The Field of Song and the Four-Legged Horse: On the Dialogue of Genres in Kalevala-Meter Poetry

In 1922 Houro Karppo, a refugee from Viena Karelia, performed a set of yoiks and laments for the Finnish ethnomusicologist Armas Väisänen. The performance was interrupted by a mistake. In her defense, the woman quoted a proverb: “The horse has four legs, but it stumbles. Man has only one tongue to cry, laugh, yoik, and sing with—no wonder he falters.” [1] The human capacity to process oral performances is indeed limited: human beings possess one single tongue, and because of this limitation, the many genres of expression are easily blurred. Even a horse could fail, though far better equipped. In Viena Karelia, the proverb was commonly used to point out linguistic incompetence: mixing up one’s words or the conventions of performance. [2] The types of expression singled out by Houro are, in fact, folklore genres in the Viena area: laments (crying), mocking songs (laughing), yoiks, and Kalevala-meter poems (singing). Houro herself was an acclaimed ritual lamenter whose recorded performances moved the listeners to tears even when mediated by the phonograph. [3]
Karppo’s parable is one of the rare documented metapoetic statements to describe a vernacular understanding of genres in the Finnish-Karelian culture area. It assesses the challenge of mastering a wealth of genres, and the ever-present possibility of mixing them either by accident or for a specific purpose. The dialogue of folklore genres, or generic intertextuality, represents a creative use—or misuse—of tradition and language. Its dynamics show the ways in which people actually use oral tradition, [4] for example, by commenting on generic ideals by using a proverb, a genre orchestrated by ideals of its own. In some contexts the dialogue of genres thwarts the goal of finalizing a performance; yet in others, it maximizes the expressive power of the traditional idiom.
In the following I will discuss concepts and methodological tools based on an intertextual reading of genres. The main argument rests on my empirical study of Kalevala-meter oral poetry collected in the parish of Vuokkiniemi, Viena Karelia near the Finnish-Russian border during the period 1821-1921. [5] The aim of the study was to analyze the system of genres as an expressive and communicative system, or in Kenneth Burke’s words, “equipment for living.” [6] The method and the underlying theoretical understanding of genre is influenced by the work of linguistic anthropologists and folklorists such as Richard Bauman and Charles Briggs, but conditioned by the specificity of archive materials. The texts were collected without much contextual data for purposes that had little to do with the interpretation of the poems in their local context. The corpus is relatively large, consisting of nearly 3,000 poems in the Kalevala-meter, and it can be contextualized with the help of ethnographic accounts and other genres of folklore collected from the area.
In the analysis of regional corpora made up of a large number of genres, the most striking aspect of intertextuality is its capacity to traverse the boundaries of genre. In Finnish-Karelian oral tradition, the density of the intertextual network is brought about by the use of one common poetic language, coined as the Kalevala-meter, in almost all genres of poetry as well as in idiomatic speech. The elasticity and wide scope of application of this poetic language renders it exceptional. [7] Various criteria of form, content, age, function, and performance style have been used in the classification of Kalevala-meter poetry, but few scholars have sought to account for the system as a whole. There is a consensus on four major categories: epic or narrative poetry, incantations or charms, ritual songs, and lyric poetry. In my examination of the Vuokkiniemi corpus I detected 30 genres of poetry, complemented by minor folklore genres such as proverbs and riddles and poetic lines in prose tales in the Kalevala meter. [8]
In his prologue to the Kanteletar, a collection of edited folk poems in the Kalevala meter published in 1840, Lönnrot expressed his concern for the boundaries between the genres of oral poetry. He had built the epic Kalevala [9] on narrative poems, but in the Kanteletar, the range of genres was far greater, and their relations intrigued the editor. The boundaries did not hold:

Separating these songs and poems into distinct groups has not been an easy task; indeed, at times it has been downright onerous. Now and again, epic poems cross the borderline to incantations, and so do lyric songs … From the other side, lyric songs merge with contemporary songs, and even there the boundary is often blurred. But every man does the best job he can within his understanding, and so have I. I am not to blame if patches in the field of song have at times been left secluded or if at other times the borders have been transgressed. [10]

The spatial metaphor used by Lönnrot to designate the poems he was working with—a field of song—encapsulates his Romanticist notion of poetry. One of Lönnrot’s aims in editing and publishing folk poetry was to promote the nascent Finnish literary culture by providing it with aesthetic ideals based on folklore. This project of cultivating and domesticating “natural” poetry into an ordered “garden of song” and for the purposes of the elite was indeed comparable to the task of a farmer designing his field into separate patches. [11] For Lönnrot, the problem of genre was not only a technical one. The theoretical discussion in the prologue reveals his anxiety about a literate audience’s competence to appreciate and understand oral poetry and its system of genres. Oral poetry seemed to miss the primary guiding line for interpretation—namely, a set of clearly defined genres and an understanding of how to read them. Paradoxically, the aesthetic advantage of oral poems over literary ones was this very same disorderly, natural, and spontaneous quality.

In the classification and analysis of oral corpora typological or academic systems of genre are clearly inadequate: [12] any single text can often be classified into several categories, and it may contain elements and episodes referring to several genres. The borders between vernacular, or emic, genres of oral poetry are more akin to interfaces than to boundaries: instead of dissecting they mediate. Methodologically, one way of alleviating the friction between typological and vernacular concepts of genre is to take generic interfaces and interactions as the starting point. [13] Rather than contesting the idea of genre analysis, the notion of generic intertextuality complements it. Focusing on the interplay of genres, we can use typological concepts of genre without being constrained by their false rigidity; we can describe vernacular or local systems of genre more accurately, and, finally, we can gain a deeper understanding of oral poetry as a system of communication.
In the actual use of the vernacular or emic generic systems, the genres gain their expressive power and significance only in relation to each other. [14] Each song sung and word uttered acquires meaning in the interpretative frame of the tradition as a whole. Even if the genres can be—and even have to be—separated for analytical purposes, a richer appreciation of their meaning requires a shift in the opposite direction: a synthesis provided by the notion of generic intertextuality. Generic intertextuality, or the dialogue of genres, involves the interaction of principles of composition and interpretative frames specific to genres of oral tradition. [15]
My definition of genres corresponds to that of William Hanks: genres are frames that guide the production and reception of discourse and that consist of historically specific conventions and ideals. Hanks develops Richard Bauman’s idea of genre with the assertion that genres “consist of orienting frameworks, interpretive procedures, and sets of expectations that are not part of the discourse structure, but of the ways actors relate to and use language.” [16] The analysis of large corpora of oral poetry and the challenges of archival data with little or no contextual information call for a multi-dimensional approach to genre. As Peter Seitel writes:

The interpretive powers of genre grow from its ability to name and provide a perspective on four conceptual spheres: categorization of texts, intertextual reference, performance in a social field, and “form-shaping ideology”—a framework for creating and understanding kinds of speech. … [D]efinition and description of a corpus are not the end but the beginning of interpretation; they provide a focus for analysis, a rich topic for critical dialogue. [17]

Any given genre has interpretive powers not only for those who use it for communicative purposes but also for the scholar, and these aspects are compatible. However, the tension between natural, emic categories of genre and scholarly concepts makes the analysis of generic combinations open to debate. The genres in dialogue are recognized, categorized, and named by the researcher who is an outsider to the culture he or she is studying. Although intergeneric strategies of meaning had been acknowledged by the singers, we have—due to the biases of the nineteenth-century collectors [18] — little data to verify it. As factual, formal, stylistic, thematic, or functional characteristics discernible from texts, even archived artifacts, these strategies do, however, indicate the ways in which the singers used the material and conventions at their disposal—either consciously or unconsciously. Incompetence and unsuccessful performances often bring the implicit assumptions about generic conventions to the surface, as demonstrated by the documentation of Karppo’s performance.

Intertextuality in oral expressive forms

Repetition, formulaicity, and stereotypicality permeate the life of oral tradition, from the level of texture to pragmatics. After all, a traditional speech act is recognized as traditional only if reiterated and thus linked to a series of previous performances [19] and the “pool of tradition,” or “everything that is institutionally implied in the act of performance.” [20] The scale of the element reiterated varies from concise traditional formulae to entire texts, and the redundancy and fixity of form affect the production, reception, and interpretation of oral tradition. The creation of intertextual associations is based on such repetition: recognizability (of a text, a genre, a motif) is a prerequisite for any transformation of meaning. Both John Miles Foley and Paul Zumthor argue that meaning in oral poetry is based on formulaic composition, which is essentially a set of intertextual strategies that enables the presence of the previous performances in the present one. [21]
Like generic instability, redundancy in oral poetry troubled Elias Lönnrot. He assumed it to be displeasing to a literate audience and apologized in the prologue to the Kanteletar:

The same phrases appear now and then in two, or even in many more, different songs. Readers should not censure us for this, or think that we could have tossed these and those words out of the song because they have already appeared in a previous song. We had no right to do so. If, in one song, we find the words on these wretched borderlands, the poor Northern country, or in these bad times, the waning age, or woe is me, the poor boy, woe the boy of poor fate, it does not mean that they cannot reappear in other places. Such phrases, like other old saws, must have lived among the people from times immemorial and, as such, they were mixed unaltered into songs. Such things are nothing out of the ordinary in folksongs; indeed, even in educated circles people may use words once uttered by others as if they were their own. [22]

In this first account of formulaic elements in Finnish-Karelian folk poetry Lönnrot did not dismiss repetition as senseless reiteration, for the appearance of an expression in one context did not preclude its rightful appearance in another. Such “phrases” or parallelistic couplets in the Kalevala meter were essential to both the poetic idiom and colloquial speech. Even for Lönnrot, recurring phrases were authentic expressions of the singer or speaker’s subjectivity: they were used as if they were one’s “own,” even if they had been used “before,” and by others—in a word, they were traditional.

In the interpretation of a traditional text or texts, the repetitive and formulaic elements manifest the unique strategies for creating meaning particular to the poetic tradition. As Albert Lord put it, meaning clings to the recurring elements, for example, themes or formulae, from one context of use to another as an “echo” or “fragrance,” a connotative meaning: “Each theme, small or large—one might even say, each formula—has around it an aura of meaning which has been put there by all the contexts in which it has occurred in the past.” [23] Meaning is grounded in all the situations in which the poet or singer has used the elements, and the audience’s manner of interpretation conforms to the interpretation of the performer: it is also based on previous experiences of usages of the repeated element. This kind of synthesizing interpretive strategy is possible because the poet and audience share the same experiences of textual production and reception. [24]
In his theory of traditional referentiality, John Miles Foley worked on Lord’s basic notions and created an outline of a specifically oral aesthetics. [25] Structural, repetitive, and conventional elements do more than simply facilitate oral composition. Their possible domains of significance extend to individual lines and passages, and also to entities larger than any individual text, the whole tradition: “Traditional referentiality, then, entails the invoking of a context that is enormously larger and more echoic than the text or work itself, that brings the lifeblood of generations of poems and performances to the individual performance or text.” [26] These metonymic relationships to the whole of tradition are based on allusion: each instance of a textual unit alludes to past and potential instances of its use within the traditional idiom. Tradition is “the enabling referent” that makes interpretation possible, and performance “the enabling event,” in which and through which an interpretation can be made. [27]
If all the recurrent elements (e.g. formulae, epithets, etc.) were merely clichés with automaticized meanings, using them would fail to generate new semantic contents. A rich and allusive expressive economy emerges from a sufficiently —but not excessively—versatile use of texts. Intertextual signification in oral literature is constructed upon a tension between an individual’s creative freedom and the power of convention. The formulae mentioned by Lönnrot are common and versatile until the point where they echo no particular contextual meaning. Still they evoke the essential ideas expressed in these contexts and enriched and substantiated by multiple uses. If the repeated element has one dominant context of use, however, this context affects the interpretation of the element in all its subsequent uses. If the dominant context is linked to central ideas and values of the community, this effect is particularly strong. For example, mythic images and motifs gain their meaning from the slowly changing mental templates of mythology, and they have the power to channel these meanings to new contexts of use and simultaneously charge them with mythic and ritual resonance.
In the following, I will discuss kinds of intertextuality that enable such traditional referentiality. For the purposes of this discussion, intertextuality will be defined as the dynamic production of meanings in expressive culture through an ongoing dialogue of references and cross references to previous discourses: texts, songs, and performances. Texts and genres have no fixed and stable identities, nor autonomy. Instead they are emergent and relational, produced and reproduced in communicative praxis. [28] In the production and interpretation of a text—for example, a Kalevala-meter poem—the singers and their audiences related the present performance to their repertoire of related performances. The interpretive task of the scholar is analogous: he or she has to trace down all the possible texts and performances that might affect interpretation, and then argue for their applicability. The intertextual relations are conditioned by the community’s social and historical circumstances and channeled according to the tendencies of tradition, fixity of texture, and conventionality. Far from free and infinite, signification in oral poetry is thus drawn towards what is typical and traditional. Despite—or indeed because of—these centripetal forces of traditional interpretation, atypical combinations create a remarkable potential for new meanings. [29]
The meanings that extend as “auras” from one performance (or text) to another are based on frames of interpretation interacting within the system of genres. The text (motif, or formula) typically appearing in one generic context carries with it the conventional, genre-specific meanings and expectations even when used in another generic context. The consequent clash of interpretations (the typical or expected one and the one implied by the present context) challenges the old meanings and fuels the generation of new ones. The performer and the audience both master the traditional generic system even if their competence may vary both in quality and quantity; in each performance the cultural code enables them to grasp the generically determined meanings or challenge them. As Briggs and Bauman argue, [30] generic intertextuality links elements of discourse (or texts) to generic ideals, that is, to “generalized or abstracted models of discourse production and reception”—not to other, previous elements of discourse. As no rendering of a text ever fully matches those models, there is always an “intertextual gap” between generic ideals and actual performances. [31]
The dialogue of genres is a central intertextual strategy for generating meaning in and across expressive forms. Within the poetic tradition it is possible to differentiate between several strategies for establishing such dialogues. Like genres themselves, these strategies coordinate principles of composition, performance, and interpretation and are thus a joint effort of performers and their audiences. They overlap conceptually and they can be applied simultaneously. Generic intertextuality is a variable, rather than a homogenous phenomenon, and regional differences in, e.g., the social function, performance context, and style of Kalevala-meter poetry determine the dominant type of generic intertextuality. [32] Furthermore, the inclination of any given genre to generic combination and dialogical structures, or its degree of “polylogicality,” varies, and it is possible to analyze quantitatively some strategies of generic intertextuality. [33] Here, I will present a preliminary examination of some of the most obvious strategies: hybridization of genres, intergeneric translation, multigeneric performances, and sequential combination of genres. To conclude, I will discuss the implicit interpretive tension in texts or textual elements that are seemingly standard representatives of generic ideals, but are open to various context-specific interpretations that radically alter those ideals and the expectations bound to them.

Hybridization and intergeneric translation

The combination of genres within one single text rarely hinders our recognition of the genres in question. However, there are texts whose genre escapes definition—texts in which generic dialogue is dense enough to produce hybrid forms. Such texts are often marginalized in research and archival classification by being labeled as mistakes, idiosyncracies, or exceptions.
Hybrids can be defined as texts displaying several generic markers with no genre dominating the other. In 1834, one of Lönnrot’s most influential informants, Arhippa Perttunen, performed a peculiar text. Beginning in verse form, with words from lyric songs and aphoristic poems, the text alludes to courting epics and then evolves into a neck riddle, which offers a prose account of the use of minor genres and their folk interpretation. Arhippa’s performance fuses Kalevala-meter poetry, versified speech, riddles, and folktale, leaving none of the genres untouched by this fusion: the rhetorical structures and interpretative frames associated with all genres involved clash and change in the process. To tell a tale and to contemplate central values in his community, the performer sets in motion the entire system of folklore genres. In his radical combination of traditional elements, Arhippa maximizes the intertextual gap between his performance and the generic ideals connected to many genres of prose and poetry; in doing so, he claims authority as an innovative and creative singer. [34] The hybrid text puzzled Lönnrot for years, and in the process of compiling the Kanteletar, he gradually versified the whole tale, finally classifying it as a “narrative song blended with mythical elements.” [35] This act of bringing the text closer to generic ideals and expectations not only made it understandable for a wider audience, but also portrayed it as a traditional representative of one, albeit invented, genre.
Groups of multigeneric texts can form a hybrid genre, if they recur frequently and are recognized within the community. The most widely known and discussed hybrid genre is the pervasive lyric-epic tradition in the southernmost area of Kalevala-meter rune-singing. [36] The Viena Karelian yoik is another obvious case. The northern Viena yoik was closely related to the Sámi yoik and strongly influenced by the alliterative style of laments; it was non-metrical and improvised. In the Vuokkiniemi parish, however, only the village of Vuonninen belonged to this culture area. The rest of the parish cherished the yoik style of southern Viena. These hybrid yoiks are cast in the Kalevala meter and share the thematic focus of Kalevala-meter lyric poetry but are locally identified and named as yoiks on the basis of performance style and melody. Identical poetic lines could be used in lyric songs and yoiks of the southern style, but their tone and meaning changed according to the melody and performance style specific to these genres. [37] Thus in the core region of Kalevala-meter rune-singing, the yoik tradition was absorbed within the register of the dominant poetic idiom. [38] As in the case of the Kalevala-meter hybrid yoik, hybrid genres often indicate border zones between culture areas. Similarly, they often arise at times of radical cultural change: they are genres in transition.
One of the conventional hybrid genres in Kalevala-meter poetry is the proverbial poem or aphorism. The aphorism typically consists of several proverbial couplets and it presents advice and parables elucidating moral and aesthetic ideas. The themes and even the lines used may also appear in lyric poetry. The difference lies in the performance style and finite form of the texts: as opposed to the aphorism, the lyric uses the first person and is ideally sung, not uttered or recited. According to Thomas DuBois, [39] proverbialization is a native hermeneutic tradition in lyric that describes typical feelings and collective modes of understanding. The ambiguous distinction between lyric poems and aphorisms can be made on the degree of proverbialization realized in the text. [40] In accordance with this emphasis, the messages conveyed and the tone differ: the lyric poem is subjective and affective; the aphorism is assertive, generalizing, even normative. A singer from the Vuonninen village, Anni Lehtonen, was renowned for her ability to improvise serial aphoristic couplets, such as this one:

Ota oppi otsahas,
neuvo nenävartehes,
kun lähet moalla vierahalla,
uusilla asuin mailla.

Take your learning onto your forehead,
the advice onto the bridge of your nose,
when you leave for foreign lands,
new lands to dwell in.

(SKS KRA Paulaharju 1915 c9232)

Lehtonen explained that the first parallelistic couplet was used as an independent proverb, and its meaning could be summed up as a request: “Listen, when you are taught!” [41] Typically, the couplet appears in songs or long epic poems in which parents—human or animal—teach their offspring strategies for survival. [42] In the aphorism, Lehtonen gives the didactic gesture a new focus: knowledge is an asset in unfamiliar circumstances. The latter couplet commonly occurs in lyric poetry, and its appearance activates the interpretative frame of the songs of homesickness and nostalgia especially important in the songs sung by young wives. With this frame in mind, the whole could be interpreted as an opening to a didactic poem for the bride, a well-established genre performed at the wedding ritual.

The aphorism illustrates the role of the couplet and parallelism in the composition of Kalevala-meter poetry: the parallelistic proverbial couplets are joined together to produce thematically motivated associations. The longer the poem, the clearer its poetic and ‘entextualized’ quality, that is, its detachability from everyday discourse that guarantees the significance of the text even outside the original context of performance. [43] The fusion of the proverb and the sung lyric poem brings about a change in the mode of performance: uttered and contextualized in the flow of speech, the aphorism pierces the boundary between the poetic universe and everyday discourse. [44]
When considered in the context of proverbs, the genesis of the aphorism is a case of generic transformation by amplification. In a set of proverbs joined together in an aphorism there is no necessary change in interpretative frame—unless the contents of the couplets are contrasted. [45] However, in the Kalevala-meter yoik from southern Viena, the ethos of the genres combined (lyric poetry and yoik proper) contrast sharply. In the yoiks, which are typically sung by young women, desirable partners are extolled with sensual images, whereas unwanted ones are ridiculed with sharp, often erotic, overtones. The lyric poems center on the emotional aspect of courting and marriage, expressing the expectations, fears, and hopes of the poetic ego. [46] Together, the genres produce a dynamic universe of meanings—and thus, an apt outlet for ambivalent emotions.
Cultural change and contacts encourage not only the hybridization of genres but also intergeneric translation of a text from one poetic language to another. During transitional periods, the same textual contents could thus be cast in more than one poetic meter. In the late nineteenth century, Kalevala-meter poetry coexisted in Viena Karelia with rhymed folksongs, and able singers could choose the poetic meter at will. One such singer was Miihkali Perttunen, the son of the abovementioned Arhippa. In the eyes of Romanticist folklore collectors, Miihkali had become an iconic figure, “the blind Homer of the North,” and he received a small pension from the Finnish Literature Society. On August 29, 1894, he performed two versions of a song of thanks dedicated to his patrons, the “good gentlemen of Helsinki.” [47] The collectors—or Miihkali himself—named both poems Miihkali’s Song, indicating a presumption that the two performances were identical as instances of the same song. This identity clearly concerns the levels of theme and communicative function only: the singer depicts his ability to sing, the reactions of the collectors, and the generosity of the “gentlemen.” The first version, cast in the Kalevala meter, climaxes in a generic amplification, a prayer to protect the patrons and their economic pursuits. [48] The second is structured in parallelistic rhyming quatrains, and it also refers to God as the protector and provider of the “gentlemen of Helsinki.” It is clear that Miihkali was a master in the Kalevala meter, but a novice in rhyming couplets.
The choice of genre determines the tone of the text, and also hints at an ideological conflict. As Briggs and Bauman have noted, [49] generic intertextuality orders discourse in historical and social terms: genres are associated with different times (e.g. the past vs. modernity), ethnic groups (e.g. Finns, Karelians, and Russians), and social classes (e.g. the rural peasants vs. the urban elite). Invoking a genre or playing with that invocation thus foregrounds the tension between the opposing categories in question. Viena Karelians considered rhyming songs modern, mundane, and “foreign,” either Finnish or Russian, whereas Kalevala-meter songs were “our songs,” or “the old songs of Karelia.” [50] Performing the “same” song in these two poetic languages in succession also hints at the problematic intercultural communication in the recording situation: the song performed by a poor, rural Karelian to thank the rich, urban, and Finnish-speaking elite maximizes its effect by translating the message from the “old” language to the “new” one. In this particular case, intergeneric translation aimed at creating a consensual atmosphere and thus relativizing the radical cultural chasm between the speaker and the addressee. In the clumsy rhyming stanzas, Miihkali is creating a common ground for intercultural exchange.

Genres in performance

For those studying archived oral tradition, the most challenging aspect of generic intertextuality is the dialogue of genres within the performance. The evidence for multigeneric performances is obscured by the procedures involved in textualization and archiving. Most of the documented Kalevala-meter poems were written down in situations specifically arranged for this purpose. Initiated and controlled by the collector and without audience participation or other factors contributing to the performance arena, [51] rune-collecting sessions were performances out of the ordinary. The resulting written representations of oral poetry were consequently a far cry from the local ideals and experiences of finalized performances. Furthermore, written documents tend necessarily to cut the flow of performance into segments, resulting in textual objects that may easily be subjected to generic classification. Decontextualization gives an impression not only of atomistic texts but of genres with categorical boundaries and exclusive identities. If the text is defined more broadly, however, the situation changes: the meaningful unit is the performance as a whole, and the interpretation of any single textual item has to take into account all the genres put into play.
Intergeneric maneuvering has been the rule in heightened, full-fledged performances of Kalevala-meter poetry. During the wedding ritual, the points of view of the parties were expressed and juxtaposed through ritual songs, songs of mockery, laments, incantations and spells, proverbs, and allegorical ceremonial speech. [52] Ritual wedding songs structured the ritual whole and put forth the values and expectations of the two kin groups. Songs of mockery and didactic poems explicitly addressed the groom and the bride’s abilities to fulfill those expectations. Laments functioned as an outlet for the emotions of the bride who faced final separation from her childhood home. Incantations and spells secured the couple and those present from the social malevolence and envy that could magically harm the whole community undergoing a reorganization of social statuses. Proverbs and ceremonial speech articulated central notions and values in an indirect, metaphorical fashion. The expression and reformulation of communal and individual values, expectations, and emotions could only be accomplished by the dialogical orchestration of genres.
Ritual performances, such as weddings and bear-killing rituals, formed a favorable setting for extensive and varied use of folklore genres, and it seems that the formality of the performance in general tended to enhance dialogical use of genres. In public gatherings and festive singing contests, the competing singers challenged each other with mocking songs and raised their spirits with boasting words and magical formulae—a practice portrayed in epic poems such as The Singing Contest. [53] As markers of significant performances the singer’s opening and closing formulae that frame epic poems are, however, the most obvious proof of the performative efficacy of generic combinations. Especially the long narrative poems were typically performed in public and with a high degree of formality. The performance arena remained incomplete without the use of the singer’s formulae, a genre dedicated to marking a performance. Although seamlessly bound to the epic narrative, they often were documented and published as independent texts and classified as lyric poetry. [54]
What happens to these contextually determined generic dialogues when the texts are performed and transmitted out of context—or the context locally acknowledged as an appropriate one? It was already mentioned that the decontextualization inherent in the act of documentation produces atomistic texts and represent genres as solid entities—as in the case of the singer’s opening and closing formulae. This is, however, not always the case. As a performance, the rune-collecting session was a collaborative event in which the singer and the collector often aimed at producing a text that would approximate the ideals and expectations of both parties. To fill in the missing frame provided by the context, the singer sometimes included descriptions of a typical performance setting in his text. This is often pronounced in ritual texts recorded outside the ritual context. As a rule, the contextual information was given in a prose statement, but sometimes it was woven into the poetic text; for example, the performer’s role and identity could be disclosed by simply telling who is uttering a particular text in the ritual, or by presenting this text as words uttered by a protagonist in the poem. [55]
Such narrative contextualization of ritual poetry relies on the prime strategy of generic intertextuality employed widely in Kalevala-meter poetry: the sequential combination of genres. This most conspicuous form of generic intertextuality manifests itself in two ways: embedded insertions and serial combinations. The generic tensions appear explicitly in the text, which unfolds as a sequence of elements drawn from many genres.

The multi-generic epic

The move from a multigeneric performance to a multigeneric text is gradual and largely dependent on the recording situation with its techniques, aims, and underlying notions concerning performance and textuality. Traditional referentiality, or the consciousness of all the genres and texts in the culture relevant to the theme, was the grounds for both building and understanding fictive or mythic universes of meaning and narration and for verbalizing them in any particular performance. Emic notions of genre were elementary to the organization of these meanings and narratives.
The epic is the quintessentially multivocal platform for sequential combinations of genre. [56] In the Vuokkiniemi corpus, epic poems contain episodes of incantation, lyric poetry, aphorisms, prayers, proverbs, riddles, and yoiks. Scholars of the Kalevala have paid special attention to incantations, lyric poetry, and ritual songs embedded in the epic. [57] One reason for this complexity and narrative depth is the alternation of narration, descriptive passages, and reported speech in dialogues, in both the Kalevala and its oral sources. [58]
A generic insertion or interpolation is a passage embedded within the text but representing a genre distinct from its textual context. Such embedded insertions are usually presented within dialogues by the protagonists, as lines uttered by the heroes, or in passages evaluating the narrative. They broaden the fictive universe by giving voice to protagonists and by portraying traditional speech acts.
Viena Karelian epic poetry was characterized by metapoetic themes and plot types that centered around poetry itself: the poets made poetry about people performing poetry. This reflexive assessment of the rune-singing culture necessitated representation of traditional performances within the narrative universe. Singing is effectively described by making the protagonist of the epic sing. These embedded performances within the epic result in intergeneric combinations. [59]
As a metapoetic strategy, singing about singing has a performative function: it has an impact on the context. As the singers sang about themselves and their own cultural competence, they reflected upon tradition in situations in which tradition was being constructed. In his studies on Eddic poetry, Lars Lönnroth underscores the prevalence of the phenomenon in oral poetry. [60] The double scene, as he terms it, refers to the connection between the situation of performance and the fictive universe: it is “something that happens during the course of an oral performance whenever the narrative appears to be enacted by the performer or his audience on the very spot where the entertainment takes place.” [61] Here, narrated event and narrating event merge, providing a possibility for the fusion of the heroes’ and the performers’ identities. [62] In Kalevala-meter poetry the double scene is closely connected to generic intertextuality, as its realization requires not only the use of singer’s formulae, whereby a favorable performance reality is created, but also the representation of the protagonists’ dialogues and the embedded generic discourse connected to them.
Comparative parallels for double scenes in Eddic and Kalevala-meter poetry have been presented by Richard Martin, Dwight Reynolds, and Richard Bauman. According to Martin, who has studied representations of speech and performance in the Homeric epics, the Iliad is largely based on vernacular “speaking culture,” a mode of speech employed in the epic in the heightened and authoritative speech acts of the heroes. [63] The epic accounts of the speech acts represent the purest form of mimesis. Reynolds’s research on the northern Egyptian epic tradition Sīrat Banī Hilāl points at the affinity between the performers of epic and the heroes whose exploits they recount: both are singers. The double scene, that is, a scene in which the hero performs a poem, is a recurrent feature in these poems. [64] In his study of the Icelandic kraftaskáld legends, Bauman examines representations of magical performances as generic intertextuality. [65] The interplay between the Viena epic and its performers corresponds to the situation presented by Reynolds: epic heroes, like rune-singers, use incantations to solve problems. The relationship between the Viena Karelian singer and Väinämöinen, the main epic protagonist, was predominantly one of collegial affinity.
The significance of embedded performances is highlighted in the formulae that frame them—such as “he spoke thus, uttered a word.” [66] Frames for signaling the lines uttered by the heroes are among the most widely used stock formulae in Kalevala-meter poetry. [67] They may be short, comprising only half a line, or they may take up one entire line or two parallel lines. Sometimes the frame can be emphasized by referring to traditional singers’ opening words and thus evoking an image of an actual performance. [68] The transition to a line of dialogue is often obvious, even without a frame. Yet the lack of frame to introduce a generic interpolation may also indicate that the shift to reported speech signals an evaluation by the performer or the speaker of the poem, expressed in a generic idiom best suited for this task. The identity of the speaker within the poem is crucial because it determines the rhetorical function of the insertion.
I shall give three examples from the Sampo-cycle that forms the core of the Kalevala. [69] Väinämöinen, the epic hero and sage, [70] has just created the world, but is now drifting in the primal sea, agonized and fearing death. The reactions of the hero are portrayed by three kinds of embedded performances. First, he resorts to a lyric song to express his agony:

Itkie tihustelouve,
voia vuopahattelouve:
”Jouvuin pois omilta mailta
mailla muilla vierahilla,
äkki ouvoilla ovilla,
en tunne tupia näitä,
osoa en ovissa käyvä.”

He cries and whimpers,
groans and growls:
“I had to leave the lands of my own
for other, strange lands,
for doors so odd,
I don’t know these rooms,
I can’t find my way through the doors.”

(SKVR I1 58a)

As in the case of Väinämöinen’s cosmic nostalgia, the embedded lyric poems typically describe the emotions and motives of the protagonists. Significantly, identical lyrical lines were used by the singers in songs of homesickness. [71] Väinämöinen’s lament is framed as a line of dialogue in which the conventional words to represent a speech act are replaced with varying depictions of crying: this is a song of sorrow. Väinämöinen’s “hissing cry” brings tears “plumper” than hazel hen eggs and heavier than cranberries in his eyes. [72]

Second, Väinämöinen evaluates the situation in a more sober manner, by uttering a proverb:

Siitä kulki Väinämöinen,
kulki kuusissa hakona,
petäjässä päänä pölkyn.
Itsche nuin sanoksi virkko:
”Haittan’ on hako vesillä,
köyhät eellä rikkahalla.”

And so Väinämöinen was cast adrift,
drifted as a trunk among spruces,
as a log among pines.
He himself put into words:
“Driftwood troubles the waterways,
the poor bother the rich.”

(SKVR I1 79)

Väinämöinen’s comment is a common proverb in Viena Karelia. The basis for its inclusion in the scene is vague—an uncertain link is established between Väinämöinen’s drifting and the general notion of the harmfulness of driftwood. In itself, the proverb expresses a profound sense of injustice: for the rich, the poor are reduced to harmful obstacles in the process of gaining wealth. In this context, the insertion focuses on the portrayal of Väinämöinen’s repertoire of tradition, words, and poetry. His acts are repeatedly authorized by displays of his wisdom and a disposition coined in the formulaic epithet “old and steadfast” (vaka vanha).

The formulaic speech acts and epithets identifying the speaker as Väinämöinen, the authoritative sage and singer, discernibly shape the interpretative frame—even of lines that are not explicit generic interpolations. Väinämöinen’s weighty speech generally takes the form of proverbial language, even if the words he uses are not always established proverbs. This proverbial way of speaking is a special characteristic enhanced by the traditional image of Väinämöinen. As noted by Iivo Marttinen, an ethnographer from Vuokkiniemi, the poignancy of proverbs made them sound as though “they had been spoken by Väinämöinen himself.” [73] By internalizing this characteristic, the listener learned not only to differentiate between a saying or proverb and other speech genres but also to elaborate on expressive form and content.
Later, when the heroes are raiding for the fantastic wealth-producing object, the sampo, more proverbs, such as “Anything spare won’t capsize a boat,” are performed. [74] All the proverbs mentioned, mostly uttered by Väinämöinen, are identifiable and traditional performances for those socialized into the rune-singing culture and idioms of spoken language. As the listener identifies a familiar performance taking place within the fictive or mythic universe, this imaginary realm is drawn closer: it is enriched with detail, made perspicuous, topical, and familiar. The talk of the heroes was immediately recognized—after all, the listeners used the same expressions themselves. Väinämöinen not only authorized traditional performances: traditional performances were a proof of Väinämöinen’s wisdom.
The last and ultimate strategy used by Väinämöinen is magical. Uttering an incantation, he raises a rainstorm to carry him to the shore:

”Oi Ukko ylijumala,
yli toatto taivahańi,
taivahallińi Jumala.
Luo sie pilvi luotehelta,
toini on lännestä lähätä,
kolmas on koko terältä,
lomatusta loukahuta,
kassa potkalta porohkat.”
Sekä nousi, jotta joutu,
kasto potkalta porohkat …
kantopa vanhan Väinämöisen
paikoilla papittomilla …

“Oh, Ukko, god supreme,
highest father in the heavens,
heavenly God.
Conceive a cloud from the northwest,
cast another from the west,
a third one from all around,
clap them all together,
wet the flintlock’s powder.”
And it rose, and it rushed,
and it wet the flintlock’s powder …
carried old Väinämöinen,
to the priestless places …

(SKVR I1 78)

The portrayal of the singing of magical charms is especially salient in the narrative universe of Kalevala-meter epics. [75] In his analysis of the kraftaskáld legends, Richard Bauman has noted that in many epics the heroes accomplish things with magical means, verbal or otherwise. As an example, Bauman presents a passage from the Kalevala. [76] Embedded performances are justified by the narrative and, especially in the case of incantation, often lead to solving a problem and moving the plot forward. They also lend emotional depth to the characters’ actions. In The Singing Contest, for example, the hero expresses his anger by singing a song endowed with magical power. [77] The embedded incantation brings with it an implicit theory about the power of the word and the efficacy of the incantation. In the words of Greg Urban, “any narrative text containing instances of reported speech embodies a kind of ‘theory’ about the relationship between speech and action” [78] —in this case, the conceived causal and intentional link between Väinämöinen’s words and the storm. The evidence provided by the embedded incantation is strong: as Bauman notes, the incantation and the account of its effectiveness follow each other in a tight parallelistic construction. [79] Bauman emphasizes that quoted speech “not merely recounts, but re-presents the quoted discourse.” [80] Unlike in the legends studied by Bauman, I argue that reported speech and embedded ritual performances maintain a trace of the illocutionary power of incantations. [81] Similar quotations appear in ritual texts imbued with magical power, and the embedded text itself could be used in real life rituals by the same performers. The same applies to lyric poetry: through an embedded lyric performance, some of the genre’s expressive and emotional power is transferred to the epic.

Within the poetics of traditional referentiality, overt illustration of the efficacy of the incantation was entirely optional. Even though the embedded incantations did serve to legitimate both the incantation tradition and Väinämöinen’s authority, the cultural standing of incantations and the mythical sage was sufficiently established, thus making explicit demonstration needless. The mere recognition of Väinämöinen’s figure and the incantatory register ensured that the audience understood the plot.
An embedded incantation in an epic poem has a reciprocal signifying relation to the epic: while it authorizes the epic through the performative power of the incantation, it also authorizes the tradition of incantations through the mythical epic universe. In addition to authorization, embedded elements can also bring forth parody and humor, as the combination of genres activates two incongruent frames of interpretation. [82]
Another strategy of sequential combination is the serial development of the poem by linking passages from various genres into lengthy sequences or chains. Here, the generic insertion is not framed within the host text; rather, it typically produces a permanent change of genre. Such serial texts are often highly stable combinations of an epic introduction and an incantation.
In the epic poem The Knee Wound, Väinämöinen suffers an injury to his knee and undertakes a journey to the upper and lower worlds in search of a mythical healer. Only the third attempt is successful, and the wound is healed with an incantation. Although the poem is firmly linked with the sage’s role as a healer and has an established connection with incantations, it does not necessarily continue with an incantation. Sometimes closure is achieved with a laconic statement of Väinämöinen’s cure (“He was cured then”); sometimes the poem continues with other plot types (SKVR I4 2145, SKVR I1 89). Typically, however, The Knee Wound appears as a narrative introduction to blood-stopping words, as an alternative to The Birth of Iron, an incantatory narrative of origins that describes the birth of the substance causing the wound. The Knee Wound operates as a historiola for the words for blood-stopping: during the course of the ritual the healer sketches a prototypical healing event in order to replicate its success in the present of the ritual. [83]
The ritual context endowed The Knee Wound with magical power. In the mythical account, both the power to heal and the propensity to be healed were traced back to the beginning of time, from which they emanated to the present. In some cases, however, the combination of The Knee Wound and the incantation is finalized by returning to the fictive universe, for example, by describing Väinämöinen’s deeds after the cure. [84] The return to the fictive universe is redundant in the ritual context, and it disrupts the transposition of magical power from the mythical world to the present situation. The whole turns into a representation of a magical act, lacking the ritual efficacy of such acts. [85]
Even in the case of an established and typical combination of the epic with incantations, such as The Knee Wound and the words for blood-stopping, the incantation can be embedded in the narrative poem as the sage-hero’s utterance, which is framed with opening formulae (e.g. “thus [he] spoke to his knee” SKVR I1 317). As the incantation sequence begins, the singer’s position vis-à-vis the epic protagonists is altered. No longer is he simply a narrator describing Väinämöinen’s wound; instead, he now assumes the role of healer. Because the words of the incantation are often framed as lines uttered by the eternal sage himself, Väinämöinen appears to be speaking through the mouth of the performer. Identification with a powerful mythic figure authorizes the ritual and guarantees its efficacy. [86]
Incantations for blood-stopping detached from the narrative episode may draw upon the plot of The Knee Wound and its pattern of three repetitions used in describing the quest for a healer. The opportunity provided by the narrative historiola for the performer to identify with the mythical healer is not always used, but simply knowing the narrative pattern guarantees that the healer’s authority will be acknowledged. Anni Lehtonen frames her incantation for blood-stopping as a description of a healing ritual, as something “the men say, when they staunch blood”:

Astua lekuttelen
ylimmäistä tietä myöten
ylimmäisehen talohon.
Jo kysyn kynnykseltä,
anun alta ikkunoijen:
”Oisiko talossa tässä
uron tuskan tuntijoo,
salpoajaa verisatijen?”

I waggle my way
along the highest road
to the highest house.
Right at the threshold, I ask,
beneath the windows, I utter my pleas:
“Can anybody in this house
grasp the hero’s pain,
stop the rain of blood?”

(SKVR I4 196)

The performer of the incantation, a male blood-stopper, takes the place as the poem’s speaker: he recounts the journey he is taking to the otherworld. After the third attempt, he arrives at the “lowest house” and meets the god Ukko, “the keeper of the clouds.” The divine healer “himself puts into words”:

”Nyt tulkoh Jumalan tunti,
apu Herran astukkoo
tämän tuskan tuntijaksi […].”

“Now let the hour of God arise,
the aid of the Lord come forth
to grasp this pain […].”

(SKVR I4 196)

According to Lehtonen, the healer now “begins to recite similar spells” to those uttered by Ukko. At this stage the double scene is fully realized. As Lehtonen states, the performer’s words are similar to those used by the mythical healers at the beginning of the text. The text clearly shows the positions available to the hero of the poem; the singer (or performer of an incantation) can assume these positions during a performance even to the point that the poem acquires a first-person narrator—an atypical feature in Viena Karelian narrative poems. The speaker’s connection to the epic’s heroes remains implicit but recognizable for those acquainted with the traditional poem types. [87] The imposition of the rhetorical structure of an incantation onto an epic plot—or the epic plot onto the incantation— is one form of the implicit dialogue of genres.

Even if generic embedding is most common in epic poems it also appears in incantations and lyric poetry. Hunting incantations described the hunter’s frustration with lyric verses: the ritual intervention realized in the performance was motivated by the experiences of want and hunger. Lyric songs that focused on the anxieties of social life often turned into magic formulae that fought malevolent or envious fellow humans interpreted as witches. [88] The hybrid potential of lyric songs and proverbs hints at the possibility of their sequential combination. A lyric song recorded in Ingria from an unknown singer starts with conventional motifs from songs sung by young unmarried women. The girl is waiting to be courted, perhaps by a boy she loves. The passage describes the frustration of waiting and the passing of time, crystallizing the mood of the speaker into an idiomatic expression: “Ain’t nothing from nowhere!” After the abrupt evaluation, the tone changes:

Sananlaskuss’ on sanottu,
niin on ennen ennustettu:
Yö pitkä ukotta maata,
päivä pitkä lounahitta.

It’s been said in a proverb,
thus was once foretold:
The night is long if you lie without a man,
the day is long without a meal.

(SKVR XIII1 2465)

What is unusual here is the naming of the embedded genre. The proverb itself describes the same situation as the lyrical prologue, but now with a new tone typical of the genre. The short statement provides solace by pointing up the shared nature of the speaker’s experience: she is not the first one to suffer, many like her have felt the same. The shift in tone is temporary, however, and the singer continues with a lyric song. The incorporation of a new lyrical motif is signaled with a frame that indicates a return to the dominant genre of the song:

Niin se ennen neito lauloi
mataroan mennessänsä:
”Kuin mä saisin suuren sulhon,
sulhon suuren ja sorian …”

And so the maiden used to sing
as she went to gather bedstraw:
“If only I could get a tall bridegroom,
a bridegroom tall and slender …”

(SKVR XIII1 2465)

The frame implies that songs like this were sung by young women as they did their chores; the song itself is traditional and well known, it has been sung before. [89] The ensuing lyrical passage reformulates the theme of an endless night of waiting, now with upbeat defiance and renewed hope. As pointed out by Senni Timonen, [90] those lyric poems that consist of several traditional motifs are especially likely to tell a tale, often an autobiography, simultaneously evaluating it and linking the subjective experience to collective emotions and ways of expressing them. The dialogue of genres is an effective means for accomplishing such contrasting and complementary foci. Distinctions of grammatical person in verbal forms indicate genre-specific points of view: the poetic speaker of the lyric poem foregrounds the subjective experience whereas the proverb grounds that subjectivity in a collective stance. The Ingrian case of an amplified and multigeneric lyric performance also illustrates the regional variation in generic intertextuality. Ingrian Kalevala-meter poetry is characterized by lyric-epic narrative songs in which narration proceeds in the first person singular. [91] This hybrid form of the epic genre contributes to the hybridization of the lyric genre and makes it susceptible to narrative elaboration and dialogical amplification by non-narrative genres as well.

Implicit dialogues

Knowledge of the fictive or mythic universe of the poems and competence in diverse generic practices served as what Foley has called the “enabling referents”: as singers performed and audiences interpreted their performances, traditional referentiality made even incomplete messages understandable. [92] The singer may or may not choose to amplify his epic performance with generic insertions. According to Lönnrot, Viena Karelian singers clearly articulated the tendency to leave some generic combinations implicit. Ritual songs and magic incantations, Lönnrot asserted, were mainly sung separately but when a narrative poem reached a scene that depicted the use of these genres, the singers told the collector: “Here starts the common incantation for iron,” or, “Here one should sing wedding songs, and you will get them from the women.” [93] The expressions “here starts” and “here one should sing” refer to the option of extensive and explicit generic combination. The singers could leave them implicit in the performance because the local audience could fill in the allusion. Lönnrot, however, was an outsider who needed instruction. Further, while writing the Kalevala for an amateur literate audience, he decided to bring the generic allusions to the surface and amplify the epic text with extensive passages of ritual poetry. [94]
In archival research, explicit demonstrations of generic intertextuality are to be found on the textual level, for example in sequential combinations of genres within one single text. Also the hybridization of genres is often evident in the analysis of larger corpora of oral poetry. As genres are determined by thematic, stylistic, structural, and performative characteristics, the intergeneric manipulation may be accomplished at any of these levels. Such intertextual cues remain largely implicit in archival records but have been elementary in the lives of oral poetries. In her analysis of the musical structures and performative styles in Ingrian Kalevala-meter poetry, Kati Kallio has referred to generic intertextuality (or “interperformativity”) triggered by other-than-textual aspects of the poem: a single poem could be interpreted as representing various genres depending on the use of genre-specific minor formulae, themes, patterns of repetition, refrains, song structures, and melodies. [95] Typical “ways of singing,” which included textual, musical, and performative aspects, were characteristic of specific situations (e.g. weddings), and their use in other situations still referred to the typical, culturally acknowledged contexts. [96] Such interperformative cues are evident in the hybrid genres discussed above. If the performance mode (singing vs. speaking) differentiated lyric poems from aphorisms and the melody type from southern yoiks, a transformation on the musical level transformed the whole interpretive framework bound to the genre.
An identical text—a line, a couplet, a poem—may thus have various meanings and generic attachments in different performance situations: the use to which it is put makes the difference. As pointed out by Lönnrot, the same elements could be used in numerous contexts and genres, and they have no single original meaning. Such multi-purpose elements used in many genres create associations as well as differences within the system of genres. Choosing an expression with an identifiable and conventional context of performance—for example, one defined by ritual regulation and alleged magical efficacy—may create radically new meanings, commenting on and evaluating persons or circumstances. The same applies to finalized texts.
The shorter the text, the more flexible were its possible uses in communicative practices: even a two-line poetic utterance may contain the possibility of many genres within it. This implicit generic dialogue is usually impossible to detect in archival materials. Yet a short performance by one of the most famous singers of Kalevala-meter poetry, Paraske Nikitin from Ingria, is a case in point. Her use of two lines used commonly in a snake charm shows that a novel context of use, or recontextualization, inverts the interpretative expectations bound to genre. According to the collector, “Paraske said this whenever her husband grimaced: ‘Dribble dripped from the villain’s mouth, slobber from the scoundrel’s jaws!’” [97]
Paraske had learned the couplet from the very husband to whom it was directed, and it typically appears in a mythical account of the origin of the snake or the frog, used in a healing charm for a snake bite: the devil (or Judas) runs until exhausted and begins to slobber. The snake is born from this potent excretion. [98] In a marital repartee Paraske thus made an intertextual reference to the supranormal realm and a myth describing the origin of evil. Tradition was employed in exchanges of words when what was said was to be given special emphasis, effect, and cultural resonance. The emotional content and intention of this performance for those involved ranges from aggression and disgust to a joking relationship of sorts: the husband is the devil. The performance is a generic hybrid: on the basis of the textual content alone, the couplet can be classified as a charm, but as far as the context of performance and communicational function are concerned, a nagging proverbial phrase.
As generic ideals guided the use of a particular genre, its performance in an unexpected situation affected the meanings communicated. Elements of both proverbial poems and yoiks—generic hybrids in themselves—belonged to the sphere of artistic and marked performance, but they could be incorporated in everyday conversation. In Viena Karelia, proverbial poems, proverbs, and proverbial expressions were constantly used in conversation. All of them could be cast in the Kalevala meter and all of them were referred to with the emic term poverkka. [99] Armas Väisänen noted that his informants commented upon the collecting situation and answered questions with “yoik words,” [100] that is, strongly alliterative phrases that used special vocabulary characteristic of yoiks. Such poetic and performative interventions in conversation have several communicative impacts that derive from the activation of generic traditional referentiality. References to proverbs authorize messages and give them an aura of traditional wisdom whereas “yoik words” change the tone of conversation into one that is playful and even abusive.

Concluding remarks

Characteristics bound to any genre are put into use, organized, and manipulated in performances in various ways, maximizing or minimizing the fit between the generic ideal and the actual performance, that is, managing the intertextual gap. [101] An analysis of these calibrations affects the way we perceive and conceptualize folklore performances and traditionality. Fidelity to generic ideals and adherence to previous performance practices foregrounds the traditional authority inherent in the idea of folklore as an embodiment of cultural continuity and textual stability. Transmutation of those ideals and practices involves a move in the opposite direction: performance becomes the nexus of individual creativity and innovation. [102] Generic intertextuality (or the maneuvering of generic ideals and their realizations within the system of genres) thus reflects the tension between subjectivity and collective tradition, or instability and stability. Even if the production of meaning requires some stability and recognizability within the system of genres, instability is ever present in creative decisions, fortunate mistakes, and the ever changing and ideologically torn contextual sphere. Even such innovation can only be articulated against the background of tradition.
The use and interpretation of folklore genres is associated with social, ideological, and historical factors; [103] crying, laughing, yoiking, and singing (or performing a lament, a mocking song, a yoik, or a lyric or epic poem) index particular groups of performers and audiences (or addressees), underlying assumptions about the order of things (religious or social), and specific timeframes of use and origin of the discourse (past vs. present, mythic vs. the here-and-now). Simultaneously, genres are characterized by semantic content, thematic emphasis, and a point of view. [104] They evoke universes of meaning that can be identified but never separated. Through this capacity of genres, generic interaction affects the ways in which people create both coherence and contrastive reasoning in the social universe, allowing them to consider a given theme in terms of several generic realities. The dialogue between modes of knowledge, expression, and understanding enables the relativization and contestation of values, the elaboration of ambiguous emotions, and reconciliation with social conflict and change, as well as ritual transitions.


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Pekkilä, E., ed. 1990. Hiljainen haltioituminen. A.O. Väisäsen tutkielmia kansanmusiikista. Helsinki.
Pentikäinen, J., and T. Juurikka, eds. 1976. Folk Narrative Research. Studia Fennica 20. Helsinki.
Piela, U., S. Knuuttila, and R. Blomster, eds. 2011. Taide, tiede, tulkinta. Kirjoituksia A.O. Väisäsestä. Kalevalaseuran vuosikirja 90. Helsinki.
Reynolds, D. 1995. Heroic Poets, Poetic Heroes: The Ethnography of Perfomance in an Arabic Oral Tradition. Ithaca, NY.
Saarinen, J. 1994. “The Päivölä Song of Miihkali Perttunen.” In Siikala and Vakimo 1994:180-196.
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SKS KiA = Finnish Literature Society Literature Archives.
SKS KRA = Finnish Literature Society Folklore Archives.
SKVR I1= Suomen Kansan Vanhat Runot I1. 1908 Ed. A. R. Niemi. Helsinki.
SKVR I3 = Suomen Kansan Vanhat Runot I3. 1919. Ed. A. R. Niemi. Helsinki.
SKVR I4 = Suomen Kansan Vanhat Runot I4. 1919, 1921. Ed. A. R. Niemi. Helsinki.
SKVR V2 = Suomen Kansan Vanhat Runot V2. 1930. Ed. V. Salminen. Helsinki.
SKVR V3 = Suomen Kansan Vanhat Runot V3. 1931. Ed. V. Salminen. Helsinki.
SKVR XIII1 = Suomen Kansan Vanhat Runot XIII1. 1936. Ed. V. Salminen. Helsinki.
SKVR XIII2 = Suomen Kansan Vanhat Runot XIII2. 1937. Ed. V. Salminen. Helsinki.
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[ back ] 1. SKS KRA Väisänen 1922 AA IV 1.
[ back ] 2. SKS KRA Paulaharju 1913 c7411.
[ back ] 3. Kallberg 2011a:141.
[ back ] 4. Cf. Bauman 2004:31.
[ back ] 5. A revised edition of the dissertation (Tarkka 2005) appeared in 2013 (Tarkka 2013). Several articles based on the work in progress have been published in English (e.g. Tarkka 1993; 1994; 1996).
[ back ] 6. Burke 1964.
[ back ] 7. Kuusi 1994:41.
[ back ] 8. The technical classification was based on multiple criteria typically used in detecting sub-groups of Kalevala-meter poetry, such as narrativity, context of use, and function. On the deconstruction of this initial genre analysis, see Tarkka 2013:93-97; Tarkka 2016.
[ back ] 9. Lönnrot 1835, 1849.
[ back ] 10. Lönnrot 1840:xlvi-xlvii.
[ back ] 11. Lönnrot 1840:iii-iv, xxxiii.
[ back ] 12. On the debate on emic versus etic folklore genres, see Honko 1976, 1989; Ben-Amos 1976, 1992.
[ back ] 13. Cf. Briggs and Bauman 1992:145.
[ back ] 14. E.g. Briggs and Bauman 1992:132, 138; Tarkka 1993:172, 176.
[ back ] 15. Bakhtin 1986:60-102; Bauman 2004; Briggs and Bauman 1992:145-146; Dorst 1983.
[ back ] 16. Hanks (1987:670) refers to a paper originally presented by Bauman in 1986 at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association, published first in 1992 and reprinted in Bauman 2004 as “And the Verse is Thus: Icelandic Stories About Magical Poems”; see also Briggs and Bauman 1992:142-143.
[ back ] 17. Seitel 1999:14-15.
[ back ] 18. The individual, local, and contemporary uses of poetry were not on the agenda: folklore collection focused on those texts and genres that were conceived as the purest reflections of antiquity and a heroic past.
[ back ] 19. E.g. Bauman 2004:146-147.
[ back ] 20. Foley 2002:107-108.
[ back ] 21. Foley 1991:7-13; Zumthor 1990:89-89; see also Haring 1988:365.
[ back ] 22. Lönnrot 1840:xlix.
[ back ] 23. Lord 1960:148; cf. 65, 94.
[ back ] 24. Lord 1960:148.
[ back ] 25. Foley 1991; 1995.
[ back ] 26. Foley 1991:7.
[ back ] 27. Foley 1992:278; Foley 1995:xiv, 1, 7, 27-28.
[ back ] 28. See e.g. Titon 2003:73-74.
[ back ] 29. For a review of the notion of intertextuality in folklore studies, see Tarkka 2013:88-103; Tarkka 1993:172-177; for intertextuality as a “poetics of quotation,” see Tarkka 2016.
[ back ] 30. Briggs and Bauman 1992:147.
[ back ] 31. Briggs and Bauman 1992:149.
[ back ] 32. Tarkka 1996:53.
[ back ] 33. Tarkka 2013:97-100. A polylogical genre typically combines with other genres—in Bakhtinian terminology, it constitutes a complex or secondary genre (Bakhtin 1986:61-62).
[ back ] 34. SKVR I3 2008; Tarkka 2013:302-323; see Briggs and Bauman 1992:149.
[ back ] 35. Lönnrot 1840 III 59; Tarkka 2004:254-259.
[ back ] 36. Harvilahti 1994:97-98; Siikala 1994:27-29.
[ back ] 37. SKS KiA Väisänen 3119:16-45, SKS KRA Paulaharju 1911:26. On the qualities of the poetic meter in the southern Viena yoiks, see Kallberg 2011b:84-85.
[ back ] 38. Väisänen 1990:141.
[ back ] 39. DuBois 1996.
[ back ] 40. See Tarkka forthcoming.
[ back ] 41. SKS KRA Paulaharju 1912-1913 c4713.
[ back ] 42. E.g. SKVR I3 1062.
[ back ] 43. Bauman and Briggs 1990:73-74.
[ back ] 44. Tarkka 2106.
[ back ] 45. Contrasting contents of parallel couplets represent the stylistic feature called negative parallelism: an affirmative statement is followed by its negation. Such stylistic features challenge the obvious interpretations of the whole set.
[ back ] 46. Tarkka 2013:283-287.
[ back ] 47. SKS KRA Karjalainen 1894 b144, b146.
[ back ] 48. Tarkka 2013:143-146.
[ back ] 49. Briggs and Bauman 1992:147-148.
[ back ] 50. Tarkka 2013:499.
[ back ] 51. See Foley 1995:47-49; Tarkka 2013:141.
[ back ] 52. Tarkka 2013:70, 278.
[ back ] 53. Tarkka 2013:226-230.
[ back ] 54. Tarkka 2013:69, 99, 129.
[ back ] 55. Tarkka 2013:349-350.
[ back ] 56. DuBois 1995:149, 161; Tarkka 1993:183, 187n18; Tarkka 1994:265; Tarkka 1996:53-54.
[ back ] 57. E.g. Kaukonen 1990:169, 172, 174.
[ back ] 58. Tarkka 1996.
[ back ] 59. Tarkka 2013:168-206.
[ back ] 60. Lönnroth 1979:95.
[ back ] 61. Ibid.
[ back ] 62. Bauman 1986:112; DuBois 1995:150, 156; Tarkka 1993:181, 2013:177.
[ back ] 63. Martin 1989:xiv.
[ back ] 64. Reynolds 1995:72-73, 79, 87, 90, 100.
[ back ] 65. Bauman 2004:15-33.
[ back ] 66. SKVR I4 1095.
[ back ] 67. Saarinen 1994:191.
[ back ] 68. E.g. SKVR I1 299.
[ back ] 69. Kuusi 1990.
[ back ] 70. There is no adequate translation of the Finnish-Karelian term for the ritual specialist known as tietäjä; here, the term sage is used because of its emphasis on the ideal of wisdom, signaled by the term’s etymological basis, tieto ‘knowledge’. The tietäjä mastered incantations and various ritual techniques such as divination, and his main task was to heal disease; see Siikala 2002:79-84; Tarkka 2005:82-95, 131-133, 138-152.
[ back ] 71. E.g. SKVR I3 1377; Tarkka 2013:405-412.
[ back ] 72. SKVR I1 95.
[ back ] 73. SKS KRA Marttinen 1893, preface to c1-904.
[ back ] 74. SKVR I1 79a. The idiomatic translation is “Better safe than sorry.” On the sampo in the Vuokkiniemi corpus, see Tarkka 2013:209-225.
[ back ] 75. DuBois 1995:149-157; Tarkka 1994:272-273; Tarkka 1996:53-54.
[ back ] 76. Bauman 2004:29-30. Bauman’s example is an incantation for producing rain, with which Väinämöinen waters his field in the Kalevala’s second canto (Lönnrot 1963:12—13).
[ back ] 77. E.g. SKVR I1 183; see also Reynolds 1995:156-157.
[ back ] 78. Urban 1984:310.
[ back ] 79. Bauman 2004:30.
[ back ] 80. Bauman 2004:21.
[ back ] 81. Cf. Bauman 2004:22; DuBois 1995:150.
[ back ] 82. Tarkka 2013:265-301.
[ back ] 83. See, e.g., Siikala 2002:89, 91.
[ back ] 84. SKVR I1 304.
[ back ] 85. See also DuBois 1995:150.
[ back ] 86. Tarkka 2013:116-118, 192.
[ back ] 87. See also DuBois 1995:192-193.
[ back ] 88. Tarkka 2013:340, 124-125.
[ back ] 89. E.g. SKVR XIII2 4174, 4175.
[ back ] 90. Timonen 2004:81, 161, 166.
[ back ] 91. Harvilahti 1994:96-97.
[ back ] 92. See Foley 1995:1, 7, 28.
[ back ] 93. Lönnrot 1849:ii-iii; cf. Magoun’s translation in Lönnrot 1963:375-376.
[ back ] 94. Tarkka 1996:53-55; Tarkka 2013:96-97.
[ back ] 95. Kallio 2011:419.
[ back ] 96. Kallio 2011:404; see also Lord 1960:148, 65, 94; Tarkka 2013:85-86.
[ back ] 97. SKVR V3 1290.
[ back ] 98. E.g. SKVR V2 2555, 2576.
[ back ] 99. Tarkka 2016.
[ back ] 100. Väisänen 1990:139-140.
[ back ] 101. See Briggs and Bauman 1992:149.
[ back ] 102. Ibid.
[ back ] 103. Ibid. 147.
[ back ] 104. See, e.g., Siikala and Siikala 2005:88.