A Symposium at the University of Turku, August 14-15, 1999

On the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Finnish national epic, the New Kalevala (1849), an international symposium for comparative research on traditional epics will be organised on “The Kalevala and the World’s Traditional Epics” at the Kalevala Institute of the University of Turku, Finland, on August 14-15, 1999. The symposium, which is open to all interested scholars, belongs to the conference programme of Folklore Fellows in Oral Epics, an international network of epic scholars, and it is part of the programme of the 5th Folklore Fellows’ Summer School 1999, a scholarly training course taking place on August 8-23 at the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University. One of the four workshops of FFSS99 will concentrate on “Variation and Textuality in Oral Epics” and draws on the expertise of epic scholars.

The term “traditional” refers to epics which are based on oral poetry but in which the oral “texts” have undergone a process of editing in their written codification. A traditional epic cannot be understood apart from its oral base. The Kalevala is an interesting representative of traditional epic mainly because of its well-preserved source materials. The textualisation of Elias Lönnrot’s “mental text” can be followed through five stages during 1828-1862. Oral poetry preserved its enigmatic character in the process and allowed for different interpretations.

The aim of the symposium is to bring together international experts on oral and traditional epics, which constitute an invaluable cultural heritage in various parts of Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa. Experiences of the documentation, editing, translation and publication of long oral epics around the world will be of special interest. The focus on the Kalevala will serve general comparative purposes: it will help to delineate the role of traditional epics in the development of young nations as bearers of their cultural identity.

First, the symposium will study the “Kalevala Cycle of Epics”, i.e. the textualisation of the Kalevala and the impact of great traditional epics (Homer, Beowulf, Edda, Nibelungenlied, etc.) on the Romantic concept of epic and Elias Lönnrot’s work. Papers on the Kalevala’s “descendants” (Kalevipoeg, Hiawatha, Peko, Lacplesis, etc.) are welcome to illuminate both their individual history and the international impact of the Finnish epic.

Second, the symposium will study the “World’s Traditional Epics” in general. Papers on oral and traditional epics from all parts of the world will discuss actual research problems. Fieldwork on and archiving of oral epic traditions are interesting from the point of view of textualisation. Scholars from the developing countries and areas possessing living epic traditions are welcome to report on their work. The more theoretical discussions will focus on the forms of variation in oral epics caused by different performance situations and cultural contextualisation. Another topic will be the textuality in oral epics, i.e. how their singers achieve narrative cohesion and actual meaning in performance.

The Organising Committee of the symposium received 42 preliminary registrations from 16 countries out of which 28 speakers representing 13 countries were selected. The Committee decided to keep all papers in plenary sessions, because resorting into sections would have meant a disintegration not in line with the idea of a symposium. This meant that each speaker will have only limited time, not adequate for the reading of a full-lenght paper but sufficient for focusing on the main problems and the most important results in his or her research. During the first day, the time for one speaker will be 20-25 minutes, after which questions from the floor will be answered. The topics of the four sessions will deal with the Kalevala and affiliated traditional epics from Homer to Longfellow as well as with classical theoretical issues of epics research exemplified through Old Norse, Turkic and African epics.

The second day will be dedicated to panels around Baltic Sea epics, the epics of India and Iran, the epic traditions of Southeast Europe and the Nordic countries. The presentation time for each speaker will be 15-20 minutes. The panels will conclude with discussion.

The possibility of a symposium volume with complete papers to be published relatively soon afterwards is being explored.

On Saturday evening, the symposium participants, including the members of FFSS99, will be guests of the City of Turku. A banquet on Sunday will conclude the programme.

The Kalevala and the World’s Traditional Epics

14.8. SAT

Opening session
Welcome, Keijo Virtanen, Rector of the University of Turku
Opening, Heikki Koski, Governor of West Finland
Lauri Honko, The Kalevala as Performance

Session 2
Dell Hymes, Lineaments and Approximations
Karl Reichl, Genealogy and Heroic Conduct in Turkic Oral Epics
John William Johnson, Contribution to the Theory of Oral Poetic Composition

Session 3
Minna Skafte Jensen, Homeric Performance
John Miles Foley, Story-Pattern as Sema: The Odyssey as a Return Song
Clive Tolley, Oral Assumptions: A Warning from Old Norse

Session 4
Anna-Leena Siikala, Different Cultures, Different Voices: A View on Kalevalaic Poetry
Georgij A. Levinton, The Influence of the Kalevala on the “Artificial” Epic (Hiawatha and Kalevala revisited)
John B. Alphonso Karkala, The Nature of Heroic Action in “Traditional” Epics: Consideration of Some Events in the Kalevala

Reception by the City of Turku

15.8. SUN

Session 5
Panel 1: Traditional Epics of the Eastern Baltic Sea Region
Senni Timonen, A Singer’s Response to the Kalevala
Elina Rahimova, Crystallized Imagery Manifested Through Variation in Lemminkäinen’s Journey to Päivölä
Ülo Valk, From Prose to Verse: the Case of Legends in the Kalevipoeg
Madis Arukask, Restructured Runo-songs in Estonian and Setu National Epics
Paul Hagu, Anne Vabarna as the Singer of the Setu Epic Peko
Seppo Suhonen, Wealth of Language in the Setu Epic Peko and its Translation
Lauri Harvilahti, The Bear Slayer of Andrejs Pumpurs as an Ideological Epic

Session 6
Panel 2: Indian Epic Traditions
C. N. Ramachandran, Ambivalence and Angst: A Note on Indian Folk Epics
Sabir Badalkhan, A Study of the Roles of Composer and Performer of a Balochi Epic

Session 7
Panel 3: Iranian Epic Traditions
Jaan Puhvel, Constraints on Historicity in the Book of Kings
Mehri Bagheri, The Mythical Structure of Iranian Epic
Ulrich Marzolph, The Persian National Epic Shahnamed in between Tradition and Ideology

Session 8
Panel 4: Southeast European Epic Traditions
Elena Agoston-Nikolova, The Construction of the National Epic Tradition
Nicolae Constantinescu, Cultural Context and Performance Context

Session 7
Panel 5: Nordic Epic Traditions
David Elton Gay, The 1849 Kalevala: Romantic Epic as Finnish Tradition
Margaretha Mellberg, Epic in the Faroe Islands
Osmo Pekonen, How Beowulf Sailed to Finland
Susan E. Walima, Kalevala-Tradition Among Finnish-Americans: Values, Community and Heritage


Lauri Honko
Director, Kalevala Institute

FF Summer School 1999 and the Kalevala Symposium

We are grateful to:

Alfred Kordelinin Säätiö
Kalevala-instituutti/Turun yliopisto
Kauppaneuvos Matti Koivurinta (Turku)
Koneen Säätiö
Nordiska Samarbetskommittén for Humanistisk forskning (NOS-H)
Nordisk forskarutbildningsakademi (NORFA)
Nordiskt Nätverk för Folkloristik (NNF)
Suomen Akatemia
Stiftelsen för Åbo Akademi
Turun Kansallisseura
Turun kaupunki
Turun yliopisto
Turun Yliopistosäätiö
Åbo Akademi

(FFN 17, June 1999: 5-7)

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