Genre Transformations in Balkan Slav Folk Literature
Genre Transformations in Balkan Slav Folk Literature
The transformations of oral literary genres arise from: the changes of national culture and oral tradition through history, the imbuing of specific traditions with certain different lingual tribal and regional traits and the individual alterations of set genre forms. In individual works, it is possible to determine transformations made in a relatively fixed genre model; in a series of works, whose systematic changes of genre traits have been adopted by the collective, however, the nature and meaning of transformation are typical. In the relationship between two or more oral genres, the genre poetics appears in relation to the historical poetics of genres as a poly-genre contamination in relation to the transformative process. The imbuing of genres is inseparably linked to their transformations and vice versa. By expanding the tasks of historical poetics as a search for genetic links, Gacak writes that the chief problem lies in distinguishing signs of artistic swerves, marginal transformations, various evolutional stages and sequences, the creation of new traits and configuration of artistic genre systems. In its essence, historical poetics is not only succession, continuity but a field of new principles as well.
The approach to the transformation of oral genres is hindered by the unresolved questions of classification. It is not possible to draw a reliable model of genre transformation on the basis of clear but theoretically insufficiently consistent divisions in which the criteria of context, subject, formal traits of the text, methods of performance, musical traits of songs, etc, are intertwined. Classifications, with numerous and sometimes disproportionate criteria of division which have not been or hardly can be fully elaborated, imply numerous types of transformations. Although the theoretical foundations of these classifications are stronger, their dispersiveness renders the narrowing down of transformation models impossible and they impose their other shortcomings upon them as well.
There are genres in the oral tradition which are more open to inter-genre influences and inclusion of other genres; on the other hand, some genres are less open and liable to changes. A genre's valence or openness, as its ability to interweave with other genres, depends on the volume, structure, presence of the improvisatorial principle of creation, the level of the obligatory meaning of context, the contents of the genre in regard to the genre in which it is included or with which it coalesces. The valence of simple genres is greater than that of complex genres, but the former change less. When speaking of simple genres, I do not refer to "simple forms", elaborated in literary theory by Joles and Ranke, but to simple and complex genres Bakhtin wrote about in his text "Problem of oral genres" ("Problema rechevyh zhanrov").
The inclusion of simple genres in complex oral and narrative fictional genres is frequent, while the detachment of simple genres from complex ones is relatively infrequent.
A relationship between two genres depends on how thoroughly their genre elements are intertwined or imbued, the realisation of their valence, inferior or superior position, completeness or fragmentariness, similarity (correspondence) or dissimilarity. In a poly-genre text in which the intentions and functions of the two genres are similar, the transformations of meaning and expression that take place do not deny the essence of either genre. In confronting contrasting genres for example, the curse and the blessing complex changes occur and one genre's prevalence over the other.
Simple oral genres, or appellative, since they directly express stands and needs and are addressed to the listener, can be magic such as malediction, blessing, oath, incantation, and non magic such as praise, reproach, pardon, prayer, riddle. Instances of their interweaving are more frequent in complex fictional and appellative genres, but the relationships between these genres can be noted in certain cases. Blessing, prayer and praise, on the one hand, and malediction, reproach and curse on the other, represent correspondent statements because of their similar relationship toward the recipient. Malediction and oath are frequently based on the same formulas of invoking evil; the wish for evil to visit is real in the former, while, in the case of the latter, the necessity that misfortune be avoided guarantees truthfulness or the accomplishment of an action. Other modalities of the temporal realisation of the wished and unwished for in the malediction and the oath enable the varying of their expressive traits on the same bases.
Simple oral genres rarely interweave because of their succinctness and clarity. There are hardly any verbal transformations of them, except in parodic genres. More frequent are transformations of appellative statements in a context giving additional purport to the statement. Admiration of courage, capability or beauty can be expressed by a feigned curse which has the function of praise.
Some simple genres can expand to become complex genres by stringing statements. A number of successive praises meaningfully and aesthetically form a lyric song or speech of praise. A number of successive reproaches, prayers, blessings, curses similarly form complete poetical or oral complex genres. Laments and prayers are the most expressive examples of the formation of a complex genre from appellative genres. A complex genre may contain other types of appellative statements. Such statements enrich the basic feeling or stand with other feelings, needs or intentions. A feigned curse as a blessing and a feigned blessing as a curse use formulas of the contrasting genre in a transformed manner, by denying the former, the latter expresses to the recipient of the message a stand contrary to the one indicated in the initial formula.
When simple and complex appellative genres are incorporated in narrative texts, their function no longer adapts to the real context, but to the situation in the narrated reality. In a fictional-narrative text, the poetical interest of the genre and the narrator fictionalises the context and traits of language communication, subjecting them to the organisation of the whole. The transformation of appellative genres depends on the nature of the fictional qualities of the narrative genre they are being included in, and their meaning is not lost but becomes more prominent in the process. The appellative genre in the fictional genre acquires new functions arising from its dramaturgic-narrative role, from shedding light on the relationships between the protagonists in the narrated situation or on the narrator's comment most frequently in the final part of the poem or story. Latent-multi-connotations of the adage "Woe to those who lack without their own" (Teshko svome bez svojega) at the end of the epic poem about the marriage of King Dushan in the Vuk Karadzhich collection becomes the conclusive meaning and moral of the whole plot. In the process of dual understanding, the audience or readers simultaneously comprehend its meaning both in the narrative situation and in general.
Stories of the battle of wits, the ingenuity of a clever girl, Solomon or the comical Serbian hero Era is described through the solving of riddles or the resolution of tasks based on the logic of riddles. The laments of mothers or fiances in some epic poems often express the collective feeling of sorrow because of the common loss through aesthetic and emotionally tense expressions of grief. Inclusion of laments in ballads is not typical, but, in some versions, descriptions of ill fate are accompanied by the laments of protagonists close to the unfortunate hero. Nikolai and Dimitrina Kaufman underlined the textual and musical elements of songs showing they derived from laments (oplakvaniya). Some theoreticians supposed that the epic genres arose from laments. Bogatyrev notes that peoples whose epic genres are more developed have a rich tradition of laments and vice versa. There is a certain similarity in the Serbian and Croatian traditions between laments and bugarsticas (13- and 14-syllabic poems). The maledictive invocation of evil to visit the traitor, a cruel or hated ruler in epic poems or the blessing of a hero or ruler whom the people love sometimes have the function of presaging collective victories or defeats ascribed to an individual. Curses of a deceitful wife, girl or beau are incorporated in lyric and epically intoned poems with a prominent moral vein.
Reproach and malediction as genres complement each other by their differences although they are directed at different temporal planes. It is precisely in this fashion that they link segments of a dynamic psychological relationship. Praise and prayer are frequently interwoven in expressing respect, on the one hand, and requests prayed for, on the other.
In speeches or poems in which the genre of reproach expresses praise or the genre of praise reproves someone or something, the ironical spirit of reversal in a humorous manner turns the duality of content into expression, so that there can be no doubt why something, which should not be commended, is praised or why a praiseworthy being is reproved. Not only do texts on opposite genre poles mock shortcomings by their unambiguous evaluations; by describing the diversity of human wishes and needs in a carnivalesque-humorous manner, they also toy with the genres themselves.
The ambivalence of feelings, wishes or needs reflects itself in alterations of expressions, ie, genres (for example, laments and praises, laments and maledictions). These alterations reflect the equivocality of man's perception of himself or of other people.
Transformations of complex genres are conditioned by changes in the context, text and not-textual elements of expression.
The circumstances in which one genre of oral literature is performed can also determine its genre status. The song sung by Lazaricas (girls singing ritual songs on St. Lazarus Day) in the home of a recently deceased girl also has the function a lamentable reminiscence, which is absent if the song is performed as part of a free repertoire. The weakening, absence or alteration of the ritual function of a poem most often brings about changes in the text or meaning of the poem. Thus, a poem put down in older texts as part of the family ritual appears in more recent writings as part of the wedding ceremony. With the dying out of processions as ritual behaviour, procession songs have become love or family songs. In some cases, ritual songs have become children's folklore.
Genre transformations on the textual plane cause the inclusion in the basic genre of atypical segments of the plot, the inclusion of atypical ideas, motives, formulas, chronotopes, protagonists and their attributes, or motivation, structures, etc. The presence of one genre in another may be merely indicated by a temporary genre denotation. The genre denotation is abandoned if the initial formula of the text is not confirmed later. Also, a text may end with a final formula whose genre denotation is not completely correspondent to the text that preceded the end. Genre swerves are also made in cases when heroes atypical and secondary in such a plot appear in the same genre. The change in or omission of the three point structure unsettles the poetics of the fairy tale. The change in the type of verse is reflected also on the transformation of the very poems, although their topics are retained. The set of ideas about the narrated reality and the fabulous resolution of the story or a poem as the expression of the interest of the narrated text of various genres bring about their transformations.
Non-textual elements the language of gesture, of presents, of music contribute to the genre dimension of oral literary works. A text has different genre meanings depending on whether it is sung to a sorrowful or a cheerful melody.
The collection of beliefs and cognizance of the world form the common basis of thematically topical material, the specific elements of which can be used in different functions and in different genres. Motives and topics can be genetically similar and simultaneously to have different genre intentions, functions, strategies. Researchers have established the similarities and differences in peoples' perceptions of hajduks (Balkan Slav insurgents who had fought the Turks), heroes, rulers and army leaders in epic poems and historical legends. Beliefs about the all-Balkan hero Marko Kraljevich, the various stages of his life, the various traces of his actions, are particularly widespread. When national heroes are in question, one can discern alterations of functions and greater or lesser popularity of poems in different ethnic and regional communities. Kmetova and Afanasjeva Koleva have shown the transformations of motives and heroes of the Kosovo Battle in Bulgarian tradition. The similarities and differences in poems about national heroes of oral traditions and other relatively popular Balkan Slav heroes Ljutica Bogdan, Stari Debeli Baba Novak, Hajduk Veljko, Jankula vojvoda, Kuzman kapidan, vojvoda Momchilo and others should also be researched.
In her study of prosaic and versified fairy tales with similar or identical plots, Maja Boshkovic-Stulli has pointed out the differences in motivation, in the narrator's attitude towards the fantastic elements and narrative finalisation. Nada Miloshevich-Djordjevich has determined the similarity between the material of non-historical legends and the corresponding poetical tradition. Instances of the imbuing and interweaving of only prose or only poetic genres and their transitional forms are even more frequent: of stories and humorous stories, fables and etymological legends about the creation of animals, epic lyric genres, etc.
In his study "Transformations of fairy tales", Vladimir Prop has singled out types which can be applied to the transformations of other genres: transformation of basis (reduction, amplification, damage, conversion, intensification and weakening), ex-changes, assimilations.
Since we cannot encompass all versions of an oral tradition in the actual and evolutionally ordered sequence, what we can do from the viewpoint of historical poetics of genres and genre system is to establish the phenomenon of transformation in a sequence of merely a number of texts that have survived to this day on the basis of the analysis of changes in the formal, topical, contextual and communicative characteristics of the genre, and their complex inter relationships.
Genre transformations can be the fruit of the evolution of oral tradition, of the mechanical contamination of different genres, the interweaving of subject matter and expression of an oral tradition. Evolutionistic transformations arise from the changes of culture and its oral expression. The tradition of Balkan Slavs has suffered the most changes when clashing and meeting non Slav indigents, the Christian and, subsequently, Islamic faiths, the adoption and adaptations of written sources. More recent acculturations brought about the final withdrawal and deterioration of national culture, receding before the onslaught of the values of the urban and consumer media society, Mechanistic transformations appear in contaminations of texts, the stringing of formulary motive and topical fragments.
If one is to research the direction of the transformation of oral literary genres, one must base one's research on the original genres.
In the process of DEMYTHOLOGISATION, a fantastic historical epic with clashes between dragons and heroes turns into a heroic-historical epic. Supernatural beings in demonological legends and ballads and mythological poems acquire human traits. In some versions of poems in which a woman's features are psychologically likened to those of a nymph, the heroine is a supernatural being, while in other versions she is a real woman (nymph seductress/woman seductress). The fantastic perception of the world of fairy tales is likened to the real world by the introduction of everyday motivation and attributes of the protagonists, and it is completely destroyed, as Parpulova shows, by replacing magic objects and actions with hoax and slyness. The introduction of psychological motivation, rational explanations of the magic likens fairy tales to novellas. Failure to perform a task, an unhappy ending, an inclusion of elements of a moralistic and tragic interpretation of the world in the utopical world of fairy tales give rise to the fairy tales' transformations into legends. A specific type of demythologisation is linked to the aesthetic development of motives arising from myth and magic.
Religious RE-MYTHOLOGISATION represents a transformation of folk poems and stories in which the Christian and Islamic orthodox and apocryphal beliefs are included in the oral tradition. Saints and Virgin Mary replace the pagan demons and gods in a number of works, while in others, they overpower them. Advocates of religion, dervishes and priests (more frequently in Catholic than in Orthodox folk literatures), also overpower demonic forces. Even a minor change can transform the genre meaning of the entire narrative course; in Vrchevich's fairy tale, the fleeing hero throws two magic objects, which turn into insuperable obstacles, but he lacks the third necessary object to escape the demon, and his appeal to God and God's help, in turn, conclude this story with a Christian moral.
The HEROISING of the image of the world suits the transformation of poetic genres into epics. Heroism and heroic moral are accompanied by the elevation and development of songs and narrations of duels, abductions, battles. The epic perception and recollection of past events as the interpretation of the past and epic confirmation of the feeling of collective identity influence the form of the epic topic, epic values and styles of the poems. A broad narrative course, developed descriptions of details, catalogues of heroes, the possibility of including and expanding episodes, the clear polarization into allied and rival, male and female roles and values are importants traits in the transformation of non epic genres into epic ones. Poems without historical content can also acquire epic qualities.
The transformation of poems in the LYRICAL direction is based on reducing a multi episodal action to one situation in which the temporally compressed and summarized plot is subjected to the expression of emotions and descriptions of emotional relationships between the protagonists. The importance of dialogue and monologue as forms of a number of lyric poems is increased in the transformation of poems into transitional or pure forms of lyricism. Parallelism between the world of nature and the world of people creates a poetically significant trace of lyrical presence. Although this parallelism arises from the foundations of traditional culture, it is the most prominent in lyric poetry. Thus, symbols and lyric formulas become extremely important in lyricising as a type of transformation of poetical genres. Lyricising appears in versions losing their dimension of epic and lyric epic poems. German Slavicist Alois Schmaus underlined there were areas in which the epic dominant is prominent and that there were regions in which the lyric dominant is characteristic. In regions in which the lyric dominant prevails, poetic works are transformed, acquiring more lyricism. The regional characteristics or oral tradition to an extent correspond to ethno psychological types and Gavazzi's range of culture in the Balkans.
Genre transformations directed at the HUMOROUS could be termed "carnivalisation" in the Bakhtin manner. It It comprises ridiculing and parodying of the broadest possible range of genres from simple, appellative to complex pose and poetical, fictional and narrative genres. Derisory praise corresponds to praise, a humorous wedding song to a wedding song, a parody of an epic poem or fairy tale to an epic poem or fairy tale. The parodic comic of character is based on the reversal of respectable traits, while the statements no longer befitting them remain. A hero of a genre is countered by a comical anti hero in the opposite genre: a courageous hero by a coward, a young groom by an old man aspiring to marry a young girl, a hero in a fairy tale by a swindler. The moral of parodical poems and stories simultaneously reveals the moralism of the parody and the model values of the initial genre. Prop writes that a parody is funny only when it reveals the internal weakness of what is parodied. Parodies also deride typical genre situations, but the comic of the situations as well as the comic based on the ambivalence of words or expressions is more characteristic of pure humorous stories than parodies.
I would like to conclude that, in my belief, developed typological and historical studies of individual genres and their inter relationships and genre systems are essential for a detailed study of genre transformations.
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* Njakoi problemi na b'lgarski junaški epos s ogled na negovoto s'vremeno s'stojanije, SbNU, 53, 1971, 39-181.
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