The Montenegrin Oral Epic in a New Perspective
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In his study Putilov advances the opinion that the question of the relationship between history and poetry in Montenegrin oral epic poetry can be resolved by the historical-typological method, which reveals that oral heroic poetry, one of the universal forms of folk art, did not, in its earliest stages, rely on the representation of real historical personages. Its point of departure was, instead, "the oldest strata of ethnic history, understood and fixed in the language of myth" (227; emphasis mine). By this method it can be demonstrated that archaic epics are the repository from which basic epic subjects and fundamental motifs are drawn. This is the level at which the basic structure of the epic and the types of heroes and their opponents are established, spatial and temporal relationships are delineated, and epic style is formed. Later, Putilov argues, the oral epic tradition underwent a succession of transformations, evolving under the impact of historical events and reflecting radical changes in the national consciousness. Each stage in the development of oral epic is influenced by the preceding one, thus ensuring a specific kind of continuity between typologically different stages. The process, according to Putilov, is also characterized by a permanent shift from the fantastic to the concrete historical world and to the strengthening of the principle of truthfulness. Thus it becomes apparent that the distinctive characteristics of the national epic regarded as primary by the historical school of thought were in fact acquired at a later stage of development as the result of a prolonged evolution of epic poetry from its archaic to its historical forms. Putilov argues that the above process is virtually irreversible.--Taken from third paragraph.
Oral Tradition, 6/2-3 (1991): 279-283.
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