In a message dated Tue, 28 Aug 2001  6:26:45 PM Eastern Daylight Time, "Richard Seddon" <[log in to unmask]> writes:

> Tom
<<What do you mean by "rich oral tradition"?>>

I was unclear.  In speaking of "communities with a rich oral tradition", I meant societies where the dominant culture relies upon an such a tradition, either entirely  or as an important supplement to its literature.  By "rich", I mean Homer rather than "Friends."  (Granted, there's a lot in between, but y'all get to sort that out on your own terms.)

<<Is the modern urban myth part of this rich oral tradition?  When does common gossip become "rich oral tradition",  when the common gossipers are illiterate and members of a government defined minority?  Can a visually identifiable but illiterate member of the majority have a "rich oral tradition"   i.e..,  are Red Necks as good a place to find "rich oral tradition" as Hispanics in a barrio?>>

As I say, I'm not undertaking to answer all the particulars.  Just trying to get a little conversation going.  If you want my opinion, Southern culture would have been a better place for a "rich oral tradition" in the days when oral storytelling was relatively more important than the press and television.  But, I suppose, if conducted at a sufficiently high level, television (or radio) could qualify.  

As to the "redneck"/barrio" leg of your question, it seems likely to me that both of those subcultures today are too modernized to qualify for a "rich oral tradition" in the sense I used the term.  Again, I agree with your point (as I construed it) that this is a loose term.  My limited usage of it was not intended to disparage communities that might fall outside that usage, but only to distinguish societies dependent primarily on oral communication for communication beyond daily conversation from those dependent primarily on other means.
> I think most illiterates have no more a "rich oral tradition" than most literates regularly read well crafted mind expanding literature.  Because of this I think that it would be difficult to find a"rich oral tradition" as a niche within a larger literate one.  The minds that would be drawn into intimate interrelationship with a "rich oral tradition" would be attracted to the greater universe of literacy.  Literacy is not that difficult.  As Phillis Wheatley, illiterate slave turned poet, showed,  the attraction of
literacy to capable minds is irresistible.>>

You make a good point.  However, the slave example is particulary apt in cutting against it as well: Mr. Wheatley (I confess I'm not familiar with him) was no doubt exceptional, and I would propose the ante-bellum slave community as precisely one based upon oral tradition, existing within a largely (for the day at least) literate society.

<<I think well crafted and mind expanding literature acts directly in the lives of a literate and thoughtful minority.  It acts less directly and more indirectly in the greater portion of a literate society and indirectly in the lives of every illiterate.  Literature is bound to affect all who directly or indirectly contact it.  An example would be the number of Americans who know of the Constitution, are capable of reading it and have,
that literate majority who have not and those Americans who know of the constitution and could not read it.  All have been affected by it.>>

Yes, but the impact of the Constitution is inherent in its operation upon the citizens' lives through its role in defining our government.  "Literature" as I intend it must find other ways to influence the illiterate.

<<Another example would be the elite position of the professional scribe in highly illiterate countries.  Literature and especially good literature seems irresistable to humans.>>

Hmmm.  Sometimes it seems that bad literature is even more irresistable.  But then, that requires one to define the good and the bad, which each must do by differing standards.  I certainly agree that literature I would consider "good" comes down from many socities, and probably (no, certainly) exists in those that I am not familiar with.

> Rick Seddon
> McIntosh, NM, USA