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The Singer of Tales

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  134 Ratings  ·  11 Reviews
This 40th anniversary edition of Albert Lord's classic work includes a CD containing the original audio recording of all the passages of heroic songs quoted in the book; a video publication of the kinescopic filming of the most valued of the singers; and selected photographs taken during Milman Parry's collecting trips in the Balkans.
Paperback, Second Edition, 344 pages
Published May 19th 2000 by Harvard University Press (first published 1965)
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Feb 26, 2009 William rated it really liked it
Shelves: oral-traditions
Albert Lord's work is a good follow-up to Milman Parry's work on oral traditions (The Making of Homeric Verse: The Collected Papers of Milman Parry), but unfortunately Lord falls short of his mentor's insights and skills. The book is divided into two portions: Part 1, the theory, and Part 2, the application. I really enjoyed Part 1, and Lord's writing is very accessible and easy to read (which wasn't necessarily a good thing. Parry's work on the same subject required a lot more close, careful re ...more
Lada Fleur
The book presents the theory 1 and Practice 2I have already written a review on this fascinating book which cannot fail to leave readers without response. It is the book about how orality works, lives and transforms itself.It is not just literature but cultural anthropology. This is the first edition that came out in the sixties, the second one being in 2000 with a CD which recorded the living voice of the singer of Tales, Lord's and Parry's singer of tales, Avdo Medjedovic who was their Homer. ...more
Extremely enjoyable if out-of-date. Any scholar of oral poetry will find this book enlightening in view of the modern discussions as many of them stem from or argue against this type of approach. Lord's system of formulas (phrases of set length with interchangeable parts to allow for varied sense) is fascinating, particularly when broadened to theme and construction of tales, but what has developed from 1960s has been, in my opinion, able to fill in many of the holes or details of Lord's theory. ...more
Sep 03, 2009 secondwomn rated it really liked it
a little dense (especially if you haven't any folkloric or classical background at all - sometimes i felt mine thoroughly insufficient). but an excellent read with solid writing.

and, further proving my theory that everything can be useful if you look at it from the right angle, i found the descriptions of oral epic composition to be *extremely* useful in terms of thinking about how to teach yoga. weird, but true.
Albert Lord published The Singer of Tales in 1960 to explain and continue the work of his mentor, Milman Parry, who died in 1935. Working primarily in Serbia and Bosnia over decades, the two recorded hundreds of epic song performances, applied extensive linguistic and rhetorical analyses to these songs and recordings, and developed a thesis regarding oral-formulaic composition, which has come to be known as the Parry/Lord thesis.

Parry and Lord were actually classicists interested in the Homeric
David M.
Apr 20, 2012 David M. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Does a good job providing a comprehensive background to the idea that oral poems have a textual structure, but, as some reviewers have pointed out, the book is some-what out of date (a copy of the Iliad will eliminate the need to read Lord's sections on Homer). Still, an interesting reed that will shed a new light on classics like Beowulf and the Song of Roland, and points one in the direction of the ninth or tenth century Byzantine poem "Digenes Akritas , the Two Blood Border Guard".
Thom Dunn
Essential for the student of early lit., Beowulf, Homer,Bible, OE poetry, etc.
James Klagge
A book that is more interesting in its conception than in its execution. The idea is to decide whether the Iliad and Odyssey are part of an oral tradition or have become part of a written tradition. It would seem to be tough to tell with virtually no other samples to compare them to from that era. The author (and his teacher) have the idea to study epic storytelling by illiterate bards that still existed in Yugoslavia in the 1930s-50s. So the beginning of the book is a survey of that oral tradit ...more
Aug 01, 2016 Will rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"If we cease to expect verbal identity between different performances of the same song, whether they be by different singers or by the same one, whether they be over a shorter or a longer period of time, we are bound to notice that there are a few simple types of differences between them; (1) elaboration or simplification; the same thing told with more or less detail; (2) different order in a series; usually the reverse order, but sometimes merely a different order. In respect to the first of th ...more
This is an interesting account of Lord and Parry's discovery that the Iliad and Odyssey were oral compositions, which is one of the greatest achievements of humanities scholarship in the past century, and laid the foundation for the media studies of Marshall McLuhan and Walter Ong. However, Lord sometimes gets bogged down in boring technical details.
Oct 13, 2014 Jossalyn rated it liked it
fascinating study of Oral Epic Poetry such as Homer's, using living oral poets in Yugoslavia to learn from. How oral poetry is composed, learned, studied, taught, performed; how different it is from poetry or songs of a literate society.
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