Before Literature: The Nature of Narrative Without the Written Word, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Before Literature

The Nature of Narrative Without the Written Word, 1st Edition

By Sheila J. Nayar

Routledge

195 pages | 30 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9780367242800
pub: 2019-10-15
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Hardback: 9780367242817
pub: 2019-10-15
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Description

Before Literature examines storytelling when, due to historical, technological or socio-economic circumstance, a narrative was neither shaped nor influenced by alphabetic literacy.

 

How does a story unfold when carried solely in memory, when it could not be written down or externally stored? What structural and stylistic pressures were imposed when it had to travel through space and time exclusively by word of mouth? In Before Literature, Sheila J. Nayar addresses these very questions, guiding the reader in a lively and accessible manner through the key features of the storytelling that came before writing, print and digital communication. Nayar shows how narratives unaffected by these technologies, such as the Mahabharata and Homer’s Odyssey, informed contemporary forms like Bollywood masala films, Hollywood spectaculars, comic books and beach reading.

 

This clear and accessible guide is an ideal starting point for undergraduates approaching the study of orality. It offers a fundamentally different way of thinking about narrative, but also meaningfully and intelligibly discloses the "what" and "why" of literature, leading to a much deeper overall understanding and appreciation of its significance.

Table of Contents

  1. Denaturalizing Literacy 2. The Story Behind Before Literature 3. Existence Without Inscription 4. Myth and the Mythical, Epic and the Epical 5. Why Pre-Lit Matters 6. But There Is Always a But7. A Beginning with No Definitive Beginning 8. A Digression on the "Once Upon a Time…" of Star Wars 9. Beginning In Medias Res 10. Ending Anti-In Medias Res—and Pro-Status Quo 11. "And This Happened… And Then This… And Then…" 12. Epic Examples of Episodic Epics 13. [[Boxes] within Boxes] within Boxes 14. Flashbacks, Masala Style 15. Lists, Lists, and More Lists 16. In Defense of Clichés and the Formulaic (Yes, Really!) 17. Repeat, Recycle—and Repeat (& Recycle) 18. Whence the "Traditional"? 19. The Acoustic Landscape 20. Ancestors & Alienation 21. Alienation & Participation 22. The Agon of Audiences—But, Even More, of Actors 23. Blood and Guts 24. Violence + Veneration = A Polarized World 25. When Exteriority Is Not a Bad Thing 26. But, What of Art? What of Aesthetics? 27. Oral Embodiment 28. Superhuman Vessels 29. Is Anti-Psychological Necessarily Unreal? 30. Animating Abstract Knowledge 31. The Absence of Irony, the Pleasure of Parody 32. Is There an Oral Chronosense? 33. Do Intellectuals Suffer from Alphabetically Literate Elitism? 34. Why the Humanities Matter—to All of Us

About the Author

Sheila J. Nayar is Associate Professor of English and Communication Studies at Greensboro College, North Carolina, USA.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LIT000000
LITERARY CRITICISM / General