The following are excerpts from participant impressions written soon after the Summer School and published by the Finnish folkloristic internet journal ELORE, in its 2/1999 issue, available at http://cc.joensuu.fi/~loristi/2_99/vak299.html. Publisher: Suomen Kansantietouden Tutkijain Seura ry., Joensuu, Finland. E-mail: email@example.com
P. S. Kanaka Durga, Centre for Folk Culture Studies, University of Hyderabad, India:
The Fifth Folklore Fellows’ Summer School at Turku, Finland held from 8th to 23rd August by the Finnish Language University of Turku and Swedish Language Äbo Akademi University under the able and efficient leadership of prof. Lauri Honko, prof. Emeritus and Director of the Kalevala Institute, was a well planned and highly organized academic and training programme for folklore researchers ranging from amateurs to scholars in folklore. It provided a dais for dialogue on different aspects of folklore studies among folklorists drawn from different countries and disciplines (social sciences/humanities) across the world. Participating in FFSS99 both personally and intellectually is really a memorable experience for me.
Personally I did not feel much displacement while I was in Turku. It is mostly due to the cordiality and hospitality of the organisers. I was quite comfortable with the food and felt as if at home. The greeneries and the landscapes, the tall conifer trees, the pleasant mornings, the late sunsets in the evenings, pleasure trips to Pikku Pukki island across the grand and quiet Aura river, banquet at Lace Pavilion, excursion to traditional landscapes of South Western Finland, Untamala Church, FFSS party at ‘Castle Louhi’ in Laitila, the archaeological remains and renovations of the pre-historical settlements of ancient and medieval Turku etc. The affectionate and cordial treatment of the Finnish people whom we came across are still afresh in my memory. Thanks to the organisers for having enabled us to see such a nice country like Finland due to the Summer School.
As a folklorist working in this area for more than a decade, I was able to refresh and reorient my knowledge in the light of the latest trends on different issues – the textualisation process of folk expressive traditions, field work, ethics, archiving etc. Scholarly interaction with eminent professors in folklore – Lauri Honko, Anna- Leena Siikala (Finland), Dell Hymes, Margaret Mills, John Foley (USA), Ulrich Marzolph (Germany), Barbro Klein (Sweden) and others opened new vistas in my thinking process. As an academician, I had a good intellectual exercise in FFSS. The programme of FFSS is designed in such a way that each and every participant got the satisfaction of ‘being in academic dialogue’ with the fellow participants, faculty and other scholars.
The availability of library and xeroxing facility till late in the night up to 9 o’clock made our reference and workshop presentation works very easy and comfortable. The library service rendered to the participants is really commendable. The pre-circulated preprints gave the participants an idea about the areas of discussion in the Summer School. The plenary papers, the panelists’ presentations and discussions broadened the realm of the topics. The keynote addresses delivered by the group leaders of the workshops… helped the participants to acquaint themselves with the methodology and important conceptual frameworks of their respective themes. – – The group leaders are veterans in their fields of study and well known scholars in folkloristics across world. Their erudite scholarship, resourcefulness, immense knowledge and experience enabled the participants to upgrade their theoretical underpinnings and come out of the Summer School successfully.
Nasanbayar, Inner Mongolia Academy of Social Sciences, Hohhot, Inner Mongolia, PR China:
I got an invaluable opportunity to participate in the FF Summer School 99, thanks to the organisers’ financial support and considerate arrangements. The summer school was an intensive training for young scholars like me in folkloristics, providing the various theories of the folkloristic and cultural scholarship in today’s world. Through two weeks’ study I got familiar with many new theories, debates and tendencies in the related field.
We students not only got access to new knowledge, but also made practice in how we should communicate with one another as scholars, taking part in discussions at the workshops and in the panels as panelists. I think the Summer School should carry on the tradition of having student panelists, from which young scholars get benefits in their future career.
Of course, I also enjoyed very much the Finnish friendship, hospitality and warmth. The two weeks I spent in the beautiful country is one of the most wonderful experiences in my life, which I am sure is very helpful in my future research and life. Again: Thank you very much, Finnish friends!
Nino Tokhadze, Department of Folklore, Shota Rustaveli Institute of Georgian Literature, Tbilisi, Georgia:
FFSS 1999 is one of the most wonderful and impressive experiences in my life! – – I have never seen so many people equally devoted to what they do. The first person I felt this from was Ingela Ollas (Course Secretary), as she was the first one who contacted me. The Organisation Committee anticipated every single detail and informed me almost three-four times a month. Sending preprints in advance was a brilliant idea, as all of us were introduced to the topics and able to choose an article for further discussion.
I have never seen so many highly-intelligent and experienced scholars representing different countries of the world and collaborating together as if they were the members of one department for a long time. During these two weeks I have gained more knowledge than I could have done within a year in my home town as I was absolutely dedicated to FFSS!
FFSS 1999 was a really great help for me. Since returning to my home town, Tbilisi, I can observe myself and see what I can do and what I cannot, where I need to improve myself as a scholar and where I need the help of others. Since August I have always had a feeling of your presence, I have become more self-confident: I have found myself, I am a member of an international group! Thank you!
Aaron Tate, Center for Studies in Oral Tradition, University of Missouri, Columbia, U.S.A.:
It would be difficult to summarize the wealth of experiences shared at this year’s Folklore Fellows Summer School, but even more difficult to provide a critique (which is what we have been asked to do for this report). In short, the two weeks in Turku were everything promised by the preliminary materials and international reputation: a well- organized, intensive, detailed, and wide-ranging investigation of current folkloristic research, with emphasis placed on variation and its analysis in the study of oral literature. Student-teacher representation was heterogeneous and provided the nutriment for the course. Guidance was marshaled by folklorists from Europe and North America, while the pupils and their fieldwork came literally from around the world.
Mornings were spent, typically, listening to keynote lectures by workshop leaders and were followed by panel discussions in which FFSS participants responded to papers given by younger folklorists, most of whom were Finnish. It is my understanding that this was the first Summer School to employ such a format, and without a doubt, it seemed to work well for integrating and involving each of the participants in a daily debate. The efforts taken in preparing the Preprints paid valuable dividends, and in some cases had students discussing papers long before they were presented. Afternoons saw the students listening to more lectures and meeting with their respective workshop groups as well as working in the FFSS library and computer rooms.
There is no way to speak for the others’ experiences in their respective workshops, but I must say that the oral epics’ group was superb. Each day Professors Harvilahti and Foley walked us through a well-planned routine. Participants were first exposed to general problems, questions, and issues facing the textualization and analysis of oral epic traditions. The teachers then provided examples from Altaic, Finnish, Ancient Greek, Old English, and South Slavic traditions. Next came a lucid and precise summary of the methodologies which the workshop leaders had used in their own work. – – For the rest of the seminar, students in the epic workshop presented analyses of their own materials through the lenses of the methodologies which had been discussed.
The requirement that each workshop prepare a final report seemed to ratchet up the intensity significantly. Students began to get the hang of the morning sessions, and the amount and quality of debate increased accordingly. Friends could be found hovering late-night over computer screens in preparation for the next day’s workshops. – – Those late-night discussions were heady affairs, and served to fuel debate during the day; it became clear by the last sessions that each student had each contributed in unique ways to a mass of ideas which each was struggling to master and put to use.
Marilena Papachristophorou, Athens, Greece:
The conference’s organisation was perfect, with the preprints, the hand-outs, the panels, the discussions, the variety in the points of view, the demos, the informal atmosphere and the fact to be welcome with broken English. The idea to incorporate the Kalevala symposium in the FFSS programme was also very good: it gave us the opportunity to open our perspectives and to meet some more scholars. I don’t think you could do anything more to stimulate the participation; in my opinion, this was a maximum.
The workshop (III) was also a stimulating exercise which taught me a lot. We managed to work in a very limited time and to collaborate with people we didn’t know before – that means in pressing conditions. To me this was the most difficult part of the “game”, and I am happy to say that I have experienced an ideal collaboration.
Laura Jiga, Institute of Ethnography and Folklore of the Romanian Academy, Bucharest, Romania:
FFSS99 gathered scholars and researchers from different countries. This implies different richness of materials and cultural, ideological and political backgrounds. This might influence the attitude towards ourselves as folklorists and towards the use and priorities of our work. Without neglecting the differences, FFSS99 focused on those levels of approaching folklore (theoretically and comparatively) which might be operative for all of us.
As a member of Workshop III -Ê- I’d like to mention, that during our long discussions those ideas which, maybe, were intuitively known by us before, became concrete. Ethical issues risen from fieldwork and archiving practices, as well as the concept of “textualization” and its integrating within the framework of the analytical processes of collecting and archiving, became important themes of discussions. I’m not going to write more about our workshop. I just want to stress the fact that we succeeded in working as a team. It was a good exercise and we are ready to repeat it. Though we had eight afternoons at our disposal, we couldn’t cover all the problems we were interested in.
We had lot of discussions also in the evenings, sometimes till later in the night, in our “free time”. One of the questions that often occurred was how to define and delimit the fields of research dealing with folk cultures (folkloristics, ethnography, ethnology, cultural anthropology). Is it a sign that the young (and also older) scholars are still preoccupied with these problems? But we weren’t so serious all the time, but laughed a lot, being delighted to learn that, beside our work, we have a lot in common. The “extra official” contexts which the organizers of FFSS99 prepared for the participants (excursions, parties, sauna sessions) were also good opportunities to get to know each other.
I don’t know whether three weeks (since the FFSS99 finished) are enough for an objective and detached view upon it. But one thing is sure: it was a school.
Karen Miller, Folklore Archives, UCB, Berkeley, California, U.S.A.:
Where does a folklorist go to be pampered, saunaed, feasted and well entertained lavishly and find 30 or more scholars all as eager as oneself to talk folklore just about all the time? Where else! This year in Turku I found myself among uniquely privileged participants at the FFSS99. I was impressed before I ever got to Turku by the efficient yet hospitable and kind care of Ingela Ollas, for every anxiety attack I had she smoothed away with ease and grace. – – In every aspect of organisation and logistics the staff were without peer.
The daily program was long and frankly after two or three days of it tiring. I felt that often my attention and concentration was faltering after two or three hours of presentation. Although I understand wanting to fit a number of excellent papers into the session so as to spark discussion and debate. There was for me clearly a limit to my absorption rate in which I could meaningfully think or reply to all the papers. Only now that I have time for reflection and can ponder again some of the ideas presented do I feel I am taking in all the wealth of material presented.
The chance to meet, discuss and form friendships must be one of the most uniquely important aspects of the FFSS. Taken as a whole I found and think I will continue to find the FFSS99 a pivotal point in my folklore education and work.
Sabine Wienker-Piepho, Universität Göttingen, Germany:
Das Besondere an Turku, ja, was war es eigentlich? Mir schien, es war dies ein “event” (ein neudeutsches Modewort), ein Ereignis, das derart perfekt organisiert war, daß einfach nichts schief gehen konnte. Raffiniert, ausgefeilt bis ins Letzte. Gruppendynamisch hochdifferenziert ausgetüftelt! Das Vorfeld mit den Preprints und den ermutigenden Schreiben von Honko selbst! – – Dann die kluge Auswahl: möglichst wenig Teilnehmer aus möglichst vielen Ländern. Das kniffelige Prinzip des konsequenten Abbaus von Hierarchien als Versprechen: “…the line between ‘teacher’ and ‘student’ will be thin indeed at the FF Summer School, for which even professors, department heads and chief arcivists apply (but are not always accepted)”. – –
Relativ rasch hatte ich dann auch die Struktur begriffen, das morgendliche Ritual der Vorlesungen und der darauffolgenden “Panels”, welche keine Gemütlichkeitsnischen zuließen, sondern auch die eher Passiven, die Stillen sanft aber entschieden in die Bütt zwangen. Dann die Nachmittage mit Arbeit in den kleinen, sorgfältig zusammengestellten Workshops zu den vier Themenkreisen. An den Nachmittagen ging es dann wirklich zur Sache, aufgemischt wie wir waren, gab es kein Vertun: es mußte etwas dabei herauskommen, irgendetwas. – – Ich war nämlich in Honkos Gruppe “Research Ethics”. Großes Abenteuer, erst dachte ich “Hier bist du fehl am Platze, du hast nie Feldforschung gemacht, Du bist ein Schreibtischtäter, ein armchair- researcher, hast immer mit Archivalien gearbeitet, was willst Du eigentlich hier?” Dann wurden Fälle aufgetischt, zunehmende Sensibilisierung machte sich breit, ich erinnerte mich plötzlich, daß ich selbstverständlich doch viele Male im Feld war. Und Ethik gibt’s schließlich auch in Archiven, selbst in noch so harmlos daherkommenden wie dem Deutschen Volksliedarchiv, in dem ich ein Jahrzehnt lang meine Erfarungen habe sammeln können.
Am Ende stellte sich bei mir eine massive Sprachkrise ein: ich wachte nachts schweißgebadet auf, nach irgendeinem englischen Wort suchend. Und tagsüber war ich wie gelähmt: ich verstummte förmlich, weder Deutsch noch Englisch war mir spontan parat. – – Inzwischen war die Sache “in full swing”: wir hatten uns wundersam auf circa 100 Teilnehmer vermehrt – dank des Kalevala-Symposions. Jetzt wurde es ernst für mich, denn vom Kalevala kannte ich kaum mehr als das Skelett der dürftigsten Daten. Da geschah etwas Seltsames: in der Bibliothek des Instituts fand ich eine deutsche Übersetzung des Kalevala, die erste überhaupt, die von 1852! Sie stand da einfach so rum. Und man lieh sie mir fürs Wochenende. Einfach so! Unglaublich! Ich muß eben doch einen relativ seriösen Eindruck machen! Mit diesem bibliophilen Schatz verkroch ich mich in mein Hotelzimmer und las und las und las. Freitag nacht und den ganzen Samstag! Es war beeindruckend. Am Sonntag fragte Dell Hymes entzückt und vielleicht auch ein klein wenig eifersüchtig, woher ich denn dieses kostbare Buch hätte? Und ich sagte ihm, sowas stünde in Turku eben einfach so in den Regalen herum…
Meine Sprachkrisis wich langsam zögerlichem Selbstvertrauen. Am Ende verabschiedete ich mich mit einer kleinen Feldstudie, die ich verdeckt (“clandestine observation!”) durchgeführt hatte – ich schrieb, um nachdenklich zu machen, alle jene Composita mit “TEXT” an die gute alte Tafel des Hörsaals, die während der Summer-School und während des Symposions gefallen und in den Preprints und Handouts abgedruckt waren: Hier meine Sammlung nochmals zum Abschied:
FFSS-Enigmata (- a short poem)
cotext, context, pretext,
mental text, metatext, subtext, oral text (short: “oxt”),
texture, textuality, intertextuality, intertext, textation,
texticity, texturity, textility, hypertext, hypotext,
extratext, intratext…etc., etc.
(FFN 19, March 2000: 25-27)