SIEF2011 10th Congress: Lisbon, Portugal.
17-21 April 2011
Literature, legends and other tales
Location Tower A, Piso 3, Room 312
Date and Start Time 18 Apr, 2011 at 14:30
Our focus is narrative and social sense of place and belonging. This includes folktales (Qatar, Serbia), diaries (Austria), novels (Finland) and legends (Spain). An incursion into Jewish sapiential writings helps give an idea of the multiple meanings in which literature is here considered.
This panel will begin with ancient Jewish sapiential literature but will cross centuries and we'll be journeying through different places and stories: oral Qatari folktales and the preservation of its memory, a small town in Finland and the fictional picturing of its modern transformation, a view of 19th century's Austria through the pages of a young woman's diary, a Spanish account of the Rose Legend and the expression of belonging to earth, Serbian oral narrative and its idea of Fate.
At the same time, all these different subjects and texts seem to lead the researchers into an inquiry of the ways in which literary texts and narrative imagination remain crucial for historical, social and cultural representation of any sense of place belonging, where and whenever it shows up.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
"The Donkey of Noon": oral stories and folktales of Qatar
Oral stories are tremendously important to Qatari culture, but to date few have been preserved in writing. Our student-faculty collaboration documented Qatari folktales for future study. In this presentation, the students will read selections and discuss their experiences of fieldwork in Qatar.
Supported by a grant from the Qatar National Research Fund, a collaborative student-faculty research team from Qatar University and Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar was formed to collect and document Qatari folktales. These oral stories are tremendously important to Qatari culture, but to date no English language collections exist for international study. Due to rapid modernization and profound social, cultural, and economic change within the country, the urgency of documenting folktales is key to preserving the oral traditions and narrative memory of the region.
Guided by faculty mentors, the student researchers recorded folktales told by the grandparent generation of Qataris, transcribed the narratives in Arabic and translated them to English, retaining the rhythms of Qatari dialect. By compiling these folktales as a bilingual collection in both Arabic and English, we hope to share Qatar's rich oral traditions with a global audience, to support the preservation of Qatari heritage for its citizens and residents, and to encourage further folklore scholarship on Qatar.
In this presentation, the students will read selections of the stories and discuss their experiences of fieldwork in Qatar.
"And one can no longer even spot the place it once grew"
In my paper I study the great power of fictional means to describe the ambiguous and polyphonic reality. I use the novels and memoirs of the Finnish author Kerttu-Kaarina Suosalmi to tell the growth of a small rural town to a modern streamlined city and the change of a balanced idyll to a nervous always on-going building business.
Kerttu-Kaarina Suosalmi (1921 - 2001) was born in Lahti, a small rural town in southern Finland. "The most important of one´s landscapes is the landscape of the childhood. …The landscape of my childhood was a small town idyll. A safe house, large yard with trees, lawns, arbours", she once wrote.
Lahti had developed peacefully in the beginning of the 20th century. Until the Second World War it was a wooden town dominated by the church and town hall, both on its own hill opposite each other. After the war Lahti began to change rapidly. The amount of the inhabitants grew faster than in any other Finnish town of about the same size, mostly because of the evacuees coming from the areas lost to the Soviet.
The growth caused serious problems. A new general plan was made in a great hurry to clean the chaos. It meant that the typical qualities of the town scape were intended to change to a modern effective town as the slogans were.
Suosalmi defined the post-war Lahti as a town of upstarts and aliens. She described the milieu and people of the unbalanced town in many novels. The disoriented town has lent its history and features to Suosalmi's characters, maybe most dramatically in the novel Jesus' little soldier where the collapse of an unfinished house embodies the soul of businessmen.
My paper studies metaphors and the relevance between the reality - the history and the town scape of Lahti - and Suosalmi's fiction.
The Rose legend: the link between burial and the feeling of belonging to the earth
The transmission of the self community of the village and its feeling of belonging to the earth may be considered from the ethnographic analysis of a few mental and cultural pictures, linked to different burial modalities, expressing another way –sensations and feelings– what the word cannot do.
The symbolic perception of burial in the past was coupled with a self-representation which links closely population and village (the land and its boundaries), traditionally structured by legends, stories and cultural images expressing their belongings to the place. The posteriors changes have led to a symbolic of mobility. The inhabitant, which cemetery is the reference, had transmitted a notion of the self in terms of binding groups -with a moral vision which constitutes a mirror image- by the sharing of a space linked to the ancestors: the cemetery, which belongings set the tone of the intimacy: their stories, their representations codes and that which is not transmitted by the word, but the mental picture.
My ethnographic research approaches some shared cultural images expressing emotions and feelings. It deals with a imaged development of a speech containing explanatory theories and the sensations non translated in words, making a link between the silence and cultural image condensing what is left unsaid and the inexpressible, reminding us the famous dilemma of Wittgenstein : "What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence". Which reinforces the feeling of belonging, what's more with the strictly codified, they are the unexpressed aspects. I will emphasis on the burial ground and its vegetation world, through the Rose legend (from my ethnography), as constitute and referent in the transmission of the sensibility and their socialization, as well as the evolution of the burials in the columbarium.
Serbian narratives about fate and the questions of folklore genres
The presentation will introduce to narratives about fate in Serbian and Southslavic folklore (ATU 930, 931, 934). Formulaic patterns for the presentation will be linked to personal experiences as told in memoratae. The focus will be the importance of genre and its significance for research.
We will present most frequent narratives about fate in Serbian and Southslavic tradition, and Balkan region as well. Of course, this types are common to other European and Oriental areas (ATU 930, 930A, 931, 934). The paper will stress some patterns and formulaic images characteristical of presentation of fate such as destiny written on forehead, depicting of female fates (suđenice), or ethical norms linked to predestined (un)happiness, based on traditional patriarchal values.
If on one hand typical images can be discerned, on the other hand there are informatiors' strong affective presentation of them, connected to personal and familiar experiences. So, memoratae (rare in earlier collections, and more easily to be found in contemporary publications) reflect this tension between traditionaly transmitted narratives and personal expression.
But the distinction fabulatae/memoratae or legends/tales is just one part of the problem. Through the presentation of fate the genre characteristics of the texts analysed can be discerned, and generally speaking, they show the vacillations between fairy tales, novellas, religious tales, legends, even parodies. Even some new terms can be proposed.
Being considered either as a methodological tool or aesthetic phenomenon, the folklore genre shows its vitality. It seems that the thematic principle can be a basis for naming some new subgenres, as long ago proposed by Brednich.
The Fates in the oral narratives of the Vlachs of North-Eastern Serbia
The paper tries to present the way in which the three Fates are portrayed in nowadays oral folk narratives of the Vlachs of North-Eastern Serbia, with a special emphasis on several memorates which do not fit in the widely known Balkan patterns.
This paper is based on the field material recorded by the author between 2002 and 2009 in several Vlach villages of North-Eastern Serbia, during semi-structured interviews on mythological themes. The respondents narrate about the three Fates which visit the house of the newborn three nights after birth both in the first person singular, from their own experience, which includes them in the category of memorates, and in the third person, reproducing the already existing texts which circulate within the community for generations, the fabulates. Most of the times, these narratives, be them memorates or fabulates, fit in the widely spread Balkan patterns, which are encountered both in the Serbian and Romanian folklore, as the Vlach system of beliefs has developed at their confluence. However, we have also come across several accounts which do not follow the usual pattern and can hardly be classified, as they gather and intertwine elements from different folk genres, and, unlike other narratives about the Fates, have quite a complex plot, with a surprising end. These accounts have been obtained from what we call a 'specialized narrator', namely a charmer, a practitioner of folk magic. Analyzing these texts, we try to answer the question whether they are purely individual creations or they have been transferred, together with the magical knowledge, from the predecessor of the charmer; whether the 'specialized narrators' can act as factors of change in the community's repertoire, as well as to determine how permissive the border between fabulates and memorates is.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.