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Alkazi Theatre Archives

A Bibliographic Listing from the Archive

Verbal Art as Performance

Book: Verbal Art as Performance
Written by: Richard Bauman
Published by: Waveland Press, 1984

In the book, ‘Verbal Art as Performance’, author, Richard Bauman brings together folklore, anthropology, linguistics and literary criticism as fields of his research as he focuses on exploring verbal art as a form of performance. The author is concerned with “developing a conception of verbal art as performance, based on an understanding of performance as a mode of speaking.” (p.4) The first half of the book consists of the essay “Verbal Art as Performance” by Bauman, draws from performances in Chamula and Mexico, Malagasy Kabary performance (a poeticized speech performance) in Madagascar, and many other ritual performances. The author infers speaking as a cultural system (or as part of cultural systems defined in other terms) which varies from one speech community to the other, in relation to the nature and extent of the realm of performance and verbal art. (p.13) To develop the conception of verbal art, Bauman develops an approach through the lens of performance studies where the formal manipulation of linguistic features is secondary to the nature of performance, per se, conceived of and defined as a mode of communication. (p.9)

The second half of the book presents four essays by various scholars illustrating different aspects of folkloristic performance. Barbara Babcock in her essay talks about metafolklore (a term, first used by Alan Dundes) and metacommunication in narrative performance. Garry Gossen shows how a holistic approach to Chamula verbal behavior is useful for describing and analyzing linguistic aspects of the socialization process. (p.82) The book further derives its source of ethnographic description from the Cuna Indians of the Atlantic coast of Panama, near the border with Colombia, discussing how the Cuna speaking and chanting can be viewed in and for itself as verbal art.

“Performance may thus be the cornerstone of a new folkloristics, liberated from its backward-facing perspective and able to comprehend much more of the vitality of human experience.” (p.48)

Verbal Art as Performance