Friday, September 14, 2012

Albert Lord Centennial

Albert Lord would have turned 100 tomorrow (September 15, 2012). The Center for Studies in Oral Tradition has published a variety of commemorative resources. For our part, I would like to link to a blog post I wrote last year. No scholar's work has influenced the methodology of the Homer Multitext more. As Lord wrote in his 1995 book, The Singer Resumes the Tale: "the word multiform is more accurate than ‘variant,’ because it does not give preference or precedence to any one word or set of words to express an idea; instead it acknowledges that the idea may exist in several forms." (Lord 1995:23). See also The Singer of Tales (1960), p.101:
The truth of the matter is that our concept of the "original," of "the song," simply makes no sense in an oral tradition. To us it seems so basic, so logical, since we are brought up in a society in which writing has fixed the norm of a stable first creation in art, that we feel there must be an "original" for everything. The first singing in oral tradition does not coincide with this concept of the "original."... It follows, then, that we cannot correctly speak of a "variant," since there is no original to be varied! ... Our greatest error is to attempt to make "scientifically" rigid a phenomenon that is fluid.
If you would like to learn more about the work of Albert Lord and his teacher, Milman Parry, I highly recommend the 40th anniversary edition of the Singer of Tales, edited and introduced by Gregory Nagy and Stephen Mitchell. You can also read more about Lord's work and see some video clips from lectures given by Lord at the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature

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