John Miles Foley offers an innovative and straightforward approach to the structural analysis of oral and oral-derived traditional texts. Professor Foley argues that to give the vast and complex body of oral "literature" its due, we must first come to terms with the endemic heterogeneity of traditional oral epics, with their individual histories, genres, and documents, as well as both the synchronic and diachronic aspects of their poetics.
Until now, the emphasis in studies of oral traditional works has been placed on addressing the correspondences among traditions—shared structures of "formula," "theme," and "story-pattern." Traditional Oral Epic explores the incongruencies among traditions and focuses on the qualities specific to certain oral and oral-derived works. It is certain to inspire further research in this field.
John Miles Foley is William H. Byler Distinguished Chair in the Humanities, University of Missouri, and founding editor of Oral Tradition.