“Literature,” as the word is most often used, means written works: poetry, fiction, prose. The term itself, derived from the Latin word for “letter of the alphabet,” enshrines a particular notion of what literature involves—namely texts. The concept of a nonwritten, oral “literature,” therefore, might seem a contradiction in terms. Nevertheless, before modern literate culture valued one form of language (written) above the other, before there was even any one word such as “literature” to cover the disparate forms of verbal art often tied to social functions, there existed poems, songs, dramas, and narratives. In contemporary nonliterate societies, there are many examples of flourishing “literary” forms, while even in modern Western society, the most popular verbal artistic modes are “oral” in that they are transmitted without the use of writing. How many people, for example, read the text of a popular hit song, a Broadway play, or a television show?