Francis James Child, compiler and editor of the monumental English and Scottish Popular Ballads, established the scholarly study of folk ballads in the English-speaking world. His successors at Harvard University, notably George Lyman Kittredge, Milman Parry, and Albert B. Lord, discovered new ways of relating ideas about sung narrative to the study of epic poetry and what has come to be called—though not without controversy—“oral literature.”
In this volume, sixteen distinguished scholars from Europe and the United States offer original essays in the spirit of these pioneers. The topics of their studies include well-known “Child Ballads” in their British and American forms; aspects of the oral literatures of France, Ireland, Scandinavia, medieval England, ancient Greece, and modern Egypt; and recent literary ballads and popular songs. Many of the essays evince a concern with the theoretical underpinnings of the study of folklore and literature, orality and literacy; and as a whole the volume reestablishes the European ballad in the wider context of oral literature. Among the contributors are Albert B. Lord, Bengt R. Jonsson, Gregory Nagy, David Buchan, Vesteinn Olason, and Karl Reichl.