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Preliminary communication

Oral Translation and Culture: New Metamorphoses of the Procne and Philomela Myth in the Traditional Ballads of Southern Europe

Simona Delić ; Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Research, Zagreb, Croatia

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page 115-152

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The article interprets how the ballads of three diverse traditions – the Spanish, Italian and Croatian – re-write the mythic plot of Procne and Phi¬lomela under the conditions of today's (postcolonial) re-reading of the mythic plot, at a time when the concept of tradition (the myth, the ballad) has considerably altered. Relying on the reader response method and insights into the theory of translation and the modern Humanistic discourse in the comparative study of oral poetry, the text leads into consideration, for the first time, of the Croatian oral ballad tradition as belonging to the international ballad type of Procne and Philomena, which has to date been detected and interpreted in the Romance ballad areal. In that process, particular attention is paid to the interpretation of the protagonists and the plots from the position of the interpreter of the tradition (comparatist, folklorist) herself, from whose aspect these ballad plots also represent a challenge for re-examination of the ethics of the interpreter's position, the cause-and-effect logic of narration and the myths of origins built in to the very foundation of the historical-geographic method, while also stimulating rethinking of the comparatistic concept of influence. Transference between interpreter and texts (myths, ballads) leads to registration of the traces of other cultures and to their hybridisation, notwithstanding the actual direction of influences. Thanks to transference between the interpreter, the myth and the ballad, one also notices the shift in interpretation of the mythic stories in the traditional ballads. The narrative and symbolic potential of the "trauma of the neighbourhood" of which the Procne and Philomena myth speaks, a trauma that is also registered in the imaginary of Mediterranean folklore, is given an unexpected turn in the traditional ballads by lowering from the symbolic to the real level. That fact bears particular weight since the narrative contract between the narrator and the listener is that of testimony in the traditional oral ballads in question, in whose form one recognises the simple form of casus. Apart from that, this is a case of a gender-reticulated discourse that also presents various possibilities by which the "female voice" disputes heroic history, providing various opportunities in various traditions for the intersection of the gender aspect with ethnic and class characteristics. That authorises the inclusion of these traditional plots in the comparatist "plot of mediation" (Marshall) that tries to re-examine the tradition to date of the contextual folkloristic and philological criticism of these narrative poems that are considered to be "exemplary" cases for an approach that tries to place in the foreground the ever-sensitive issue of the stance towards the Other (the narrator, text, foreign cultures, literary history, and reality).


traditional ballad, Procne and Philomela myth, plot, character, reader response, comparative study of oral poetry, oral translation, Mediterranean folklore, postcolonial criticism

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