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Avdo Međedović’s Post-Traditional Epics and Their Relevance to Homeric Studies

  • †Zlatan Čolaković

Abstract

[Milman Parry established first that Homeric poetry was traditional, based on his studies of its formulae and language, and then that it was oral, based on his experience of recording south Slavic epic; he likened the unusually long epics of Avdo Međedović to those of Homer. Albert Lord put the two concepts together, holding that both south Slavic epic and Homeric poetry were oral-traditional and that all oral epic poetry, including that of Međedović, is traditional. However, the author’s investigations into the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature and his personal experience of collecting epics in Montenegro in 1989 prove that this is incorrect. The poems of Avdo Međedović do not conform to traditional uses of language, theme and story-patterns, but offer something new, of which other traditional singers disapproved, as their recorded conversations demonstrate. Similarly, by analogy, the epics of Homer differed from the traditional poems of the Epic Cycle, exactly as Aristotle indicates in the Poetics. Hence neither Međedović nor, by analogy, Homer were fully traditional poets, although they were oral poets; instead, they deliberately adapted the tradition so that the old stories were mixed and matched into much lengthier and more complex epics, which should be called post-traditional.]

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[This article was written in Croatian in Amherst MA in 2007 by Zlatan Čolaković (1955–2008) and published in Čolaković (2007) 1.47–89; the conclusion is adapted from Čolaković (2008). Čolaković was the most important recent collector of Bosniac oral epic poetry in performance, who in 1984–1988 worked as a Fulbright Scholar with Albert B. Lord at Harvard University and then collected Bosniac epics himself. The article has been translated by his widow, Marina Rojc-Čolaković, and his daughter, Alberta Colakovic, and modified by the inclusion of additions. Richard Janko helped with editing and bibliography; editorial additions are in square brackets. For some initial reactions to Čolaković’s ideas, see Elmer 2010; Danek 2012a. The translators and editor are grateful to the Curators of the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature at Harvard University for their kind permission to reproduce material from the collection.

Marina Rojc-Čolaković adds, ‘I would like to thank Richard Janko for his extraordinary help in editing the article and helping with the bibliography. I am grateful also to Robert Fowler for providing my late husband and afterwards myself with ongoing support to continue the promotion of my husband’s scholarly works and his legacy. I would also like to thank the journal’s reviewers for their valuable critique. I would like to thank my daughter, Alberta Colakovic, for her initiative and help with the translation. My sincere thanks go to the curators of the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature for giving permission to reprint the quotations from my late husband’s books and articles.’]

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* [This article was written in Croatian in Amherst MA in 2007 by Zlatan Čolaković (1955–2008) and published in Čolaković (2007) 1.47–89; the conclusion is adapted from Čolaković (2008). Čolaković was the most important recent collector of Bosniac oral epic poetry in performance, who in 1984–1988 worked as a Fulbright Scholar with Albert B. Lord at Harvard University and then collected Bosniac epics himself. The article has been translated by his widow, Marina Rojc-Čolaković, and his daughter, Alberta Colakovic, and modified by the inclusion of additions. Richard Janko helped with editing and bibliography; editorial additions are in square brackets. For some initial reactions to Čolaković’s ideas, see Elmer 2010; Danek 2012a. The translators and editor are grateful to the Curators of the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature at Harvard University for their kind permission to reproduce material from the collection.

Marina Rojc-Čolaković adds, ‘I would like to thank Richard Janko for his extraordinary help in editing the article and helping with the bibliography. I am grateful also to Robert Fowler for providing my late husband and afterwards myself with ongoing support to continue the promotion of my husband’s scholarly works and his legacy. I would also like to thank the journal’s reviewers for their valuable critique. I would like to thank my daughter, Alberta Colakovic, for her initiative and help with the translation. My sincere thanks go to the curators of the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature for giving permission to reprint the quotations from my late husband’s books and articles.’]

Keywords

Avdo Međedović’s Post-Traditional Epics and Their Relevance to Homeric Studies

  • †Zlatan Čolaković

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