"The single most penetrating analysis of a body of text materials in the Native American literature."—Jarold RamseyFrom the Introduction:
"The most important work in recent decades on the poetics of Native American oral traditions. . . . Hymes restores voice to oral texts that have been little more than museum pieces."—World Literature
"A gem that should be required reading for every aspiring and practicing folklorist."—Journal of American Folklore
"An important landmark."—Choice
This book is . . . devoted to the first literature of North America, that of the American Indians, or Native Americans. The texts are from the North Pacific Coast, because that is where I am from, and those are the materials I know best. The purpose is general: All traditional American Indian verbal art requires attention of this kind if we are to comprehend what it is and says.
There is linguistics in this book, and that will put some people off. ''Too technical," they will say. Perhaps such people would be amused to know that many linguists will not regard the work as linguistics. "Not theoretical," they will say, meaning not part of a certain school of grammar. And many folklorists and anthropologists are likely to say, "too linguistic" and "too literary" both, whereas professors of literature are likely to say, "anthropological" or "folklore," not "literature" at all. But there is no help for it. As with Beowulf and The Tale of Genji, the material requires some understanding of a way of life. Within that way of life, it has in part a role that in English can only be called that of "literature." Within that way of life, and now, I hope, within others, it offers some of the rewards and joys of literature. And if linguistics is the study of language, not grammar alone, then the study of these materials adds to what is known about language.