In Defense of Romancero Geography
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"Ramón Menéndez Pidal’s pioneering essay “Sobre geografía folklórica. Ensayo de un método” (1920) constituted the first full-scale implementation of geographic methods in romancero studies. At a time when the very concept of traditionalism was hotly debated and the centrality of the transmission process to a definition of traditional poetry was largely ignored, this study provided Menéndez Pidal with several valuable insights into the mechanisms of variation governing orally transmitted Hispanic ballads. By meticulously plotting the geographic dispersion of key motifs present in two widely disseminated modern romances, each represented by some 160 traditional versions, he found that each independently conceived motif, each element that appears in a traditional romance, attains its own continuous and compact, but ever-evolving area of diffusion and has a history distinct from that of every other motif or element in the text. In addition to documenting the important role played by the independent propagation of individual motifs in the continuous transformation of oral romances, his geographic study of these two sizeable bodies of evidence also revealed the existence of clearly discernible "local types" or groups of versions in geographic proximity which manifest considerable thematic uniformity and a high proportion of common variants. In the face of the "prodigiously multiform" variation to which his two corpora attested, this evidence further supported his recently formulated theory of collective re-creation, exemplifying the way and extent to which individual creative freedom is restricted and partially neutralized, by the pressure of communal sensibilities and attitudes (artistic, moral, and ideological)."--Opening paragraph.
Oral Tradition, 2/2-3 (1987): 472-513.
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