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Orality, Folktales and the Cross-Cultural Transmission of Narrative
The Romance Between Greece and the East
  • Lawrence Kim, Trinity University
Document Type
Contribution to Book
Publication Date

The last several decades have witnessed a renewed interest in exploring the remarkable similarities of motifs, plots and themes between Greco-Roman narrative and that of other ancient literary traditions (e.g., Egyptian, Persian, Jewish). If such commonalities are not coincidental or the result of independent development (and research indicates that they are not), it would be reasonable to raise the question of transmission, that is, by what means they passed from one culture to another. In the past, however, scholarly energies, caught up in the debate over the novel's origins, were more directed toward establishing the chronological priority of one narrative tradition (e.g., India, Egypt) over the others and less with the mechanics of actual cross-cultural transmission. Even in more recent work one finds a studied vagueness on the issue (understandable perhaps, given the relative lack of evidence); at best there seems to be a presumption that written texts, specifically translations, provided the means by which stories travelled from one culture to another. The purpose of this article, however, is to explore the possibility that such cross-cultural transmission in the Hellenistic and Imperial world could have occurred orally as well as through writing.

Tim Whitmarsh & Stuart Thomson
Cambridge University Press
Citation Information
Kim, L. (2013). Orality, folktales and the cross-cultural transmission of narrative. In T. Whitmarsh & S. Thomson (Eds.), The romance between Greece and the East (pp. 300-321). Cambridge University Press.