Oral Literature in Africa
Ruth H. Finnegan
Open Book Publishers 1970
“Besides being a goldmine for scholars, [Oral Literature in Africa] is a delight for the general reader… The people and animals and spirits of Africa live, laugh, weep and quarrel between the covers of this book.” — Journal of African and Asian Studies
First published in 1970 by Oxford University Press, this classic study has been hailed as "the single most authoritative work on oral literature”. It traces the history of story-telling in Africa, and brings to life the diverse forms of creativity across the African continent. Author Ruth Finnegan is thought to have “almost single-handedly created the field of ethnography of language” with this book, and it continues to be a go-to text for anyone studying African culture.
However, despite its enormous scope and popularity, Finnegan’s book is now out of print. It is particularly hard to find in Africa, where its original retail price was beyond the budget of most university libraries. The non-profit organization Open Book Publishers is endeavoring to make this definitive book freely available to African students and scholars — and indeed to any interested readers around the world. The Unglued Ebook will be particularly friendly to people in places with slow Internet connections: once a copy is downloaded, the book can be read offline.
This edition, developed in conjunction with Cambridge University’s World Oral Literature Project, will include a new introduction and extra digital material. When Finnegan’s book was first published forty years ago, the technology did not exist to include audio clips. Part of this Unglue campaign will involve the creation of a free online repository of Finnegan’s audio recordings of African story-telling, carefully collected during her fieldwork in the late 1960s. A sample from this collection can be found here. It demonstrates the richness of the audio material that will be made available for the first time as part of this campaign. These clips, together with original photographs taken during her research, will be an invaluable resource to scholars of African literature and culture.
After decades of outstanding research, for which she was awarded an Order of the British Empire, Oral Literature in Africa remains the book closest to Finnegan’s heart. “It was so frustrating to me that my book has been largely unavailable to readers in Africa”, she says. “It is wonderful to think that it will now be freely read in the very continent it discusses”.
Open Book Publishers is an entirely non-profit organization run by academics. It aims to make high-quality research available online to readers everywhere, regardless of their income or access to libraries. By applying a CC BY license to this book, other researchers will be able to add to and extend Finnegan’s original work quickly, easily and freely.
If this campaign is successful, the new edition of Oral Literature in Africa will be launched at the World Oral Literature Project Workshop in Cambridge, England on 29-30 June 2012. Premium Donors at the $1,000 level will be invited gratis to this event or another similar event and given two nights free accommodation.
Why unglue this? Have your say.
You must be logged in to comment.
A campaign has succeeded to unglue Oral Literature in Africa!
The rights holder, Open Book Publishers , has agreed to release Oral Literature in Africa to the world as a Creative Commons licensed ebook (CC BY) thanks to the efforts of ungluers like you.
Campaign details: the fine print
If this campaign is successful, the new edition of Oral Literature in Africa will be launched at The World Oral Literature Project Workshop in Cambridge, England on 29-30 June 2012. The complete original text, along with a new introduction and images, will be an Unglued Ebook available to readers everywhere -- along with access to new digital archive materials of audio and visual clips from Ruth Finnegan's research -- if together we raise $7500.00 by June 21, 2012, 11:59 p.m.
If you'd like to contact us regarding rights for this work, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- African Folk literature
- Folk literature
- Folk literature, African
- History and criticism
- Oral tradition