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Oral Literature: Research in Living Traditions



The course offers theories and methods of analysis for oral texts in the comparison of case studies from Africa, Asia, and Amerindian America. Students have the opportunity to interpret oral performances within their cultural and socio-historical context, discuss methodologies of analysis and also practice taping and transcribing the oral material, as a preparation for the fieldwork undertaken in the fourth semester of BA ATC.
The assessment consists of several small assignments submitted along the semester (consult syllabus for specific deadlines) and a final 10-pages long paper submitted three weeks after the end of the course.


Language of instruction: English

Course objectives

Upon successful completion of the course, students will:
1. Acquire critical knowledge of theories and methods of analysis of oral performances;
2. Acquire and practice techniques of text transcription and translation;
3. Acquire and practice techniques of ‘visual’ description of the performance and the context of performance;
4. Situate an oral performance within its cultural and socio-historical context;
5. Develop critical thinking and communication skills in presentations and essays.


Timetable is available on African languages and cultures. Collegerooster

Mode of instruction


Course load

Total course load for this course is 5 EC (1 EC = 28 hours), this equals 140 hours, broken down by:

  • Attending classes: 26 hrs

  • Assessment hours (take-home-exam): 4 hrs

  • Time for studying the compulsory literature: 65 hrs

  • Time for completing assignments: 45 hrs.

Assessment method

  • take home exam 15%

  • research practice 20%

  • oral presentation 5%

  • final paper 60%

Students do need to have a passing grade for the research practice, take-home exam and the final paper. If they fail those, they will need to resubmit the assignments. There is no resit for the presentation, but this grade can be compensated.

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


Blackboard will be used to provide information on the syllabus, required readings, power points by the lecturers and other. Blackboard

Reading list

The following list is indicative. Please consult the syllabus for more detailed information. •Finnegan, R., The Oral and Beyond, Currey: Oxford, U of Chicago Press: Chicago, U of KwaZule-Natal Press: Pietermaritzburg, 2007. •Finnegan, R., Oral Tradition and the Verbal Arts, Routledge: London and New York, 1992, chap. 9 (Texts in process), pp. 186-213. •Merolla, D., Dangerous Love in Mythical Narratives and Formula Tales, Religion, Volume 39, Issue 3, September 2009, pp. 283-288. •Beck R.M. & Mous M.P.G.M. (2014), Iraqw Slufay and the Power of Voice. In: Vogele H., Reuster-Jahn U., Kastenholz R., Diegner L. (Eds.) From the Tana River to Lake Chad Research in African Oratures and Literatures: In memoriam Thomas Geider. Köln: Rüdiger Köppe. 357-371. •van Engelenhoven, A., Ktunu: clues in the quest of the Sailfish: Linguistic insights in Southwest Malukan narratives (East-Indonesia), In: Lander, Y.A. & Ogloblin, A.K. (Eds.), Language and Text in the Austronesian World. Studies in Honour of Ülo Sirk (LINCOM Studies in Austronesian Linguistics), 06., pp. 311-325. München: Lincom GmbH.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in [English]) and Dutch.