Textualization of oral epics

A conference for the Folklore Fellows in Oral Epics
Turku University, Turku, Finland
June 27-29, 1996


The conference focuses on your personal experience in the documentation, editing, translation and publication of oral epics. As a general framework we have the textualization process of oral epics, starting with the story in the mind of the singer (his/her mental text) and the prevailing ethnopoetic systems, manifesting itself in performance and continuing via the fieldworker, archivist, translator, editor and analyst toward the final codification and publication of a text which henceforth begins to represent the oral epic in question as one of its innumerable possible versions.

Questions of learning traditions and the “oral editing” of epics during the singer’s performance career, the impact of intertextuality, modes of performance and the role of music also belong to the sphere of interest as well as the linkage of oral epics to collateral action such as ritual, working technique, festivals, etc. All these factors affect the formation of texts. The focus, however, should be on the strategies chosen for the eliciting and processing of a text aimed for publication. We are interested in decisions not always reported in the publications themselves: the number of informants and versions, the role of field assistants, interpreters, translators, and the various phases in the scholar’s collecting and editing strategy.

How do we best create optimal source materials for detailed studies in oral epic discourse, composition and performance? What limitations for the understanding of epics are caused by the fact that we always want the Book and avoid audiovisual and other alternative presentations of material?

To formulate your topic you may look back to your own work in this area, choose aspects which you deem most interesting and perhaps compare your strategy with the methods of other scholars in your field. The methods used by compilers of semiliterary epics and the textual histories of the classical great epics are also relevant topics. The cultural impact of published epics in different contexts also require attention, not least their relation to cultural identities. Important epics also serve as models for subsequent publications of epics. Considering that problems and research traditions will differ from one cultural-geographical area and historical period to another we hope to get cases of textualization and editing of epics from such areas as: 1) Europe (Homer, Beowulf, Edda, Serbocroatian epics, the Kalevala, etc.), 2) Turkic/Central Asian epics, 3) Arabic epics, 4) African epics, 5) Indian epics, 6) Epics of East-Asia, the Pacific and the Americas.

The conference will consist of six plenary sessions with 2-4 papers plus discussion in each. The introductory speaker of each session will have 30 mins. and the subsequent speakers 20 mins. each for the oral delivery of their papers. There is a plan to publish a selection of conference papers in some scholarly journal interested in this field of research. There is no participation fee. Limited local hospitality will be available.

The conference is intended primarily for the Folklore Fellows in Oral Epics but other scholars may also apply. Offers of papers should be sent to the Oral Epics Project, P.O.Box 14, FIN-20501 Turku no later than October 15, 1995. After that the organizers will send to you a formal invitation letter and a registration form.

(FFN 10, May 1995: 12)

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