Oral literature’s defining characteristics and distinguishing features


The majority of people who were brought up in cultures that, like those of contemporary Europe, lay emphasis on the idea of literacy and written tradition are not familiar with the concept of oral literature. In spite of this, there are a few distinct features of this type of art that emerge from the fact that it is performed orally, and it is essential to emphasize the significance of these from the very beginning of this discussion. Before we can comprehend the position and attributes of many of these African literary genres, we need to first get an understanding of these elements;

1. Literature that is delivered orally is based on the actual performance. There is no other way for a piece of oral literature to be transformed into a literary product than having it retold by a performer on the occasion that it is delivered, as this is the only way it can be considered literature. When we analyze literary genres that are created to be communicated to an audience, even in more familiar literate societies, it is evident that this argument is being made. If we take forms such as a play or a drama as examples, we can see that it is more effective for them to be performed on stage rather than read as a book.

2. The transmission of oral literature takes place through verbal communication. When used by itself, the term “oral” refers to verbal communication rather than written. Therefore, in order to convey their message to their target demographic, practitioners of oral literature rely on the spoken word, also known as the oral form. Listening to and seeing what is being shown is how the message is conveyed to the audience.

3. In the kind of literature known as oral literature, the artist and the audience communicate directly with one another. Because the artist interacts directly with the members of his audience, he is in a unique position to both capitalize on and be shaped by this face-to-face interaction. Sometimes he chooses to involve his listeners directly, such as in story-telling situations where it is common for the narrator to open with a phrase that arouses his audience’s attention; he also frequently expects them to participate actively in the narration, and in particular, to join in the choruses of songs which he introduces into the narrative. In addition, he sometimes chooses to involve his listeners indirectly, such as in situations where it is common for the nar

4. Oral literature is contextual. It responds creatively to the immediate surroundings and the moment at which it is delivered. If a narrative is being recounted around Lake zone, the narrator may say “the hippo disappeared into the lake,” but if the same story is being told in Dar es Salaam, the same story may use the sentence “the hippo disappeared into the sea.” Even within the same culture, there may be a wide variety of performance styles that have evolved to accommodate the various forms of literary expression that are acknowledged in that culture. In point of fact, the primary way in which these types of music are differentiated from one another is frequently determined by the medium through which they are performed rather than by the content or the reason for the performance.

5. Oral literature is born, matures, lives, and eventually passes away. Oral literature is experiencing significant disruptions in its lifespan as a direct result of the progress that has been made in scientific and technological fields. Oral literature may be older than its written equivalent, but the rapid development of science and technology poses significant challenges to the growth, distribution, and survival of this form of literature. The majority of works of oral literature are starting to lose their distinctive flavor as they are being preserved in mediums other than the human mind. Oral literature no longer has the same impact as it once did because it can now be found on CDs, DVDs, tapes, computers, memory cards, books, and other formats; as a result, certain works have become extinct.

6. Readings of oral literature typically take place in specialized settings such as theaters. It could be a building or it could be an outdoor space, but either way, this is the place where plays and other similar forms of entertainment are performed. These are utilized for live performances that take place in front of live audiences and feature live actors. Because there are so few theaters in most modern countries, this is one of the things that is in danger of being extinct. Almost no society in the modern era has a theater. People are more likely to stay at home and watch movies, TV shows, and films than they are to go to theaters to see live performances.

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