Greensboro College Professor Publishes a Book on Oral Storytelling

November 14, 2019 3:48 pm
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GREENSBORO, N.C. – Greensboro College Professor Sheila Nayar has published a book on storytelling without a written language.

“Before Literature: The Nature of Narrative Without the Written Word” (Routledge, $26.95 paperback) examines storytelling that, whether for historical, technological or socioeconomic reasons, takes place without alphabetic literacy.

In the book, written in clear and accessible language to appeal to undergradudates, Nayar examines such questions as:

  • How does a story unfold when carried solely in memory, when it cannot be written down or externally stored?
  • What structural and stylistic pressures are imposed when it must travel through space and time exclusively by word of mouth?

In addressing these and other questions, Nayar looks through such lenses as the oral epics “Mahabharata” and “The Odyssesy,” showing how the norms that shaped them continue to exhibit influence today in such contemporary media as Bollywood films, Hollywood spectaculars, and comic books.

Nayar also exposes some of the hows and whys of written literature, leading overall to a greater understanding of all forms of narrative.

Readers can preview a portion of the book at https://www.amazon.ca/Before-Literature-Narrative-Without-Written/dp/0367242818

Nayar has published four other books, as well as numerous scholarly articles in such journals as Journal of the American Academy of Religion; PMLA, the journal of the Modern Language Association of America; and Studies in Philology.

She won the 2011 Marshall McLuhan Award for Outstanding Book in the Field of Media Ecology, an award given annually by the Media Ecology Association, for her 2010 book “Cinematically Speaking: The Orality-Literacy Paradigm for Visual Narrative” (Hampton Press).

A professor of English and Communication Studies, she holds a B.A. from Concordia University, an M.F.A. from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She joined the faculty in 1999.

Greensboro College provides a liberal arts education grounded in the traditions of the United Methodist Church and fosters the intellectual, social, and, spiritual development of all students while supporting their individual needs.

Founded in 1838 and located in downtown Greensboro, the college enrolls about 1,000 students from 29 states and territories, the District of Columbia, and seven foreign countries in its undergraduate liberal-arts program and six master’s degree programs. In addition to rigorous academics and a well-supported Honors program, the school features a 17-sport NCAA Division III athletic program and dozens of service and recreational opportunities. Learn more at greensboro.edu.

Think critically. Act justly. Live faithfully.


Media Contact:
Lex Alexander, Director of Communications

Greensboro College
815 W. Market St.
Greensboro, NC 27401
336-272-7102, ext. 5398
Cell: 336-707-6617

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