Oral Literature in Africa

World Oral Literature

Non-Fiction - Cultural
616 Pages
Reviewed on 05/25/2016
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Ray Simmons for Readers' Favorite

I am an American. To be more precise and more politically correct, I am an African-American. For the most part, this is just a phrase or term that someone else made popular and now most of us use. In truth, I know very little about Africa. After reading Oral Literature in Africa by Ruth Finnegan, I know a lot more. I know more about the oral traditions in Native American culture than I do in African culture, but that’s not a problem. There are similarities and it is fascinating to read about African and European oral traditions and note where they are similar and where they are markedly different. Oral Literature in Africa is a great book with which to introduce yourself to the oral tradition in Africa. Ruth Finnegan is a good writer and has obviously spent a lot of time among the people and cultures that she writes about.

There is actually an oral tradition among African-Americans and it is very satisfying to read how such a tradition might have its roots. I enjoyed Oral Literature in Africa because I learned a lot. The information was presented in an insightful, organized, and interesting manner, with plenty of pictures and illustrations. Oral Literature in Africa is a proper scholarly work with footnotes and references, but non-scholars can read and enjoy it just as much as the serious scholar. If you are interested in anthropology and the literary traditions of a variety of African tribes, you should pick up a copy of Oral Literature in Africa today. It is part of the World Oral Literature Series and, because it is an Open Book publication, you can read it on line and download the PDF and e-book for free.

Gisela Dixon

Oral Literature in Africa (World Oral Literature) by Ruth Finnegan is an interesting perspective and study on the tradition of oral storytelling, especially in African countries. Oral Literature in Africa (World Oral Literature) by Ruth Finnegan is a comprehensive study guide with a well-researched look into the history of oral folklore and storytelling that has been around since the beginning of humankind. The book is divided into various chapters such as the history of this tradition, its social and linguistic background, the various forms and styles of poetry involved, the use of drums and rhythm to accompany it, dramatics, and the various “types” of storytelling in the form of short stories with morals, proverbs, poetry, stories as a teaching medium, and more. Also included are some photos taken during this field study as well as numerous references to similar works.

Oral Literature in Africa (World Oral Literature) by Ruth Finnegan is an interesting read and I found it especially fascinating to look at some of the pictures from Sierra Leone among other places that depict the storytellers and actual places. The book also provides a broad history of this oral tradition across the continent of Africa, with West, Central, and Southern Africa in particular. I also enjoyed reading the actual animal stories that are provided as examples in the book, along with several examples of actual lyrics of the oral songs or words of the oral story. Overall, this is a thoroughly researched book on this subject that I would recommend.

Vernita Naylor

Effective communication varies from culture to culture. One way of communicating language is no better than another, but we can learn a lot from each other. World Oral Literature Series Volume 1: Oral Literature by Ruth Finnegan investigates how culture, tradition, and various forms of communication have been passed down from different parts of Africa. Ruth takes us on a journey where you will learn several ways in which they express themselves - from drums, dance, songs, parables and children's rhymes to prose. Each form of communication sets the backdrop and rhythm of the language. To help further illustrate the language of communication, Ruth displays beautiful photos of where some of the stories unfold. If you are interested in getting up close and personal with Ruth’s experience, she provides an online audio resource link of original songs and stories from the Limba people, a major ethnic group in Sierra Leone.

World Oral Literature Series Volume 1: Oral Literature by Ruth Finnegan displays not only various forms of communication within the African culture, but allows you to see that there are other effective ways to communicate. Effective communication in the United States is beginning to seem like a dying art form. In today’s society, some people display their ignorance and begin to stereotype or discount other forms of oral communication when they lack understanding. In order to become effective communicators, we must each invest time and have an interest in learning how to communicate with each other. We can learn a lot from other countries and learn other ways of communicating. If you are looking for a historical viewpoint pertaining to how other cultures communicate, start your research with World Oral Literature Series Volume 1: Oral Literature by Ruth Finnegan.