The Powers of Genre describes a method for interpreting oral literature that enables dialogue between insiders and outsiders to a tradition. Seitel illustrates this method with lively examples from Haya (from Northwestern Tanzania) proverbs, folktales, and heroic verse. He then focuses on a single epic ballad to demonstrate, among other things, why stanzas need not rhyme, and how significance needs time in oral poetry and narrative. He makes a controversial claim that an heroic age, similar to that of Ancient Greece, existed in Sub-Saharan Africa. The work should interest anyone who works in oral literature and narrative -- folklorists, literary critics, anthropologists, linguists, and Africanists.

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