May 3, 2013 marked the first anniversary of the loss of John Miles Foley and a period of mourning at the Center for Studies in Oral Tradition. This issue proffers to you, the readers, additional evidence of one dimension of John’s extraordinary legacy, the establishment and nurturing for more than a quarter of a century of Oral Tradition.
We open with Nina Livesey’s study of Romans 4:9–12, a dialogue between the apostle Paul and a fictitious Jewish teacher whose interpretation vexed scholarly analysis concerned with the ethnic identity of the people mentioned in Rom 4:12. At issue is the presence of a purportedly “anomalous” dative article that New Testament scholars have resolved on grammatical, ideological, or theological grounds by simple deletion. Drawing on Hellenistic authors’ attentiveness to euphony and sound mapping techniques systematized by Margaret Lee and Bernard Scott, Livesey identifies six structural periods coinciding with the passage’s dialogical form and elaborates compelling analyses of them. The map of acoustic patterns identifies recurring sound groups that provide an overarching structure within which certain recurrent metonyms, particularly terms for “circumcised” and “foreskinned,” are located. The placement and prominence of the sound patterns authenticate the legitimacy of the dative article and direct attention toward the sense of the passage, rhetorically framing the apostle Paul’s assurance to the Gentiles that the uncircumcised may by faith be legitimate heirs to Abrahamic rectitude since God declared Abraham righteous before his circumcision.
Next, four successive articles cluster around the theme Archiving Orality and Connecting with Communities of the 2010 World Oral Literature Project workshop. Under the aegis of Cambridge University’s Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, the workshop explored professional and ethical issues entailed by the dissemination of oral arts through traditional and digital media.
First in this group, Carole Pegg and Erkinova Elizaveta Yamaeva report and interpret fieldwork with Altaian speakers in their practice of Ak Jang (“White Way”) rituals. Biannual spring and fall rituals at the küree (“place of gatherings”) temple complex in a recondite locale above the village are conducted for the purpose of maintaining universal order and tranquility, clan and family harmony, and personal happiness. Led by ritual specialists who are expert in ancient Altaian epic and unfolding in pre-liminal, liminal, and post-liminal phases, the ceremonies connect participants with historico-mythical space and time while also anchoring them in the present, creating a phenomenological, topographic space; a numinous performance space, and a sense of “being-in-place.” This sense of being-in-place emanates from the worshippers’ awareness that earth, mountains, sky, ancestors, epic heroes, temple complex, gods, planets, kin, and community are all living entities that ground Altaian personhood. Participants report experiencing “the arrival of energy and good fortune encircling them with a constantly rotating belt.” An eCompanion presents photos of ritual sites and worshippers.
Next, John Meza Cuero tells Margaret Field a trickster tale in the Tipaay dialect of the Kumeyaay language (and in Spanish) in Baja California, Mexico, prompting a joint reflection on ethical questions regarding a cultural group’s preferences for usage of audio or video recordings of the community’s heritage. For instance, in Mexico a prevailing “variationist” attitude that accords all dialects of Kumeyaay equal status appears to warrant the sharing of traditional verbal arts with outsiders while in the United States a “localist” language ideology keeps intangible heritage exclusively within the Kumeyaay community. Tale-telling doubly indexes group identity—the larger community by the tale and the local community by its idiom—and the authors urge researchers to maintain balance in intra-communal interests by judiciously publishing recordings from various dialect groups. Without such precautions unintended language standardization may undermine language revitalization schemes, and specific groups may perceive diminished local prestige with corrosive effects on collaboration. A video-taped performance of the Rabbit and Frog tale told by John Meza Cuero is available in an eCompanion for the viewer’s delectation.
A Rajasthani folk epic, Pabuji ki par/phad (“Pabuji with the scroll”), is the focus for Elizabeth Wickett’s study of some of the consequences visited on oral tradition by the explosion in modern media technologies. The...