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Oral Literature in Africa

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Ruth Finnegan

Conclusion

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Excerpt

Several points emerge from this examination of oral literature in Africa.

The first is an obvious one. This is the relevance of African oral literature for comparative literature in the wide sense. The study of the kinds of instances and genres touched on in this account can enlarge both our literary experience and our concept of ’literature’ altogether. It can also throw light on some recent literary experiments (jazz poetry, for instance) as well as on the oral background to literature even in literate cultures. Its significance, in other words, is by no means confined to those with a special interest in the continent of Africa.

The kind of conclusions I myself would draw about the nature of this African literature would be, first of all, to repeat the obvious point of its variety. Not only is generalization difficult, but many of the general conclusions that have been stated to date turn out to be based on relatively little evidence. It now seems obvious, for example, that simple g...

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