"In vain I tried to tell you"


"In vain I tried to tell you"

Essays in Native American Ethnopoetics

Dell Hymes
With a new preface by the author

403 pages


June 2004


$29.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

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 preface by the author, a more comprehensive general index, and an expanded index to analyzed translations and English-language texts.

Author Bio

Dell Hymes is professor emeritus of anthropology and English at the University of Virginia. He is the author of many books, including Now I Know Only So Far: Essays in Ethnopoetics (Nebraska 2003).


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

"A gem that should be fundamental required reading for every aspiring and practicing folklorist."—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

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