Verbal Arts in Madagascar combines a history of the encounter between Europeans and colonized people with a groundbreaking analysis of four types of Malagasy folklore: riddles, proverbs, hainteny (dialogic exchanges of traditional metaphors), and oratory. In this richly textured study, Lee Haring has collected several hundred witty, imaginative texts and translated them into English for the first time.
Verbal Arts in Madagascar contains the first history of the collecting of folklore in Madagascar from 1820 to the present. Haring contends that when European investigators recorded this "native culture" they created a vision of "folklore" which served French domination by trivializing Malagasy reality. Now, through comparison and analysis of texts gathered during a century and a half by foreigners, Haring shows that the four types of folklore examined make use of a pervasive two-sided dialogic structure.
Although Haring works from texts transcribed and published at least seventy years ago, his analysis always highlights the performance of folklore in actual social settings. By drawing upon the observations of collectors and upon information presented in chronicles, reports, and other historical documents, Haring successfully reconstructs the performances of texts and their social context in which the performances took place.
Verbal Arts in Madagascar pioneers an integrated approach to past folklore studies into contemporary theory. It will especially interest students and scholars in folklore history, African studies, and anthropology.