Mudcat Café message #2279839 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #109111   Message #2279839
Posted By: Nerd
04-Mar-08 - 10:54 PM
Thread Name: Folk terminology
Subject: RE: Folk terminology
Don, I admire your former professor very much; Fowler's book on ballads should be standard reading!

It's true that some of the incidents from the Geste were possibly in other, previous ballads--especially the death part. But there is no evidence that the big story--what would be called the A-plot in screenplay writing--was ever a sung ballad. So we have a situation where maybe 20 of the 456 verses were in oral tradition.

Fowler actually doesn't even think the death was the subject of a ballad until after the Geste. He believes that the Geste is a literary poem, possibly intended for reading aloud or recitation, which drew on previous outlaw tales, but not on ballads:

"it is not really possible to speak of sources for the [Geste of Robin Hood] in ballad form.... The separate Robin Hood ballads often supposed to be the sources of the poem did not come into being until well after 1400, which is the date usually assigned to 'A Geste of Robin Hood.'" (Fowler 1970: 79-80)

Your points about the Iliad are well taken. But what I said still stands: many scholars believe Parry and Lord's claims go too far, and that Oral-Formulaic theory does not and never did show that the Iliad was itself orally composed or performed. They believe all the theory shows us is that certain cultures' poetics are informed by the existence of oral composition, and that in those cultures even poems that are not orally composed will contain features of oral delivery simply by convention. A good example is the English alliterative revival; while some argue Beowulf was orally composed, few argue that "Piers Plowman" was; yet "Piers Plowman" retains poetic features from the tradition that gave us Beowulf. The Iliad could well be one of these--a literary poem informed by a previous tradition of oral composition. Only Jethro knows for sure!