Front matter - Sydney Studies in Society and Culture, Volume 1 (1983)


  • Stephen Knight
  • S.N. Mukherjee


verbal culture, literature and society, oral tradition


This collection of essays attempts to analyse the relationships between literature and society, between words and worlds, between texts and contexts. We prefer the word 'verbal culture' as it incorporates both literate and pre-literate societies. (It is often forgotten that most pre-literate and some literate societies are rich in oral tradition, which is really part and parcel of our culture.) The editors and the contributors do not follow a strict party line on this issue of interrelationships between society and culture. They approach it from various angles using varied methods of research. But we all agree that texts cannot be studied without their contexts and that the study of literature (or verbal culture) is not the monopoly of one particular university department or one particular discipline. This enterprise of publishing a collection of essays on literature and society had its origin in contemporary tensions. The editors and contributors (who are mostly from the University of Sydney) felt that restraints imposed by such outmoded institutions as university departments hinder our research on human societies in their totality. The universities, in the name of specialisation, conduct research and offer cumcula in a fragmentary and alienating manner. It seems that an interdisciplinary approach is still a threat to the existing structures of our universities. As a result a group from the departments of Anthropology, Education, English, French, History, Indonesian Studies and Oriental Studies got together to explore, in this book, the social role of verbal culture.