What is the effect of orality on "Song of Lawino" by Okot p'Bitek? How does "Song of Lawino" show the stylistic hallmarks of oral-formulaic composition?

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Originally written in Acholi (Luo), an indigenous language of Uganda, the Song of Lawino incorporates numerous aspects of Acholi oral tradition. Because the principal narrator, Lawino, is not literate, Okot p’Bitek intended the work’s form to reflect the way she would have created a composition that was meant to be...

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Originally written in Acholi (Luo), an indigenous language of Uganda, the Song of Lawino incorporates numerous aspects of Acholi oral tradition. Because the principal narrator, Lawino, is not literate, Okot p’Bitek intended the work’s form to reflect the way she would have created a composition that was meant to be performed. This included a narrative expressed in poetic form, in rhyming couplets. Other elements linked to Acholi traditions, which the author often points to as borrowings, include proverbs and songs, as well as references to the festivals at which they would have been sung. The author did the first translation into English, which appeared earlier than the Acholi original, retained the original rhyming couplets, but he was not fully satisfied with it.

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"Song of Lawino" shares with most oral epic the large scale form of an extended narrative poem. It is not an example of oral traditional epic, in that it was composed by an single individual about a subject contemporary to that writer rather than looking back to an heroic age. It does, however, borrow some of the stylistic surface feature of oral poetry. It is composed in a simple rhythmic structure appropriate for public performance, uses repeated epithets, invokes stereotypes, and is structured agglutinatively, creating effects not by subordination and analysis but by piling on layers of detail. Also like most oral poetry, it is close to the human life world and makes its point via striking example rather than abstraction.

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