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Thesis outline


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Thesis outline

  1. 1. Contextualising Oral Traditions: A Comparative Study of Homer and Sundiata
  2. 2. What is Oral Tradition?• Oral tradition refers to the transferring of cultural knowledge, material and traditions, from one generation to another. (Vansina1985, p.27-28)• An epic may be defined as a “long narrative poem with an emphasis on the heroic" (Finnegan, 1977, p.9)
  3. 3. Homeric Epics• The Iliad and the Odyssey• Original composition dates unknown, crystallised somewhere in Ionia towards the end of the 8th century BC• Passed down through oral tradition by bards• Centered on the Trojan Wars (Iliad) and Odysseus’s journey home after the fall of Troy (Odyssey)• Based on actual historical events (12th Century BC)• Subject of extensive scholarly research
  4. 4. Sundiata• Composed within the Mali empire, date of composition unknown• Passed down through oral tradition by bards (griots, jeli)• ‘Our’ versions recorded in the 20th century A.D in Guinea and Gambia.• Centeredon Sundiata’s coming of age and his establishment of the Mali empire• Based (loosely?) on actual historical events (13th century AD)• Subject of minimal scholarly research.
  5. 5. Contextualising the Poems The Iliad and The Odyssey SundiataEvents depicted Mediterranean, 12th Mali Empire, 13th Century B.C. Century A.D.‘Our’ version(s) Ionia, 8th Century B.C. Gambia, Guinea, 20th Century A.D.Gap 4 centuries 7 centuriesPeriod poem(s)represent 8th Century B.C. (still ??? debated)
  6. 6. Thesis Question:What historical context does Sundiatamostaccurately represent? How can Sundiata be usedby historians?
  7. 7. Structure• Chapter One. The Nature of Oral Tradition: Despite limitations, oral tradition is a valuable historical tool if used responsibly by historians.• Chapter Two: The Case of Homer: Homer’s epics more accurately reflects the 8th Century B.C. than the 12th Century B.C.• Chapter Three: Contextualising Sundiata: Sundiata more accurately reflects ???? Methodolody: Comparative History, Textual Analysis
  8. 8. 1. The Nature of Oral Tradition• “The survival and thematic constancy of oral heroic song is tied to the continuation of the social conditions that produced it in the first place.“ (Raaflaub, 2005, p. 65)• Limitations: Memory, ‘Chinese Whispers’, bias, interpretation, translation, performance and audience Oral traditions as representations• Oral Traditions as representations• “Comparisons between such external evidence and the epics’ internal evidence permits us to perceive correspondences and differences and to establish general patterns.” (Raaflaub, 2005, p.56)
  9. 9. Sources for Oral Tradition• Jan Vansina• Milman Parry&Albert Bates Lord• Walter Ong• John Miles Foley• Ruth Finnegan• Anne Chalmers Watts• Anthropological studies
  10. 10. 2. The Case of Homer• Milman Parry developeda theory of pre-fabricated epithets, e.g. “swift-footed Achilles,” claiming that Homeric poems were semi-improvised. (1971) Parry and Lord tested these theories in the Balkans. (1960) Criticisms: theory devalues Homer’s literary eloquence.• “His arms bear a resemblance to the armour of his time, quite unlike the Mycenaean, although he persistently casts them in antiquated bronze, not iron. His gods had temples, and the Mycenaeans built none, whereas the latter constructed great vaulted tombs in which to bury their chieftains and the poet cremates his. A neat little touch is provided by the battle chariots. Homer had heard of them, but he did not really visualize what one did with chariots in a war. So his heroes normally drove from their tents a mile or less away, carefully dismounted, and then proceeded to battle on foot.” (Finley 1978, p.45)
  11. 11. Other Sources for the Homeric Epics• Hesiod and other Greek poets• Archaeological evidence (from the 12th and 8th Centuries B.C.)• Secondary sources: - Parry and Lord - Moses Finley - John Miles Foley - Ian Morris - Anthony Snodgrass - Jonathan M. Hall - Andrew Dalby - Robin Osborne - G.S. Kirk - Anne Watts
  12. 12. 3. Contextualising Sundiata• Textual analysis of the poem• Synthesis of evidence from 13th Century A.D. Mali Empire (Arab sources, limited archaeological evidence)• Synthesis of evidence from the 18th-20th Centuries A.D. Guinea, Gambia (anthropological works)• Key developments in ‘floating gap’, e.g. Islam, colonialism• Make a judgement on which context the poem more accurately represents
  13. 13. Potential Problems• Accurately addressing the limitations of using oral tradition as history• Lack of knowledge on Africa• Coming up with a good title