to the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature On-Line
Remembering Albert Lord
The Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature proudly marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of its first curator, Albert Bates Lord (September 15, 1912 - July 29, 1991). Through years of painstaking curatorial work and his own efforts as a collector in the field, Lord built on Milman Parry's recordings to create a world-renowned archive of South Slavic and Albanian oral traditions. In books such as his landmark volume The Singer of Tales, he introduced the world to the richness of these and other traditions. 100 years after his birth, Lord's influence continues to be felt. For a range of perspectives on the lasting vitality of his work, see Singers and Tales in the 21st Century.
At Harvard, Lord was particularly well known for his popular General Education course, "Oral and Early Literature" (also known as "Hum 9"). As part of the commemoration of the centennial of Lord's birth, the Parry Collection is making available a recording of one of Lord's Hum 9 lectures, originally delivered on October 26, 1976. In this lecture, Lord discusses the technique of oral composition-in-performance, the value of the South Slavic tradition as a comparandum for the Homeric epics, and the Hesiodic Theogony. Click here to listen to Lord's lecture (right click to download clip).
John Miles Foley 1947-2012
We mourn the loss of John Miles Foley, a leading voice in the study of oral traditions. Founder of the journal Oral Tradition and of the Center for Studies in Oral Tradition, and author of numerous books and articles, Professor Foley contributed enormously to the investigation and understanding of orality. As a featured speaker at Harvard’s 2010 conference on the legacies of Milman Parry and Albert Lord, Professor Foley drew on his deep knowledge of South Slavic epic traditions. The published proceedings of that conference will be dedicated to his memory.
Singers and Tales in the 21st Century:
The Legacies of Milman Parry and Albert Lord
On December 3-5, 2010, the Milman Parry Collection hosted a symposium to mark the 50th anniversary of the publication of Albert Lord's seminal Singer of Tales, and the 75th anniversary of the death of his mentor, Milman Parry. 29 speakers from around the world honored the legacies of these two pathfinding scholars by presenting original research, and live performances spotlighted the continuing vitality of oral traditions in the 21st century.
To view complete video recordings of the presentations and performances, follow the Singers and Tales in the 21st Century link in the navigation menu at left, or click here.
Photos of Parry-Lord Expeditions Now Available
Over 750 photographs documenting the fieldwork of Parry and Lord in the 1930’s and 1950’s have just been digitized, and are now accessible through Harvard’s Visual Information Access (VIA) system. The creation of this important new digital collection was made possible by the Photograph Preservation Program at the Weissman Preservation Center, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. To browse the photographs, visit the VIA search page, and enter “Milman Parry” as the search term.
The Return of the Song
On July 3-6, 2008, the Milman Parry Collection and the University of Tuzla jointly hosted a conference on the Milman Parry Collection in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina.. The conference, titled "The Return of the Song"
("Povratak Pjesme") was organized by Aida Vidan of Harvard
University and Mirsad Kunić of the University of Tuzla. Click
for the program with paper titles. The conference was a great success,
and we look forward to the publication of the proceedings.
Listen to Milman Parry’s Field Recordings On-line!
of the recordings slated for digital reformatting as part of our
ongoing digitalization project are now available. Use the Collection Database or the Milman Parry Songs
page to access digital materials. Check back here for links to additional
songs as they become available.
Jón Sigurðsson Biennial Prize
Gísli Sigurðsson, author of The Medieval Icelandic
Saga and Oral Tradition, A Discourse on Method, has received
the Jón Sigurðsson biennial prize for scholarly publications
in the field of Icelandic literature, history, law and politics.
Jón Sigurðsson was the national hero of the Icelandic
independence movement in the 19th Century and an active scholar
in all the above fields as well as in political economy. The prize
is worth 600,000 Icelandic Kroner or around $10,000, and Gísli
received the award at Uppsala Palace in Uppsala, Sweden.
More on Milman Parry Publications
Visit the Harvard
University Press web site for ordering information.
on Icelandic national hero Jón Sigurðsson
This site serves as a portal to database and finding aids as a
part of the Harvard
Digital Initiative (LDI).
Please Note: The Collection Database is on-line and functional,
but the Milman Parry and Albert B. Lord Finding Aids are not yet
available. Please check back here for news of their launch.
The Website and the Collection
The legacy of pioneering comparatists Milman Parry
and Albert Lord, the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature
comprises a uniquely comprehensive repository of South Slavic and
Balkan oral traditions.
By following the navigation links to the left, visitors to this
site can access the following:
- information about the contents and history of the Milman Parry
Collection (About the Collection)
- description of the Collection's current digitalization project,
with links to the electronic database and archival resources created
in the framework of that project (About
- index to all materials currently available in digital format,
with links to those materials (Milman Parry Songs
and Albert B. Lord Songs)
- description of past and present publications of the Milman Parry
- selected photos and film clips from the Parry archive (Photo
& Film Gallery)
- information on how to get in touch with the curatorial staff
The Library Digital Initiative
The Milman Parry Collection has seen many recent advances in connection
with its current digitalization project, The Singer Continues
the Song: Text and Music from the Milman Parry Collection.
Originally developed by Dr. Matthew Kay, the project moved into
production with the award of a generous challenge grant from Harvard's
Initiative (LDI) in July 2002. The Singer Continues the Song
has two distinct goals: first, to make available to the general
public a wide selection of the original manuscripts and audio recordings
contained in the Parry archive; second, to develop a new set of
tools which will improve access to archived materials.
The digitalization project includes material from two major collections
contained within the general framework of the Milman Parry Collection
of Oral Literature (MPCOL): the Milman Parry Collection proper,
consisting of materials collected by Parry in the years 1933-35,
and the Albert B. Lord Collection, assembled by Lord in 1950-51.
Although over 200 texts have been selected for digitization from
the former collection alone, this is still only a small portion
of its roughly 12,500 individual items.
Texts were selected for digitalization on the basis of Albert Lord’s
1960 classic The Singer of Tales (2nd ed. 2000), which
remains the most widely known presentation of the MPCOL and its
contents. Every song cited by Lord or referenced in notes will be
made available in digital format. The majority of songs from Albert
Lord’s own collection will also be digitized; other songs
will be included as funding permits.
The digitalization project's second major goal, the creation of
new access tools, coincided well with LDI's stated purpose of improving
the digital infrastructure of the Harvard library system. The partnership
with LDI has resulted not only in the creation of digital finding
aids for both the Parry and Lord Collections, but also in the development
of a new electronic database.
The MPCOL database is based on Matthew Kay's The Index of the
Milman Parry Collection 1933-1935 (New York: Garland, 1995).
At present it includes records only for the heroic songs and interviews
in the Parry Collection and for the Albert B. Lord Collection, but
MPCOL intends to expand coverage to include as well the Parry Collection's
lyric songs and Lord’s 1937 collection of Albanian epic.
Go to About the Database, Milman Parry Songs,
and Albert B. Lord Songs
for more on the LDI project.
Collection Access Policy
Access to the collection is by appointment only. Qualified scholars
who wish to use the collection should contact the curatorial
staff well in advance of intended visits. Prior notice of several
weeks or more will ensure that researchers are able to read and
audition the material which will be most useful to them.
The Milman Parry Collection, housed in room C of Harvard University's
Widener Library, is currently not set up for browsing. The curators
hope to expand access by making digitized portions of the collection
available on the internet in the coming years.
Home About the Collection
About the Database Collection
Parry Finding Aid Albert
B. Lord Finding Aid Milman Parry
Songs Albert B. Lord Songs
Singers and Tales in the 21st Century
Milman Parry Collection © 2012