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"In vain I tried to tell you": Essays in Native American Ethnopoetics Paperback – June 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews


"The culmination of the most important work in recent decades on the poetics of Native American oral traditions."—World Literature Today
(World Literature Today)

"A gem that should be fundamental required reading for every aspiring and practicing folklorist."—Journal of American Folklore
(Journal of American Folklore)

"Readers will find in this book an unusual wedding of passion and precision. . . . Well-written, thoughtfully constructed, edited for consistency and adorned with helpful notes on Northwest Coast ethnology and Chinookan orthography."—American Indian Culture and Research Journal
(American Indian Culture and Research Journal)

From the Inside Flap

A landmark volume that revolutionized our understanding of the power and significance of Native stories and storytellers in North America, "In vain I tried to tell you" showcases the methodology and theory of ethnopoetics. Focusing on the rich Native storytelling traditions of the Pacific Northwest, Hymes investigates what particular stylistic and linguistic devices and patterns in oral tales reveal about rhythm and order in the cultures creating them. A breathtaking series of analyses of particular myths and their relationship to performance forms the centerpiece of this volume. The concluding essays explore Native perspectives and approaches to stories, highlighting the reasons behind the storytellers’ choices of characters, genres, and titles.

This edition features a new introduction by the author, a more comprehensive general index, and an expanded index to analyzed translations and English-language texts.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 403 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (June 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803273436
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803273436
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,182,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
This book is groundbreaking. It collects several of Hymes' articles in one place. Important articles like Breakthrough into Performance are present and expanded. Anyone interested in the poetry of Native American verbal art should read this book. Hymes is at pains to show that a close (linguistically motivated) analysis of Native American verbal art reveals much of that poetry (whether it be the structuring of intitial particles or the uses of sound symbolism). However, for all that is important about Hymes' commentary, the most important feature is the the stories he presents. Vicoria Howard's 'Seal and Her Younger Brother Lived There' (in Chapter 8) is a modern classic. This is an important book for linguists, Native Americanists, anthropologists, and folklorists and is widely influential. It is a pity that it is currently out of print. Shame on the University of Pennsylvania Press.
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