We at the Center for Studies in Oral Tradition are pleased to greet you with best wishes for a peaceful New Year and offer our latest issue of Oral Traditionfor consideration: seven essays reporting on a miscellany of verbal traditions from Europe, Australia, Uganda, the Peruvian Andes, Southeast Asia, and the archaic Greek world. It opens smartly with a study by Tom Pettitt that reveals processes of memorization, performance, and oral transmission in the life of “The Suffolk Tragedy,” a nineteenth-century English ballad.
The next pair of essays address the socializing function of oral traditions in contemporary Uganda. Lara Rosenoff Gauvin draws on years of intensive fieldwork in Uganda and the writings of Okot p’Bitek (1931-1982) to portray the keen sense of desolation felt by Acoli youth victimized by two decades of war between the Ugandan government and the infamous Lord’s Resistance Army. Valeda Dent Goodman and Geoff Goodman report their continuing research into the roles played by libraries in rural villages of Uganda and Africa.
Reporting on the traditional Masha festival practice of songs improvised by pairs of singers in a Peruvian highland village, Charles Pigott adopts an ethnopoetic analytical model to interpret the songs’ construction of unity and difference. Qu Yongxian studies the song culture of the Dai, a people who are spread across southern China, northeast Thailand, northwest Vietnam, northeast Burma and Northern Laos. She contrasts the epic traditions and songs current among a Dai cultural group that practices Theravada Buddhism and employs a multi-secular writing system for the transmission of its epic poems with that of a second group that practices an indigenous animist religion and transmits its epic poems solely through oral tradition.
New technologies for interacting with traditional narratives and songs are highlighted by Coppélie Cocq’s study of the transposition of traditional Sami language into internet sites designed to encourage revitalization of this minority language. Finally, this issue concludes with an essay by David Elmer that explores political dimensions of archaic Greek epic and lyric poetry. An initial version of the essay was presented at the 26th Albert Lord and Milman Parry Lecture, March 13, 2012; it is here dedicated to the memory of John Miles Foley and offers a fitting tribute.
It is my pleasant duty to gratefully recognize the Center staff, whose joint efforts bring this issue to press. It is my privilege to acknowledge a debt of gratitude owed to the many colleagues who graciously share their expertise reading and evaluating essays submitted to the journal. This process is fundamental to the now nearly thirty years of scholarly excellence that is customary of Oral Tradition.
We invite you to share your thinking about the world’s traditional verbal arts with us. The standard review process involves evaluation by a specialist and a generalist reader, and a decision is generally forthcoming within a trimester of receipt. This journal is published online and free of charge: it counts upwards of 20,000 readers in some 200 countries and territories. We look forward to hearing from you.
Editor, Oral Tradition