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Publications

The Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature has inaugurated a new publications series, Publications of the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature. The series is published by Harvard University Press and receives generous support from the Ilex Foundation and Harvard's Center for Hellenic Studies. The series promotes current research on oral traditions, particularly in the areas that relate most directly to the Collection's holdings and the wide-ranging research of its founder, Albert Lord. For more on the contents and history of the Collection, see About the Collection.

Only a select number of manuscripts are published per year by the MPC. For more information about submissions to the MPC and MPC publications policies, please contact the MPC Executive Editors, Casey Dué at due@fas.harvard.edu and David Elmer at delmer@fas.harvard.edu.


Publications Sponsored by the Collection

The Medieval Icelandic Saga and Oral Tradition
A Discourse on Method

Gísli Sigurðsson
Translated by Nicholas Jones

This work explores the role of orality in shaping and evaluating medieval Icelandic literature. Applying field studies of oral cultures in modern times to this distinguished medieval literature, Gísli Sigurðsson asks how it would alter our reading of medieval Icelandic sagas if it were assumed they had grown out of a tradition of oral storytelling, similar to that observed in living cultures.

Sigurðsson examines how orally trained lawspeakers regarded the emergent written culture, especially in light of the fact that the writing down of the law in the early twelfth century undermined their social status. Part II considers characters, genealogies, and events common to several sagas from the east of Iceland between which a written link cannot be established. Part III explores the immanent or mental map provided to the listening audience of the location of Vinland by the sagas about the Vinland voyages. Finally, this volume focuses on how accepted foundations for research on medieval texts are affected if an underlying oral tradition (of the kind we know from the modern field work) is assumed as part of their cultural background. This point is emphasized through the examination of parallel passages from two sagas and from mythological overlays in an otherwise secular text.

Visit the Harvard University Press web site for ordering information.

More on Icelandic national hero Jón Sigurðsson

This publication was also sponsored by the Center for Hellenic Studies.

*This publication has received the Jón Sigurðsson biennial prize for scholarly publications in the field of Icelandic literature, history, law and politics.


Embroidered with Gold, Strung with Pearls : The Traditional Ballads of Bosnian Women. Aida Vidan. Copyright © 2003 The Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature.

From Goethe's poetic interest in them in the eighteenth century, down to the work of scholars such as Milman Parry and Albert Lord in the twentieth, South Slavic traditional ballads have intrigued many by their beauty and eloquence. These songs are now made available to the English reader in this bilingual edition offering a selection of materials from Harvard University's Parry Collection. The forty oral ballads, many of which appear here in multiple versions, were all performed by Bosnian women and gathered in the Gacko region of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the 1930s. While relying on Parry and Lord’s formulaic theory, Vidan demonstrates in her comprehensive introduction to the volume why this theory needs to be supplemented with broader ethnological, cultural, and historical data in order to understand problems such as the stability of the ballad, its transmission and dissemination, and its ties to mythology. This study addresses an imbalance created by the pronounced focus on South Slavic epic songs in scholarly work of recent decades. At the same time it shows that while each of the narrative genres in verse maintains its own stylistic features, they nevertheless consist of the same basic compositional elements. In addition to comparative analysis of the materials from the Parry Collection, Vidan discusses numerous examples from published and unpublished sources in Croatian and Serbian.

*Embroidered with Gold, Strung with Pearls : The Traditional Ballads of Bosnian Women, by Aida Vidan, has won the Heldt Translation Prize awarded by the Association for Women in Slavic Studies, a branch of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies (AAASS).

Visit the Harvard University Press web site for ordering information.

Ilex Foundation and The Center for Hellenic Studies also provided support for this book.


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