Oral Tradition from West Africa and
the Balkans to Florida: A Zoom Symposium

As John Miles Foley remarked in his 2002 How to Read an Oral Poem, writing has appeared only very lately in the ongoing history of homo sapiens: “Like it or not, for most of our existence as a species, ‘cultural literacy’ didn’t involve literacy.” If writing is recent and written literature is rare, “all peoples have composed and transmitted oral traditions, an alternate verbal technology that has shown itself not only far more widespread than texts but also more adaptable and durable.”

Two of the richest traditions of the oral performance and transmission of songs of heroes—epic and praise song—are found in West Africa, in particular Côte d'Ivoire; and the European Balkans, the mountainous region from Bosnia in the west (where the Homer scholar Milman Parry tested his theory of oral composition) to Greece in the south. The Zoom Symposium “Oral Tradition from West Africa and the Balkans to Florida,” sponsored by the Winthrop-King Institute for Contemporary French and Francophone Studies, will explore these traditions and their historical, political, scholarly, and performance contexts through short, engaging talks from three leading figures in the field.

Title: Oral Tradition from West Africa and the Balkans to Florida: A Zoom Symposium

Date and time: Wed. Apr. 14, 3:00-5:00 pm


  • Prof. David Elmer, Harvard Classics: "South Slavic Epic and the Philology of the Border"
  • Prof. Joseph Hellweg, FSU Religion: "Im/Orality: Dozo Songs as Mulitmodal, Interreligious Performance in Northwestern Côte d'Ivoire"
  • Prof. Panayotis League, FSU Musicology: "Archival Impressions: Cretan Songs of Crisis and Resistance from the James A. Notopoulos Collection"

Please Register by following this link.