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Soviet Heroic Poetry in Context

Folklore or Fakelore

Margaret Ziolkowski

Soviet Heroic Poetry in Context discusses key issues surrounding the composition and recording of folklore as well as its often intensely political aspect and its preoccupation with chimerical cultural authority. These issues are dramatically displayed in Soviet epic compositions of the 1930s and 1940s, the so-called noviny (“new songs”), which took their formal inspiration largely from traditional Russian epic songs, byliny (“songs of the past”), and their narrative content from contemporary, political, and other events in Stalinist Russia. The story of the noviny is at once complex and comprehensible. While it may be tempting to interpret the excrescences of Stalinism as unique aberrations, the reality was often more complicated. The noviny were not simply the result of political fiat, an episode in an ideological vacuum. Their emergence occurred in part because of specific trends and controversies that marked European folklore collection and publication from at least the late eighteenth century on, as well as developments in Russian folkloristics from the mid-nineteenth century on that assumed exaggerated proportions. The demise of the noviny was equally mediated by a host of political and theoretical considerations. This study tells the story of the rise and fall of the noviny in all its cultural richness and pathos, an instructive tale of the interaction of aesthetics and ideology.
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University Press Copublishing Division / University of Delaware Press
Pages: 238Size: 6 x 9 1/8
978-1-61149-456-3 • Hardback • August 2013 • $84.00 • (£54.95)
978-1-61149-651-2 • Paperback • March 2017 • $44.99 • (£29.95)
978-1-61149-457-0 • eBook • August 2013 • $44.99 • (£29.95)
Margaret Ziolkowski is professor of Russian at Miami University (Ohio). She has worked on topics in Russian literature ranging from the medieval to the contemporary.
Chapter 1: Tampering with the Folkloric Evidence: Famous and Infamous European Precedents
Chapter 2: Oral Composition: Early Russian Observations and Assumptions
Chapter 3: Engaging with the Folk in Pre-Revolutionary Russia
Chapter 4: The Making of the Noviny
Chapter 5: The Poetics and Politics of the Noviny
Chapter 6: Devaluing the Noviny
Chapter 7: Late and Post-Soviet Folkloristic Assessment of the Noviny
Selected Bibliography

About the Author
The present volume looks at the study and collection of Soviet epic songs from the 1930s and 1940s; these songs were called noviny, following in the tradition of the Russian epic bylyny songs of the past. The majority of the book summarizes and analyzes the politics and methodologies among folklorists compiling and interpreting bylyny and noviny from the pre-revolutionary period to the late- and post-Soviet eras. Chapter 1 provides a history of folklore in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe; chapters 2, 3, and 4 are devoted to the theory and practice behind the gathering of folklore in the pre-revolutionary and Stalinist periods. In chapter 5, the author looks at the poetics and politics of the noviny; it will be most useful to those interested in concrete examples from Soviet heroic poetry. Ziokowski asserts that the bylyny represent a diverse collection of narratives with varied concerns and argues that the diversity of these folk poems was especially neglected in the early twentieth century in favor of a patriotic Soviet narrative. Through a close reading of selections from different noviny in chapter 5, the author demonstrates how poetics and politics operated together at the textual level of the poems. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students, researchers, faculty.

In a masterful and accessible treatment, Margaret Ziolkowski lays out the pre-history and history of the noviny. This book will be of value to a range of scholars, from investigators of Russian folklore or the history of folkloristic research to those considering more specific topics, such as the notion of authenticity or the textualization of oral traditions. ... Ziolkowski provides a great service in illuminating not only the byliny and the noviny but also the people behind them and the Russian scholarly reactions to the noviny. Few Western researchers will have had access to this material before. In addition, Ziolkowski helpfully articulates how the discussion of the noviny was really a discussion about matters that remain of interest to many folklorists.
Journal of Folklore Research

Growing up in the USSR, we were constantly bombarded by a stream of 'folk' music glorifying labour and patriotism in epic terms. We always wondered about how much of the material was truly folklore, and how much simple propaganda emulating it. Now, Margaret Ziolkowski, a scholar of Russian history and literature addresses the question head on. Subtitled 'Folklore or Fakelore', this volume analyzes the distinction, concentrating primarily on the Soviet epic compositions under Stalin before the Second World War. It looks at the earlier European precedents of tampering with folk compositions and art, from Macpherson's wholesale invention to Grimm brothers romanticizing tendencies, to methodological and compilation problems of Lönnrot and Karadzic and applies the results to the analysis of Russian 'noviny', their rise and fall, concluding with a look at the post-Soviet reappraisal of the genre. Of interest to students of folklore in general and specifically to those studying Russian and Soviet art-forms.
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