Arvid August Afzelius' rather delightful biographical memories of his early years, as he told them to his daughters. He was instrument in the publicatArvid August Afzelius' rather delightful biographical memories of his early years, as he told them to his daughters. He was instrument in the publication and editing of Svenska folk-visor från forntiden (1814-1818), one of the first publications of Swedish ballads. He was an important part of the Romantic movement in Sweden and the development of what we today might call folklore. The prose is fun to read, though I find myself suspecting him of romanticizing his early life for his children and grandchildren's sake. I take what he says with a grain of salt. Oh, and I must not forget to mention that he was the composer of several psalms in the Swedish psalmbok as well as the composer of the folk-song style poem, Näcken (I insert this point in a way that is reminiscent of Afzelius' own narrative)....more
The book starts with a definition of "culture" from a 1911 standard Swedish encyclopedia, Nordisk familjebok, which constructs culture in terms of midThe book starts with a definition of "culture" from a 1911 standard Swedish encyclopedia, Nordisk familjebok, which constructs culture in terms of middle class values such as "milder manners," "advanced forms for the organiztion of society," individualism, sciences, sensitivity and rational/scientific thought. The authors say that "[i]n a way this is a study of the culture behind this definition of culture, a study of the making of the middle-class world view and life-style in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Sweden" (1). The authors restrict the study mainly to the period between 1880 and 1910 in Sweden, though they do farther backward in time as well as forward to emphasize the construction of mainstream culture in Sweden. They claim that middle class culture opposed not only aristocratic classes, but also looked at peasant and working class cultures to constuct thier sense of selfhood against. They are interested in the ways that middle class values became naturalized as Swedish. They analyze middle class or bourgeois as Swedish contempoary culture inherited a great deal from them (5). They do this through juxtaposing ethnological accounts of peasant and working class culture with middle class accounts of themselves. They point out that the ethnological accounts about peasants and working class were written by the middle class scholars and thus reflect middle class evaluations of peasant/working class culture. They also note that as the emerging power class, they did not expend a great deal of energy documenting themselves and their reflections on history often come across as nostalgia.
The first section of the book was written by Orvar Löfgren, who focuses on the differing ways that middle class viewed time, nature and home from the ways that peasants and working classes. In the first chapter on time, he discusses the ways that middle classes rationalized time. Peasants lived created culture around natural seasons and church calendars. Time for the peasant was hetregenous and organic, centering around work (harvest time, planting time, etc). Middle classes constructed time in accordance to rationalized parts, minutes, seconds etc, for to better manage the creation of commerce. Labor was less about the time when something was done and more about selling his time, efficiently. (need to finish my notes on this, so ha!)
One thing that I feel the book lacks: the authors do not really deal with literature, and literary folklore. While the anthropological approach was becoming dominant, they leave out the ways that literary folklore faded; it is a untraced thread. ...more
Seems like it might be hard to write this too; humble and humbling to admit to mistakes Does it still priviledge the folklorist over African-AmericansSeems like it might be hard to write this too; humble and humbling to admit to mistakes Does it still priviledge the folklorist over African-Americans by its very scholarly format The section on Alan Lomax was difficult to read; seems like an attack on a very personal and invasive level (is that what I do when I analyze someone's ballad?). Self reflexivity is a big part of the book's message, I wonder if it is making me aware of my self, thus the uncomfort. Why do i want to be a folklorist? My identification with people. My folksy feelings of authenticity - working class, etc. The last chapter, where he discusses the mistakes he made, the problems between a smart non-folklorists and folklorists scares me a little. It sounds like being married (well any relationship really) - communicating everything, not assuming, not taking things for granted. I felt bad for both Mullen and Jesse Truvillion. I wonder how I would explain things like fictionalization to my mother or my uncles.
What is he doing? Working towards a more inclusive and reciporical folklore method and study. His focus is on the racial interactions of white folklorists and black sources; and the power relationships between them. What is interesting for me is that he is part of the folklore side, he is not writing about other folklorists, but himself as folklorist as well. He talks about racist presuppositions (to get all philosophical and stuff) and about racial interactions and reconceptions. He attempts to contextualize the various folklorists he talks about, though they become uncomfortable subjects anyway. I wonder if my own discomfort comes from my own fear that I am racist in some ways. I don't want to be but I think that I am in no way immune ... Even my language here is evading the topic; I don't want to come out and say, yes I might be racist, or that I have racist thoughts....more
The book is very readable. She grounds her analysis in texts and avoids theorizing without examples. I wish I had know about this book as an undergradThe book is very readable. She grounds her analysis in texts and avoids theorizing without examples. I wish I had know about this book as an undergraduate. I wrote a paper trying to discuss how the use of the first person narrator in a book I read of a class, made the protagonist ambiguous; in the end of the novel, the reader was unsure if the narrator was the man described or not.
She is interested in how authors give readers the impression of the processes of thought, of consciousness of the characters and what devices they use to do this. She divides the book into two halves. The first deals with the third person narrator, the second with the first person narrator. She proceeds somewhat diachronically, but she see a synchronic pattern in the history of the methods. She focuses on grammatical markers, such as tenses, clauses, and punctuation in her discussion of the different devices for representing a character’s mind by the author. She points out that in realistic fiction, the protagonist conveys psychological processes and thoughts that no one would ever have communicated to them in real life; "… the paradox that narrative fiction attains its greatest 'air of reality' in the representation of a lone figure thinking thoughts she will never communicate to anyone" (7). Her argument joins with theories about the constructed and imaginary nature of narrative, even realist narrative. The third person narrator can delve into another person's mind in a way that is impossible for anyone in the real world, even perhaps the person narrating her own life. In realist fiction, and in other narrative forms, the human mind is "transparent" to the narrator, who can describe the character's thoughts. No one in real life is capable of doing such a thing. In other words, this transparency of the mind, of a character's thoughts is in itself a fiction. But is a compelling fiction that has some basis in reality; human beings think to themselves it seems, and we translate this experience to the fictional representation of the reality of a character's mind.
In the third person context, the author depicts consciousness in three ways: psycho-narration, quoted monologue and narrated monologue. An important component of her argument is the difference between the authorial and the figural mind. The authorial mind is the writer's authority to act as a thinking agent in the narrative. The figural mind is the mind of the character in the narrative. The psycho-narration method delves into the mind of the character, but with the narrator's ability to discern the thoughts she has, but he uses his own language to do so. She makes some examples to show it: "he knew he was late," "he knew he had been late," and "he knew he would be late" (105). Note that each of these examples subordinated the character's thoughts to the narrator's main authority; the second part of these examples is a subordinating clause. The point of view is the character's but the author/narrator expresses the thoughts.
Quoted monologues occurs when a character is quoted, as verbatim, by the narrator. The examples she uses to compare it with the other methods are: "(He thought:) I am late," "(he thought:) I was late," and "(He thought:) I will be late" (104-5). The thoughts are seen a occurring in the character's mind, unsaid. The thoughts are marked by verbs that express speech or thinking, change in tense, quotation marks or some other way; the reader can discern that the thought belongs or comes from the figural mind, not the authorial. This can be used in interesting ways to contrast between what the character thinks and what the narrator perceives (often the reality of the situation). The narrator remains the authority.
Cohn defines narrated monologue as "the technique for rendering a character's thought in his own idiom while maintaining the third-person reference and the basic sense of narration" (100). Her examples for comparison are: "he was late," "he had been late," and "he would be late" (105). This method is somewhere between quoted monologue and psycho-narration. The method "renders the content of the figural mind more obliquely than" quoted monologue and "more directly than" psycho-narration (105). The authorial and the figural are twisted together in this method; the narrator's identification but not his identity with the figural mind is placed forward by this method (112). The narrator has to take an attitude towards his characters; her thoughts are objectified and falsity and sincerity are formed.
The first person context, Cohn discusses retrospective techniques, from narration to monologue and finally the autonomous monologue. The first person context is odd; in many cases, the narrator is separated in time from what he narrates. The first person narrator is not really the same person; she is looking back at her past self. This can be exploited: an author can run the narrator’s thoughts now and memories together to create the idea that the character’s thoughts have not changed. There are some case where the narrated monologue of third person context approaches the first person version: the narrative appears to tell itself (169). ...more
Northrup Frye argues that literary criticism is a way of thinking, defining it thus: "… by criticism I mean the whole work of scholarship and taste coNorthrup Frye argues that literary criticism is a way of thinking, defining it thus: "… by criticism I mean the whole work of scholarship and taste concerned with literature which is a part of what is called variously liberal education, culture, or the study of the humanities. I start from the principle that criticism is not simply a part of this larger activity, but an essential part of it" (3). Literature is not taught, criticism is taught. He places criticism, and the humanities on the same level as mathematics and the sciences. He intends to rescue literary criticism from the sense that it is taste, which is entirely based on what is the current moral climate. To do this, he takes the various strands of criticism and posits a unity between them. He seeks to elucidate a structure or framework for studying literature. In my reading, the word, typology came to mind. He is setting up all the different interpretative and methodical concepts together to form a coherent whole. He suggest that criticism is like science in many ways; in introduction he suggests that like early science, criticism needs to realize that it is conceptual framework to work in (15). He argues further that criticism should not lean on theories outside literature to explain literature, but rather it should look to literature to explain literature. Criticism in his thinking is a problem of interrelationships.
He brings together all the different critical positions and concepts of literature. The first essay is concerned with modes, which refers to the hero’s power of action in relation to the audience and the environment. He sees five different modes: myth, romance, high mimetic, low mimetic and ironic, where the hero’s power is reduced from divinity to less than the reader’s. Frye appears to see some sort of historical progression through these modes, but he also suggests a cycle, where ironic leads back into myth. After these modes, he examines these modes in tragedy and then in comedy. Finally he examines the thematic mode. Thematic here is a way of saying idea; the thematic mode puts the story after or behind the organizing idea of the literature. This response paper falls into the thematic mode, as its main concern is the idea of book, though part of this is the construction. He notes the ancient Greeks saw six aspects to poetry: mythos (plot), ethos (character and setting), dianoia (idea or poetic thought). The other three (melody, diction and spectacle) he leaves for later. Dianoia is what we are concerned with when we ask what the story’s point is. (52). To discuss ethos, he defines internal fictions (hero and his society) and external fictions (the author and his society). He states that all literature has a fictional and thematic aspect. In the comic, the hero tends to integrate with his society (or creates a new society). In the tragic, the hero tends to isolate from society.
The second essay concerns symbols, which are units isolated for attention by the critic. Here the framework come from phases. Phase, in this essay, mean the context in which the narrative and meaning of a work is considered (367). There are five phases: literal, descriptive, formal, archetypal (elsewhere he calls this one central) and finally anagogic. The literal and descriptive are dicussed together; here the symbol is motif and sign. Frye is critical of the popular use of the term literal: it is used for “unimaginative illiterates” or to suggest something is free from ambiguity (76). Here he means it as the poem itself (77). The literal meaning of a poem is the interrelationship of the poems parts; the whole of the poem. In the formal phase, the symbol is image. The form of a poem remains the same whether read from beginning to end or seen as a whole; thus both pattern and narrative. Next he examines the mythical phase, where symbol is archetype, closely tied to romance. Here I felt most comfortable. Poetry here is a technique of civilization. Finally he discusses the anagogic phase: symbol as monad. Monad means unity or one; thus Frye’s sense that it is the center of an individual’s literary experience. The individual is separated from society. Anagogic means spiritual or elevated.
The next essay concern archetypal criticism, which Frye places in the center. Within archetypal criticism, there are several theories of meaning: apocalyptic imagery. Here the basic terms for the rest of the essay are set up. The imagery that are changed according to mode, imagery in the divine world, the human world, the animal world, the vegetable world and the mineral world. Here paradise dominates. The second section deals with demonic imagery, which is something of the apocalyptic imagery reverse: the waste land and hell affect imagery. Analogical imagery is the subject of the third section: the innocent world. Next he introduces the theory of mythos: which is concerned with movements. The movements are centered around spring (comedy), summer (romance), autumn (tragedy), winter (irony and satire). In each section he examines the movement, the affect on the characters and environment. These mythos are unified in an overtly Christian way: he calls them “for aspects of a central unifying myth” (192). The themes of these are: agon – conflict, the archetype of romance, pathos - catastrophe , the theme of tragedy, sparagmos – which is the sense that heroism is absent, disorganized or doomed to defeat (192), this is the theme of irony and satire. Finally there is anagnorisis – the triumphant recognition of a new born society, the theme of comedy. It was at this point in the book that I began to see the interrelationship of literature that Frye speaks of. In these sections he connects the social or real world, but I don’t feel I understand how. I wonder if he suggests that our narratives form our reality.
He notes that romance has six phases, three which are interrelated to tragedy and three to comedy. In fact, tragedy, comedy and irony are all related in this way. As I read the section on tragedy, I asked this question: what is the relationship of literature to the “real world”? Tragedy for example overlays many explanations or descriptions of the world’s state or process. For example, global warming, not in just movies (Day after Tomorrow) but in news reports, conversations and musing, human society is pitted as a tragic hero that reached too far and is now in the process of a tragedy. I also began to wonder about how Frye approaches something like the Christian bible: What is something like the Christian interpretations of Old Testament and New Testament interpretations? God forces Adam and Eve to leave the garden of Eden because they reached to high: they leave paradise and yet all their potential remains, and this is the bitter emotional (tragic) problem. This story is a tragedy. And yet, in the Christian theology, this is necessary; Christ fulfills this potential and returns them to society, or creates a new society. This story becomes a comedy, and wraps the tragedy of Adam and Eve within itself, thus is becomes something else, does it not, with an down and then upward movement. Is the garden of Eden then just a initial situation to begin the comedy?
The last essay is concerned with the theory of genres. He posits that literature could be described as rhetorical organization of grammar and logic (in the sense of the medieval trivium). Here he considers the other three aspects of poetry: melos (rhythm), lexis (verbal texture) and opsis (spectacle). The sections examine different “rhythms,” that is the movement of the words. Epos (oral narrative – face to face) has a rhythm of recurrence; prose of continuity; drama of decorum, lyric of association.
I feel like it might be helpful to map out all the interrelationships he posits along with definitions: something like a webpage with popout boxes with the definitions and lines drawn between each concept and its subcategories and interrelationships. His argument and subject suggest the interrelationship of various genres, modes and phases; these interrelationships are overwhelming to comprehend. I categorize his efforts as a typology of literature. Like mathematics, Frye sees literature as a language, thus the interrelationships take on importance as a way of knowing; he posits metaphor as an equivalent of equations, suggesting that both are tautologies (350). Metaphors also form an important part of Frye’s conception of criticism as a way of knowing, seen especially in the second essay. Metaphors define a relation between two symbols, whether abstract or concrete. The relation between symbols can be read through the phases that Frye sees in literature. Literal metaphors simply juxtapose two symbols. Descriptive metaphor makes a statement of likeness. Formal metaphors provide an analogy. Archetypal metaphor provides identity of a individual with a larger set. Anagogic metaphor states a hypothetical identity (366). If I were to teach the material from this book, I would create a visual representation of the ideas and have students read selections that would help to make the ideas concrete. The material is rather overwhelming, but creates a sense of unity of literature and a starting point for looking at literature, both methodically (this book fits this mode, this phase, this genre, etc.) and theoretically (conceptions of literature). I also find interesting his use of the term, conceiving in his tentative conclusions: “The mathematical and the verbal universe are doubtless different ways of conceiving the same universe” (354). The word conceive has suggesting of creation. Frye wants literature, or criticism of literature, to have central place in the humanities and in liberal education; he says that it creates the universe in a way, not in the sense of a god, but creates an order of the universe, that is not different from the universe that mathematics or natural science does. ...more
Interesting read that discusses the use of sexual defamation in the Icelandic sagas, poetry and laws. I don't agree with him entirely - I think he misInteresting read that discusses the use of sexual defamation in the Icelandic sagas, poetry and laws. I don't agree with him entirely - I think he misses the power aspect of that comes with the suggestion of passive or receptive homosexuality. Nonetheless, it very well researched and gave me plenty to think about. I would suggest that Carol Clover's article "Regardless of Sex" be read in conjunction with the book, as she focuses more deeply on the gender and sex problems.
Clover, Carol J. "Regardless of Sex: Men, Women, and Power in Early Northern Europe." Speculum 68.2 (1993): 363-387. ...more
An collection of translated Swedish folktales with little to no contextual information or collection information. Interesting for an overview of folktAn collection of translated Swedish folktales with little to no contextual information or collection information. Interesting for an overview of folktales and legends for those who do not speak Scandinavian languages....more
An excellent book, which carefully looks at context, history and genre. A helpful book. Uses ideas from Bengt Holbek's works. I have read it several tAn excellent book, which carefully looks at context, history and genre. A helpful book. Uses ideas from Bengt Holbek's works. I have read it several times. ...more
One of best close readings of literature, carefully using historical information to discuss differing ideas of reality throughout the Western canon (aOne of best close readings of literature, carefully using historical information to discuss differing ideas of reality throughout the Western canon (as constructed as it is)....more
Awesome - one of the more interesting revisionist takes on nationalism. Challenges Hobsbawm, Benedict Anderson and Ernest Gellner; posit that nationsAwesome - one of the more interesting revisionist takes on nationalism. Challenges Hobsbawm, Benedict Anderson and Ernest Gellner; posit that nations began to form much earlier than they believe to be so; mainly focuses on England and the role of literature and religion in forming the idea of nation before 1780....more
Careful application of oral-formulaic theory to Anglo-Scottish ballad traditions; focuses very much on the synchronic tradition; fails to really lookCareful application of oral-formulaic theory to Anglo-Scottish ballad traditions; focuses very much on the synchronic tradition; fails to really look at the individual singer's part; but gives ballad singers far more credit for artistry than most. Somewhat prefigures Foley's immanence with his super-narrative functions of ballad formulas. Useful for application to other Northern European ballad traditions - lines up well with what I am finding in Swedish ballad traditions....more
A quick and dirty review! Lönnroth's work was probably the first book that dealt with oral-formulaic and oral theory in Sweden. It is aimed primarilyA quick and dirty review! Lönnroth's work was probably the first book that dealt with oral-formulaic and oral theory in Sweden. It is aimed primarily at Scandinavian audiences, not only in that he wrote in Sweden, but with his selection of material, which he draws from Scandinavian/Nordic sources, including the poetic Edda, Hans Christian Andersen, Swedish ballads, Evert Taube and last and not least, Abba.
Lönnroth's most important theoretical development is his idea of "den dubbla scenen" (the double stage). He suggests that there are always several stages on which a oral performance is performed, whether recitation of a mythological poem or, a reading aloud of a printed work, the singing of a folk song (or the transcription of it) or a recorded artist's studio performance. These stages include the scenes where the actions take place in a song and the stage where the song is performed. The example he uses to demonstrate his idea is that of a mother reading a good-night of Little Red Riding Hood to her child (8-9). The mother can create the fictive scene for the child in her performance of the story. There are two layers here: 1) the stage of performance, the world in which the story is being told; 2) the stage in which the performed story takes place (9). These stages can help to illuminate readings (or interpretations) of a text or song - a ballad sung (or written down) in a 16th century aristocratic environment will differ significantly from the same ballad type sung by peasants in the 19th century. The environments can help explain why texts or songs are different....more
Oral-Formulaic theory has focused on epic poetry (Homer's epics, Beowulf, etc.) from its onset, often ignoring other genres of formalized oral communiOral-Formulaic theory has focused on epic poetry (Homer's epics, Beowulf, etc.) from its onset, often ignoring other genres of formalized oral communications. Lyrics do not relate a narrative; no plot drives the poem. Rather, the lyric directs the audience to descriptions, situations, characters and feelings. DuBois asks how are researchers to interpret a folk lyric poem when there is no narrative.
DuBois suggests that lyrics need to be interpreted in light of the cultural and aesthetic norms of the community in which it is composed and performed, rather than from the researcher's own frame of references. He states that the community has a normative tradition through which they interpret the meaning of a lyric poem. In his typology of interpretative strategies, he posits three axes of interpretations for lyric songs: 1) the situational axis, 2) the associative axis, and 3) the generic axis. Ethnographic work figures large in his methods – the researcher requires extratextual data to approach the interpretative frames of the community who holds the particular lyric.
From the situational axis interpretations comes from either narrativization or proverbialization. The audience understands the lyric because they know the specific story behind the lyric or they understand that the lyric applies to general situations that many people experience: love, death or marriage for example. With the associative axis, the audience and performer associates the lyric with a particular person, place or thing to interpret the lyric. The lyric may be associated with the speaker (personalization), directed towards another being, such as a deity (invocative), or may be ascribed to another (attributive). The last axis, the generic, asks the audience to interpret based on their knowledge of the lyric genre: typical content and context of performance provide the keys to the meaning.
While all of these axis may come into play with a particular lyric, DuBois claims (and demonstrates) that particular communities depend more on some axes than others. For example, the Irish traditions depend heavily on narrativizational end of the situational axis for interpretation of lyrics. I suggest photocopying the diagram of the interpretive typologies, so that the reader can easily refer to it during reading. This leads to my largest criticism of the book. The first chapter that provides the typology confused me due to the complexity of the ideas and there are no more helpful diagrams throughout the book for the reader to look at as I read. The theory only becomes clear after several chapters. He leans heavily on the ideas of John Miles Foley (Immanent Art) and a Receptionalist approach to folk lyrics but he keeps the audience sharply in focus. For DuBois, the audience member assumes a great responsibility for understanding the meaning of the lyric poem – she is expected to be competent in the interpretative tradition.
Chapter 2, “Pausing in Narrative’s March,” examines the lyric (laments in particular) when used a resting point in epic poetry and how positioning helps to determine interpretation. Chapter 3, “In Ritual and Wit: The Hermeneutics of the Invocational Lyric,” examines charms, shepherd’s calls and laments. Chapter 4, “Conversing with God,” investigates the medieval hymn tradition. Chapter 5, “Confronting Conventions: Reading Reception in Shakespeare's use of Lyric Song” looks at the lyric in Elizabethan society. Chapter 6, “Attribution and the Imagined Performer,” examines how performers present self in relation to the lyrics they perform and how this presentation affects interpretation. In Chapter 7, DuBois presents his field work with Mick Lyne, an Irish poet and singer. Here he examines how the poet and audience interpret and negotiate the meaning of Mick Lyne’s lyric poems.
Thomas DuBois’s typology provides an wonderful tool for not just examining the interpretation of lyric poetry, but also narrative folk poetry and other formalized oral communications. I recommend this book to those interested verbal art forms (whether oral, literate or computer mediated).
Immanent Art (1991) by John Miles Foley substantially enhances the oral tradition theory tool box by looking for the ways in oral and orally derived pImmanent Art (1991) by John Miles Foley substantially enhances the oral tradition theory tool box by looking for the ways in oral and orally derived poetry conveys meaning. He posits that we cannot interpret these poems in the same way we interpret literary works. He looks to Wolfgang Iser's receptionalist theory and posits an implied audience for oral performance conditions and suggests that meaning is conveyed by "parts" that inherently refer to the entire tradition in which the poem lives. Critically, the audience fades from the application to Homer, South Slavic epic and Beowulf. The prose is stylistically dense. However, the ideas are important, not just for oral theory scholars, but for cultural scholars looking at any narrative performance and even computer mediated communications.
Foley seeks to deal with the "current impasse" in oral tradition studies: on the one hand, the view that oral poetry is formulaic and unoriginal - a room in which the poet rearranges furniture according to the mechanical need to make a certain story and the use of conscious artistry by the poet on the other hand. He believes that this debate is not fruitful and can be avoided by looking at how oral and orally derived poetry convey meaning (xii). He proposes throwing off the literary methods and approaches as much as possible: to quit looking for the meaning of a narrative only within its "text" and to look towards extratextual information.
To understand a traditional oral or orally derived poem beyond the surface layer, the audience must have an "extratextual" knowledge of the tradition in which the poem exists. This includes the various multiforms of the poem and the way in which words in that specific culture call forth or bring to mind larger pieces of the tradition and the tradition as a whole. To help bring this extratextual knowledge out the poet must use the traditional ways of expressing meaning so that the knowledgeable audience can find these meanings.
One of the important distinctions that Foley makes between literature and orality is the difference between conferred meaning and inherent meaning. In the literary work, "… the work is praised for the finesse with which an author (not a tradition) confers meaning on his or her creation" (8). Foley claims that the author makes meaning from old materials perhaps, but in new ways that are unique. In contrast, “a traditional work depends primarily on elements and strategies that were in place long before the execution of the present version or text, long before the present nominal author learned the inherited craft. Because the idiom is metonymic, summoning conventional connotations to conventional structures, we may say that the meaning it conveys is principally inherent "(8). This metonymy, or traditional referentiality, is a way of generating meaning by using a smaller part to stand for the whole.
Oral poetry conveys meaning through inherence not the conferred ideas of literary texts. This is to say that the oral poem relies not on the merely the "text" but the extratextual - the context, the tradition, the audience's knowledge and sharing of the tradition in and through the poem and with the poet. I struggle to understand how inherent meaning is used and comes to be. I don't feel like I understand Foley very well on this subject.
Foley takes the Receptionalist approach to literature and makes some changes to its terminology and to its concepts to work with oral and orally derived poetry. He feels that traditional referentiality, metonymy and inherence can fit into this method. Wolfgang Iser posited that for a literary work, the author assumed a fictional reader, the implied reader to which she is writing. Author encodes signals and gaps of indeterminacy for this reader. The signals invite and expect the reader to respond to the text in certain ways. The gaps of indeterminacy invite and expect the reader to fill them - the reader fulfills an active role in the interpreting the text or even to compose the meaning. The author creates these gaps in implying her reader. How does the reader fill these gaps? They are bridged by the reader from his knowledge of the genre, the particular text and the author. Foley says, "the reader will engage in what Iser calls 'consistency-building,' filling the gaps of indeterminacy only with interpretations that harmonize with the rest of the work" (41).
Foley finds that with some changes, Iser's approach works well with traditional texts. He moves from the implied reader to the implied audience: the audience is a necessarily active in the process of interpreting. The audience participates in the process of creating meaning. A larger change that he makes to the Receptionalist approach is in the nature of the text. The text is not singular. There is not an original author. The audience is not an individual. what unifies the meaning of the text over time and across people given the plurality and unsettled nature of the text and audience? Foley states that tradition effectively unifies meaning across time and audience.
The audience has a responsibility to the oral poet and poem - to understand it. How do they do this? They are responsible to interpret the poem - based on the authority of all performances of the poem (though each is a multiform, a different "variant") and to bring their knowledge of the poem and of the entire tradition to bear on the particular multiform composed and performed and the gaps that the poem has. These gaps in oral and orally derived poems are not flaws (as some literary critics might claim) but areas where the audience uses their knowledge of the immanent whole of their culture's traditional art to understand, to make connections, to even open up narratives to other narratives. From these theoretical concerns he turns to specific examples from South Slavic traditions, Homer and Beowulf.
I find Foley's examples in the portion on Beowulf, especially the epithets, to be confusing. It seems that he is saying that because it does not make sense that it is therefore traditional referential. He seems to go from absences in logic or apparent lack in necessity of a phrase to the idea that the epithet must then summon a larger unexplainable whole (cf. 196-7). I only scanned the material on Homer and the South Slavic epics – perhaps I missed something by doing this. Immanent Art suggests that oral narratives have immanence - that the part summons the whole.
Problematically, the audience drops out of the narrative after the first two theoretical chapters. Foley's ideas in these sections rely heavily on a participatory audience, but in the application to Homer, South Slavic epic and Beowulf, the audience fades and he turns to the "text" to discuss how the poets convey meaning - the implied audience becomes implied. Foley also relies on and perpetuates a view that orality is an entirely different mentality than literacy, but this is forgivable. Oral tradition scholars since Albert Lord necessarily made such a distinction to justify the field.
For the scholar who is not steeped in the oral culture, especially a culture such as Homeric Greece or Anglo-Saxon England, which have disappeared, this proposition of extratextual meaning is difficult to deal with. The scholar is required to delve deeply into the whole of a culture to understand how the particular multiform he is studying conveys meaning, how the audience fills the gaps, and how the poet places his signals. This explains the difficulties in understanding Beowulf and the Homeric epics.