Textualising the Siri Epic.
Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia (Academia Scientiarum Fennica). 1998. 695 pp.
ISBN 951-41-0812-4 (hardback)
50 euros (hardback)
|How does an illiterate singer produce a long oral epic? What is the origin of his “text”, available only for a fleeting moment at its performance? How can a multifaceted oral performance be transformed into a book? The primary oral textualisation and the secondary written codification of the Siri epic, 15,683 lines, are described in detail in the present volume on the basis of recent fieldwork among the speakers of Tulu, a Dravidian language, in southern Karnataka, India. The “oral author”, Mr Gopala Naika, is one of the many talented singers of oral epics in Tulunaadu and a possession priest in rituals which use oral epics as their mythical charter and a source of mental therapy.
A Finnish-Indian team, Prof. Lauri Honko and Ms Anneli Honko, M.A., from the University of Turku and Prof. Viveka Rai and Dr Chinnappa Gowda from the University of Mangalore, documented the Siri epic on audio and video tape in December 1990. Only five lines shorter than the Iliad, this purely oral epic, published in Tulu and English, constitutes a point of comparison for researchers interested in the making of oral epics. The epic is published as two separate volumes, FFC 265-266.
The present volume serves as an introduction to “textual ethnography”. Several core problems of tradition research are discussed, and new concepts, such as “mental text” and “multiform”, are introduced for the analysis of oral composition. Eleven earlier cases of textualisation, from Lönnrot and Radloff to Johnson and Smith, are reassessed from the methodological point of view. The main part expands to describe the textualisation process of the Siri epic in detail. Folkloristics, comparative religion, ethnopoetics and comparative research on epics are pooled to account for the complex religious and profane contexts of epic performances in Tulunaadu.
LAURI HONKO was Professor of Folkloristics and Comparative Religion at the University of Turku, Finland, from 1963 until his retirement in 1996. Today he leads the Kalevala Institute, a research unit for comparative epics research at the University of Turku. During 1972-90 he served as Director of the Nordic Institute of Folklore and in 1975-78 and 1991-96 as Research (Academy) Professor with the Academy of Finland. Among his early works is Geisterglaube in Ingermanland (FFC 185, 1962) and more recently he published The Great Bear, A Thematic Anthology of Oral Poetry in the Finno-Ugrian Languages (with Senni Timonen, Michael Branch and Keith Bosley, Finnish Literature Society, 1993).