Voice in a narrative: A trialogue with Ruth Finnegan

Gintsburg, Sarali; Galván Moreno, Luis and Finnegan, Ruth (2021). Voice in a narrative: A trialogue with Ruth Finnegan. Frontiers of Narrative Studies, 7(1) pp. 1–20.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/fns-2021-0001


Abstract: Ruth Finnegan FBA OBE (1933, Derry, Northern Ireland) took a DPhil in Anthropology at Oxford, then joined the Open University of which she is now an Emeritus Professor. Her publications include Oral Literature in Africa (1970), Oral Poetry (1977), The Hidden Musicians: Music-Making in an English Town (1989), and Why Do We Quote? The Culture and History of Quotation (2011). Ruth Finnegan was interviewed by Sarali Gintsburg (ICS, University of Navarra) and Luis Galván Moreno (University of Navarra) on the occasion of an online lecture delivered at the Institute for Culture and Society at the University of Navarra. In this trialogue-like interview, Ruth tells about the childhood experiences that were decisive for her interest in orality and storytelling, about her education and training as a Classicist in Oxford, the beginnings of her fieldwork in Africa among the Limba of Sierra Leone, and her recent activity as a novelist. She stresses the importance of voice, of its physical, bodily dimensions, its pitch and cadence; and then affirms the essential role of audience in communication. The discussion then touches upon several features of African languages, classical Arabic and Greek, and authoritative texts of Western culture, from Homer and the Bible to the 19th century novel. Through discussing her childhood memories, her assessment of the development and challenges of anthropology, and her views on the digital transformation of the world, Ruth concludes that the notion of narrative, communication, and multimodality are inseparably linked.

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