Lord, after paying compliments to John Miles Foley for his extensive bibliographic work and other analyses, points out the fact that some scholars of “oral traditional literature” are more concerned with the mode of performance, while some are more concerned with composition (Lord 1986, 467). In fact, both matter. Lord’s emphasis is related to the orality, both in composition and performance. In this article, he summarizes some of the developments he has seen in the research (Lord 1986, 469). Scholarship has arisen around the world, in many languages and studying the literature of many languages. Scholars have been engaged in comparative studies as well, finding prallels among different cultures and languages. Lord lists a number of the areas of study engaged in by many scholars. He devotes special attention to Homeric studies following the work of Parry (Lord 1986, 472ff). However, Lord’s analysis touches every continent. Of potential interest to my studies, Lord refers to “Werner Kelber’s challenging book, The Oral and the Written Gospel: The Heremeneutics of Speaking and Writing in the Synoptic Tradition, Mark, Paul, and Q (1983)” (Lord 1986, 476).
Lord goes on to speak of scholarship related to “theme in epic poetry (Lord 1986, 477ff). Some scholarship has pursued the density of use of formulaic statements to some effect. In these studies, shcolars generally consider works with high concentrations of formulaic statements to be oral poetry. However, they have sometimes concluded that written texts also have a high formulaic density (Lord 1986, 479-480). The question then became related to the use of a formulaic style, which suggested a traditional compositional style. within these studies, shcolars have begun to identify different types of formulaic repetitions (Lord 1986, 482). Lord notes that the same type of formulas can be found in various languages. He illustrates six different categories on the pages that follow, while critiquing weaknesses in the definitions of the six types.
Lord next brings up the issue of formula and repetition. He considers that the difference between the two has not been studied adequately, though Parry, in 1930, dealt with it in detail (Lord 1986, 491). A formula has a particular metrical purpose. Repetition may have metrical function as well, but it serves to emphasize an idea or set a tone in a way a formula by itself cannot. Lord considers this distinciton critical in understanding oral poetry (Lord 1986, 493).
Lord finally discusses the transition from oral to written poetry, an area which requires study but which is very difficult to define adequately (Lord 1986, 494). The article ends with an extensive series of notes and bibliographic references.