Book Publishers
To all my teachers and to all those students who may find this work of some use in their study of the oral literatures of Africa and of the world
Ruth Finnegan is a Visiting Research Professor and Emeritus Professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Open University. Her particular interests are in the anthropology/sociology of artistic activity, communication, and performance; debates relating to literacy, ‘orality’ and multimodality; and amateur and other ‘hidden’ activities. She has published widely on aspects of communication and expression, especially oral performance, literacy, and music-making. Her publications include Limba Stories and Story-Telling (1967, 1981); Oral Poetry (1977; 2nd edn 1992); Information Technology: Social Issues (joint ed., 1987); Literacy and Orality: Studies in the Technology of Communication (1988); Oral Traditions and the Verbal Arts (1992); Communicating: The Multiple Modes of Human Interconnection (2002); and The Oral and Beyond: Doing Things with Words in Africa (2007). Her most recent book, Why Do We Quote? The Culture and History of Quotation was published in 2011, and, to appear around 2013, an edited study of dreaming and telepathy.
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