Montenyohl observes that “literature” is increasingly recognized as including oral works. For this reason, it is appropriate to consider the variety of contexts in which performance would take place, as well as the context which led to the composition in the first place (Montenyohl 1993, 159). Montenyohl observes that scholars are increasingly involved in many of the contextual issues but have remained relatively unengaged in the mode of presentation of oral material (Montenyohl 1993, 160). Since the work of the Grimms began to be released in 1812, presentation has remained relatively static, with prefatory material, the text in question, then scholarly notes. This has continued to be the pattern at least until about 1980 (Montenyohl 1993, 161).
Montenyohl considers this mode of presentation to be inadequate. First, it creates a sharp distinction between the source and the scholar (Montenyohl 1993, 162). The oral tradition may appear to be an exotic specimen as opposed to an organic and environmental expression of culture. Second, presenting these specimens in a particular arrangement of categories imposes a formalism which is highly unlikely to have existed in the native context (Montenyohl 1993, 163). Finally, removing the material from its oral context limits the way the audience can interpret it (Montenyohl 1993, 164).
Since the mid 1960s Montenyohl finds scholarship which attempts to consider oral contexts (Montenyohl 1993, 165). There has been a greater recognition of the practice of performing oral materials. However, innovations in presenting them in print hae not been very common. Montenyohl notes attempts by Dennis Tedlock (Montenyohl 1993, 165) and Elizabeth Fine (Montenyohl 1993, 166) to make the print expression of verbal traditions resemble the orality more closely. Unfortunately, such representations are normally presented in very intricate detail and are not adequate to replicate the “original” version, not to mention the distinctions among different performers and performances. Montenyohl proides examples of these attempts (Montenyohl 1993, 167ff). They clearly present challenges in reading and interpretation. Montenyohl then observes that, in a real way, these attempts still fall into the pattern of a scholarly introduction, sample works, and a commentary of how to understand the text (Montenyohl 1993, 174).
Because of the difficulty inherent in adequate notation of oral events, Montenyohl admits little progress has been made. However, some oral forms - such as epic, ballad, sage, folktale - can most easily stand alone and engage the reading audience in the story” (Montenyohl 1993, 175). This approach still has drawbacks, so Montenyohl suggests another approach, where a scholar who can enter into the culture presents the oral material in the form of a personal story (Montenyohl 1993, 176). He suggests this can be done in writing, by encapsulating the oral material within a written narrative. Pages 177-178 contain two examples of attempts to do this.
Montenyohl considers the purpose of different narratives, as well as the culture that can lead to various types of stories. He concludes that orality and literacy are not related to intelligence or to education but that many oral expressions are used for multiple purposes such as creating bonds, explaining differences, and expressing care (Montenyohl 1993, 180). Because of the intricacy and complexity of the communication, Montenyohl suggests that gathering material requires extended periods of time in a community so as to understand context. The communication in writing, then, becomes more akin to a performance itself (Montenyohl 1993, 181).
A bibliography concludes the article (Montenyohl 1993, 182-186).