Thursday, April 22, 2010

Holy Writ as Oral Lit - Alan Dundes

I'm just finished reading Alan Dundes book, 'Holy Writ as Oral Lit', and found some gems to mull over. He states that 'Variation is the hallmark of folklore' (p.5) and that the variation within the Bible indicates that the Bible itself is folklore. Having asserted this, that the Bible is folklore is not saying that it is untrue, rather that its origins are oral rather than written, and the stories were passed on by eyewitnesses and audiences. He gives many examples of how the Bible accounts fluctuate (time, number, name, place, etc.) and states that he could've written much more on the subject. Robin Griffith-Jones in his book, 'The Four Witnesses' also discusses variation in the Gospels reflecting the point of views of their authors, each Gospel being written for a different purpose. Putting them together as a succinct account therefore does a disservice to the intent of the author. In the same way, storytellers have main points, or what Doug Lipman refers to as the Most Important Thing that they keep in mind when telling. In fact, the story is shaped by the Most Important Thing (Lipman, Improving your storytelling. 1999:87).

For me, the introduction and conclusion were the most interesting part of this book. Dundes states what folklore is, and that folklore doesn't stop being such once it is written. Generally people think of the terms of story, folklore and myth as things that are untrue. In the academic world, such is not the case.

Whatever your beliefs about the Bible might be, I think this book is a good read, especially if you also are interested in folklore.