So I lied when I said I'd be focusing on the Great Translation Project. I was also reading this on the side, as background for Anglo-Saxon performance.
Foley, John Miles. How to Read an Oral Poem. University of Illinois Press, 2002.
The book also has an associated website.
I'm of two minds on this book. From an SCA point of view, it's a very readable introduction to studies in oral poetry. No real surprise - I believe it was developed by Foley as a textbook for an undergraduate class. It uses a variety of examples, from Homer to slam poetry, to make its points. Of especial value to the Scadian performer will be the introduction to three major ways of studying oral poetry - performance theory, ethnopoetics, and immanent art (which encompasses the more famous and mechanistic oral-formulaic theory) - as well as applying these techniques to what Foley calls "Voices from the Past," our surviving manuscript copies of poems that were (mainly or in part) oral works.
It is an introduction, though, and anyone looking for a detailed "how to" on bringing Beowulf or Roland to life is going to be disappointed. It does have a very extensive bibliography, though, so you can find the works that do have these more in-depth treatments.
Also, the book makes good points about the shared vocabulary necessary for oral performance to work. If I look at you and say, "Once upon a time..." you instantly access a shared "register" of the fairy tale. You expect a certain pattern in what follows; variation within limits. Regrettably, we don't have immediate access to the registers the old poets were working in. If I begin to describe a sea-voyage to you, you don't instantly expect the five parts of a sea-voyage that the Old English poets used to construct that scene. We can try to learn these registers, but as SCA performers, we probably shouldn't expect our audiences to know them. At least, not until we've been performing in them long enough that they learn they by experience. But until then, some of the force and power of the traditional forms may be lost. It's another argument for finding ways to hybridize modern and medieval performance, to present authentic material in an appropriate style but still access the audience's available registers.
I had two main problems with the book. The first was that the tone was a little too informal sometimes, almost a little too contrived. Maybe the sense of contrivance came from the set of ten maxims which Foley invented. They mostly conveyed good and useful points, but why did he have to call them *proverbs* (sic) instead of, oh, maxims or dictums? Or even "proverbs," with air quotes? What's with the asterisks?
The second was more of a frame of reference problem. This book is written for (and possibly by) non-performers, for academics studying oral poetry. There's a great and healthy emphasis on the need to experience oral performance to really understand it, but this is preaching to the choir for most of us. There's a sort of wonder that techniques like musical scoring could be used to transcribe a performance that includes music, or that has a sense of musicality. Some of the major points that the author dwells on are things that are common practice for performers like ourselves.
All in all, it was a good read and a nice introduction. There are some good lessons to learn in it. I'm actually glad I read it before the seminal Singer of Tales; I could easily see myself thinking that oral-formulaic theory was the be-all and end-all of oral composition. (It just fits too well with my engineer's mindset.) But except for the bibliography, I doubt that I'll be going back to it much. This could have been a library loan.