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CFP: Issue 75 (2014) of Cahiers de Littérature Orale

Wednesday, January 8, 2014   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Lorraine Cashman
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The Other Voice of Written Literature

This special issue proposes to retrieve the world of orality among writers who show, in one way or another, that their experience of the oral—whether it was cultural or personal, fortuitous or much sought-after, subliminal or almost objective—is a matrix for their literary writing. Long before ethnography mapped the universes-without-writing, before occidental societies invented "oral literature,” the classics of written literature took into account the worlds of orality.

Controversy still arises over the expression: is it an oxymoron? Isn't the expression "oral literature” disqualified as a lexical, if not a semantic, aberration, through conjoining two antonymic referents, letter and speech? Yet modern writers have been fascinated by cultural and symbolic oral systems, whether full-voiced or muted by history. Sometimes what is involved childhood reminiscence; sometimes it is a later, chance discovery, seemingly a still-enigmatic, yet vital unlocking of an obscure or luminous gap, a passage into an unsuspected universe. These human or linguistic experiences of nearby or distant cultural otherness may form the very material of the practice of literature, for people of letters and paper. This was, for instance, the discovery of Jean Paulhan, whose exotic experience of Malagasy proverbs was the first principle of his thinking about language and writing; so too the discovery of Garcia Lorca, who collected lullabies "in all the regions of Spain” because of their strong grip on him. And after all, it was Flaubert’s scripture-like adventure to note his hero’s countrified customs and then, through his laborious rewriting, to stylize his original fictional ethnography in his final version.

Is the search for an effect of the real, the quest for a lost orality the intersection of an aesthetic interrogation and an anthropological question? So J. M. G. Le Clézio, listening to a storyteller, achieved a certainty that there is such a thing as literature.

Contributions for this issue should aim not at showing linguistic features of folkloric or popular orality in written literature, but at showing orality to be a cultural source and linguistic resource for textual imaginaries commonly called literary.

Cahiers de Littérature Orale (Oral literature journals), published by the Centre de Recherche sur l’Oralité (Research Centre on Orality, now CERLOM), is one of the rare French-language publications dedicated exclusively to orally transmitted texts. Each issue (about 220 pages, two issues or one double a year) is articulated around a topic related to the different facets of orality. It collects discussions, articles, reports and information.

Proposals in French or English should be sent before January 31, 2014 to Nicole Belmont ( Articles accepted should be submitted by April 30, 2014. Maximum length 6,000 words. See the note to authors in any issue of the journal.

Nicole Belmont (
Manon Brouillet (
Jean-Marie Privat (

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