Awakening calls of folklore collectors addressing the public


Keywords: publics, folklore collecting, Jakob Hurt, 19th century Estonia, vernacular literacy

The article focuses on the ambivalent relationship between the public space and the folklore collecting campaigns of the last decade of the 19th century. On the one hand, those campaigns were heavily embedded into public space as all information regarding the collecting as well as feedback to collectors was given through newspapers. But if we look at the position of ordinary collectors in regard of public space, the picture is much more ambivalent – though most of their writings failed to be published, they still seemed to regard writing in this context as a possibility to write publicly. To reflect this ambiguity I have called such writing half-public.

Still, there were some genres that made their way from half-public to real public space. One of such was the ‘awakening calls’ (äratussõnad), i. e. texts written by folklore correspondents with an intention to enliven collecting activity in the area they felt attached to. The texts were sent to the leader of the campaign Jakob Hurt, who was expected to publish them as part of his collection reports. I consider this genre from two viewpoints: what those texts are about and how the addressees of the texts are construed. As a starting point I take the ambiguity of genre boundaries as stated by Charles L. Briggs and Richard Bauman, and the mutual relationship between genres and communities as stated by Karin Barber.

There are at least three different approaches leading to the meaning of this genre. On the one hand, we can take the awakening calls as a separate genre with its own meanings and goals. On the other hand, we can examine it in the contexts of contemporary public written space, which reveals that the language and generic conventions of the awakening calls are quite common in other public genres as well; thus, instead of analysing it as a separate genre we can rather talk about the spread of similar genre features in the repertoires of different communities. And thirdly, we can look at this genre as part of contemporary vernacular literacy and ask about the possibility of ordinary people of the time discussing their messages in public.

As a conclusion we can say that the texts have multiple goals. The first is rather obvious – they are calls, texts which aim to mobilize other people. But besides this those texts also deal with the construction of certain communities and discuss the relationship between those communities and the national whole. Thirdly, those texts enable the writer to show that he/she (and his/her community) know how one should talk in public, and in doing so, to emphasise that this person/community is part of the public space.

Katre Kikas (b. 1981), MA, Estonian Literary Museum, Department of Folkloristics, Researcher (Vanemuise 42, 51003 Tartu), katreki@folklore.ee



Eesti Kirjandusmuuseumi (EKM) Eesti Kultuurilooline Arhiiv (EKLA)
     f 43 – Kirjad Jakob Hurdale.
     ERA, H – Jakob Hurda rahvaluulekogu Eesti Kirjandusmuuseumi Eesti Rahvaluule Arhiivis
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