Monday, October 16, 2006

A note on "re-oralization"

In a comment to my most recent post (Dunn’s Source Theory part 2), Stephen Carlson asked me to post if I found out whence I got the term "re-oralization". It seems I read it in (a book I have only just begun reading): Samuel Byrskog, Story as History—History as Story: The Gospel Tradition in the Context of Ancient Oral History (Boston; Leiden: Brill Academic 2000), 138-9, see "Conclusion [chapter 3]: Orality and Literacy as Re-Oralization." On page 139 Byrskog credits the term to Margaret A. Mills, "Domains of Folkloristic Concern: The Interpretation of Scriptures," in Susan Niditch (ed.), Text and Tradition. The Hebrew Bible and Folklore (SBLSS; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990), 231-241. I’ve only actually read Byrskog up to page 65, and I found "re-oralized" on page 16, but the fuller explanation is on page 139, where Byrskog (drawing on Mill) says that the term "describes scripture’s perpetual return to oral currency." Byrskog continues,

Re-oralization is somewhat similar to the phenomenon of "recitation composition" that Vernon K. Robbins has brought attention to, focusing on how an ancient writer perceived an antecedent oral or written text as a performance and how a new performance perpetuated as much or as little verbatim wording as was congenial to the writer.

Also on page 139, in a footnote [240], Byrskog provides a negative answer to an earlier question of mine on what term was used for this notion in William A Graham, Beyond the Written Word,

Graham does not, however, employ the term "re-oralization."

In the same footnote, Byrskog has also provided me a further two references to chase up to do with Graham’s work (the latter looks promising): Martin S. Jaffee, "Oral Culture in Scriptural Religion: Some Explanatory Studies," RelSRev 24 (1998), 223-230. David L. Balch, "The Canon. Adaptable and Stable, Oral and Written. Critical Questions for Kelber and Riesner," Forum 7:3-4 (1993), 183-205.

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