Research, Training & Collaboration : Publications

World Oral Literature Series

The World Oral Literature Project is working in partnership with the Cambridge-based Open Book Publishers (OBP) to create a World Oral Literature book series. The series will work to preserve and promote the oral literatures of indigenous people by publishing materials on endangered traditions in innovative ways. The publishing practices adopted by OBP, such as print-on-demand services and digital publishing at low cost but high quality, enable dissemination of unique literary traditions to communities around the world. The World Oral Literature Project is committed to supporting the publication and dissemination of transcribed narrative works which have been collected, analysed and glossed by ethnographers, field linguists or local researchers. How to Read a Folktale: The Ibonia Epic from Madagascar by Lee Haring is a forthcoming title in the series.

The first title to be published is the new edition of Oral Literature in Africa by Ruth Finnegan. Finnegan’s work was first published in 1970, and since then has been widely praised as one of the most important books in its field. Based on years of fieldwork, the study traces the history of storytelling across the continent of Africa. This revised edition makes Finnegan’s ground-breaking research available to the next generation of scholars. It includes a new introduction, additional images and an updated bibliography, as well as its original chapters on poetry, prose, "drum language” and drama, and an overview of the social, linguistic and historical background of oral literature in Africa. This volume is complemented by original recordings of stories and songs from the Limba country (Sierra Leone), collected by Finnegan during her fieldwork in the late 1960s, which are freely accessible here. The book is available as a free pdf and ebook download thanks to the generous support of interested readers and organisations, who made donations using the crowd-funding website

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The second book in the series, published in Spring 2013, is Oral Literature in the Digital Age: Archiving Orality and Connecting with Communities edited by Mark Turin, Claire Wheeler and Eleanor Wilkinson. This volume explores the political repercussions of studying marginalised languages; the role of online tools in ensuring responsible access to sensitive cultural materials; and ways of ensuring that when digital documents are created, they are not fossilized as a consequence of being archived.

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You can read Oral Literature in Africa by Ruth Finnegan for free below.