Before Literature: The Nature of Narrative Without the Written Word

1st Edition

Sheila J. Nayar

October 15, 2019 Forthcoming
Reference - 195 Pages - 30 B/W Illustrations
ISBN 9780367242800 - CAT# 300631

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Before Literature examines storytelling when, due to historical, technological or socio-economic circumstance, a narrative was neither shaped nor influenced by alphabetic literacy.


How does a story unfold when carried solely in memory, when it could not be written down or externally stored? What structural and stylistic pressures were imposed when it had to travel through space and time exclusively by word of mouth? In Before Literature, Sheila J. Nayar addresses these very questions, guiding the reader in a lively and accessible manner through the key features of the storytelling that came before writing, print and digital communication. Nayar shows how narratives unaffected by these technologies, such as the Mahabharata and Homer’s Odyssey, informed contemporary forms like Bollywood masala films, Hollywood spectaculars, comic books and beach reading.


This clear and accessible guide is an ideal starting point for undergraduates approaching the study of orality. It offers a fundamentally different way of thinking about narrative, but also meaningfully and intelligibly discloses the "what" and "why" of literature, leading to a much deeper overall understanding and appreciation of its significance.


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