During Oral Tradition's 26 years under John Miles Foley's leadership, "with this issue" became a formula of sorts, a phrase employed in his editorial columns with predictable regularity to signal new opportunities, exciting developments, and future plans in store for the journal. "With this issue," a phrase that appears in some form or another in almost every volume of Oral Tradition, is thus freighted with both celebration and promise, reminding the reader that it is best to look forward while still investing the time to take stock of present events. While each editorial column in its original context elegantly introduced the contents of a given issue, as a synthesized document these columns can now serve both to chronicle the many exciting changes that advanced Oral Tradition into the successful global and open-access journal that it is today and to highlight the steadfast philosophies and goals that John Foley himself used to steer the journal's direction over the many years.
What follows are abridged versions of selected columns written by Professor Foley between 1986 and 2011, collected with the aim of demonstrating the patterns of scholarship within Oral Tradition as well as milestones in the journal's development.1 Within these columns we find both a dedication toward the journal's original mission and also the necessary flexibility that allowed the journal to take advantage of (and overcome the obstacles associated with) developments in technology and increasing globalization among Oral Tradition's contributors and readership. Thus, alongside his commitment to the democratization of knowledge and his insistence on broadening conversations to include a wide range of disciplines and traditions, John also maintained an openness toward discovery that has worked over the years to bridge generations of scholars, performers, and readers alike.
With this issue, we mourn the passing of John Miles Foley, dear teacher, scholar, colleague, and friend. Yet we also celebrate his life and his legacy, and we invite you to join us as we continue his unwavering commitment to inclusivity, plurality, and forward thinking that has guided this journal so productively from its inception and now enables further progress into a largely uncharted and unwritten future.
Vol. 1.1 (January 1986)
Tradition demands that an editor of a new scholarly journal perform the ritual gesture of justifying the birth of the new academic child, and certainly any periodical named Oral Tradition cannot afford to ignore either the demands of tradition in general or ritual gestures in particular. Nonetheless, those of us assisting at the delivery feel strongly that in this case the proverbial claim that the new medium "fills a gap" really does contain a modicum of truth. For nowhere in the hallowed halls of academia have we found a journal devoted exclusively to the study of oral tradition in its many forms, nowhere a single, central periodical through which scholars in this wide variety of specialties might communicate. And in recent years this simple "gap" has grown into a chasm: there are now more than one hundred separate language areas affected by studies in oral tradition, among them ancient Greek, Anglo-Saxon, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Old French, medieval Spanish, and dozens more; and the disciplines summoned to this collaborative undertaking include, at a minimum, literary history and criticism, folklore, anthropology, linguistics, and history. Thus it is that Oral Tradition is being inaugurated to inform specialists of parallel developments in their own and different areas, to build and maintain bridges among disciplines in order to promote the healthy growth of the field as a whole.
Our publishing program has been tailored to correspond to the various aspects of research and scholarship on oral tradition and on "literary" forms with roots in oral tradition. In addition to individual scholarly essays, Oral Tradition is committed to other kinds of forums for dissemination of the best and latest thinking in this multidisciplinary consortium. We shall be publishing a number of special issues on particular areas or genres, each of them edited by a scholar of eminence. This inaugural issue presents a sample of the mix of survey and analytical essays that we hope will be typical of Oral Tradition. We invite all members of the community...