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The Poem in the Story

Music, Poetry, and Narrative

Harold Scheub

Publication Year: 2002

Fact and fiction meet at the boundaries, the betwixt and between where transformations occur. This is the area of ambiguity where fiction and fact become endowed with meaning, and this is the area—where ambiguity, irony, and metaphor join forces—that Harold Scheub exposes in all its nuanced and evocative complexity in The Poem in the Story.
In a career devoted to exploring the art of the African storyteller, Scheub has conducted some of the most interesting and provocative investigations into nonverbal aspects of storytelling, the complex relationship between artist and audience, and, most dramatically, the role played by poetry in storytelling. This book is his most daring effort yet, an unconventional work that searches out what makes a story artistically engaging and emotionally evocative, the metaphorical center that Scheub calls "the poem in the story." Drawing on extensive fieldwork in southern Africa and decades of experience as a researcher and teacher, Scheub develops an original approach—a blend of field notes, diary entries, photographs, and texts of stories and poems—that guides readers into a new way of viewing, even experiencing, meaning in a story. Though this work is largely focused on African storytelling, its universal applications emerge when Scheub brings the work of storytellers as different as Shakespeare and Faulkner into the discussion.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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p. vii-vii


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pp. x-xi

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pp. xi-xx

Many of us, when we tell stories, when we hear stories, look for lessons obvious and simple Aesop's fable-type morals. But stories are not preachments, didacticisms. They are moral, but they are not morals. 1 It is only nervous observers who give the stories such foolish contexts. What they are is music, song, dance. The moral, or message, or meaning of a story is not...

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pp. 3-22

Storytelling involves more than a linear movement from conflict to resolution. It does include that linear movement-necessarily, for there can be no story without it. But what makes a story artistically engaging and emotionally evocative is the poem in the story. Every story has such a poem: at its heart, a metaphorical center that is alive and compelling. In the end, it...

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The Poem and the Story: The Poetics of Storytelling

Feeling is the nub of all structures expressed in drama; in fact, feel "And now for a story...." The opening formula is pronounced, and the audience realizes that an enchanting fusion of the two worlds is about tot ranspire, that time is about to be arrested, history is to be experienced. At the explosive center of the storyteller's art can be found our deepest hopes...

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The Poem

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pp. 25-118

The poem is the key. But it is not the naked poem. The poem never exists. To be sure, we must know the nature of the naked poem if we are to appreciate the pivotal role it plays in the construction and experience of a story. The naked poem has its own attractions, is an art form itself.26To comprehend the true nature of story, it is imperative that one be...

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The Story

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pp. 119-172

It is a Zulu performance, and after the performance, I am expressing an opinion about the symbolism in one of the stories we heard.The Zulu performer stops me, and explains to me that the meaning of a story is the totality of performance,not a simple message. Performance is the thing.The Zulu performer explains tome,''If I am to tell you what this story means, I must tell it again:'...

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The Poem in the Story: Myth, Music, Metaphor

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pp. 173-182

What we find beautiful in a work of art is not found beautiful by Ambiguity, irony, metaphor: in the creation of a story, the performer selects images that seem unrelated, then establishes between them a bond that is initially ambiguous. When the audience begins to move along the path of images recalled by the storyteller, its members detect a union that...

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Myth: The Raw Materials—Myth and Transformation

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pp. 183-198

In an East African myth, a human and a god become a mythic symbol of about the marriage of a mortal, Kintu, to Nambi, the daughter of Gulu, king of heaven: human and god are joined as they move to earth to begin the new world. It is essentially a love story, of the attraction to Kintu by the heavenly Nambi, a relationship that is opposed by God...

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Music: Ordering the Raw Materials—The Creation of Metaphor

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pp. 199-214

Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote, "Ultimately, literature is nothing but carpentry." He explained, "Both are very hard work. Writing sometimes is almost as hard as making a table. With both you are working with reality, a material just as hard as wood. Both are full of tricks and techniques. Basically very little magic and a lot of hard work...

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Metaphor: Preparation for Performance—Myth, Metaphor, Meaning

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pp. 215-228

Hear the chorus of scholars, a catalogue of comments about metaphor: It is metaphor above all that gives perspicuity, pleasure, and a for make use of metaphors and epithets that are appropriate. This will be secured by observing due proportion; it is when placed in juxtaposition that contraries are most ...

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A Storyteller Guards the Poem in Her Story

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pp. 229-234

Stories are constructed improvisationally within a traditional frame that provides a loom that challenges a storyteller's freedom. The melody that is the narrative thread evokes strong emotions which are softened, leavened,balanced by rhythmic patterns imposed on the narrative by the performer.Themes flow from this musical relationship. Melody, rhythms, and...

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pp. 235-254

We are a symphony. The storyteller plays us like a finely tuned instrument. The mythic images call forth cardinal emotions of love, fear, joy,hate, and we provide the emotional nuances from our own storytelling and biographical experiences. It is all music, the music of human feeling. Fernando Pessoa wrote, "My soul is a hidden orchestra; I do not know what ...


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pp. 255-280


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pp. 281-296


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pp. 297-316

E-ISBN-13: 9780299182137
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299182144

Publication Year: 2002