Original Research - Special Collection: A.G.van Aarde Festschrift

Memory, collective memory, orality and the gospels

Dennis C. Duling
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 67, No 1 | a915 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v67i1.915 | © 2011 Dennis C. Duling | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 July 2010 | Published: 11 April 2011

About the author(s)

Dennis C. Duling, Department of Religious Studies and Theology Canisius College, United States Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, South Africa, United States


This article first explores individual memory as understood from the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans to modern-day neurology and psychology. The perspective is correlated with collective memory theory in the works of Halbwachs, Connerton, Gillis, Fentress and Wickham, Olick, Schwartz, Jan and Alida Assmann and Kirk and Thatcher. The relevance of ‘orality’ is highlighted in Kelber’s works, as well as in oral poetry performance by illiterate Yugoslavian bards, as discussed in studies by Parry, Lord and Havelock. Kelber’s challenge of Bultmann’s theory of oral tradition in the gospels is also covered. The article concludes with observations and reflections, opting for a position of moderate−to−strong constructionism.


Collective Memory; Performance Theory; Oral Tradition; Gospels; Constructionism


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