John Miles Foley, Founding Editor

Paradigms of Social Aesthetics in Themne Oral Performance


Based on a long-term study from 1987 to the present and incorporating storytelling apprenticeship, ethnographic fieldwork, and (largely informal) interviews, this paper discusses the dynamic nature of oral art as manifested through Themne storytellers’ efforts to vary the oral performance. It explores the relationship between multimedia resources, both intrinsic and external to the performance environment, as well as artistic variation and social aesthetics, along with the audiences’ appreciation and interpretation of oral performances. It argues that the impulse toward social aesthetics is responsible for the oral artists’ deployment of multimedia resources and their varying of oral narratives during storytelling. Specifically, it examines how sociability, the physical setting of performance, and belief systems or worldview function as paradigms of social aesthetics, focusing on their influence on artistic variation and creativity among the Themne of Sierra Leone.

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