Classics@14: Singers and Tales in the 21st Century; The Legacies of Milman Parry and Albert Lord


Elmer, David F., and Peter McMurray, eds. 2016. “Singers and Tales in the 21st Century: The Legacies of Milman Parry and Albert Lord.” Special issue, Classics@ 14.

Edited by David Elmer and Peter McMurray

2010 marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of Albert Lord’s seminal Singer of Tales, and the 75th anniversary of the death of his mentor Milman Parry, the originator of what has come to be known as the Oral-Formulaic Theory. In honor of the work and continuing influence of these two pathfinding scholars, the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature at Harvard University convened a conference on oral studies and the Parry-Lord legacy at the beginning of the 21st century. Some 30 scholars from around the world presented papers on theoretical and practical aspects of the study of oral traditions, and the proceedings included an additional performance program featuring performances by Âşık Şeref Taşlıova and Odhon Bayar.

Collected here are the edited papers of several of the speakers at that conference, submitted for publication as Classics@ 14.


Ronelle Alexander, University of California, Berkeley, “Tracking the South Slavic Epic Register.”

Margaret H. Beissinger, Princeton University, “Spiritual Kinship, Incest, and Traditional Weddings: Honor, Shame, and Cultural Boundaries in Romanian Marriage Songs.”

Anna Bonifazi, University of Stuttgart and University of Heidelberg, and David F. Elmer, Harvard University, “Visuality in Bosniac and Homeric Epic.”

Olga M. Davidson, Boston University, “The Written Text as a Metaphor for the Integrity of Oral Composition in Classical Persian Traditions and Beyond.”

Thomas A. DuBois, University of Wisconsin, Madison, “Performances, Texts, and Contexts: Olaus Sirma, Johan Turi, and the Dilemma of Reifying a Context-Dependent Oral Tradition.”

Casey Dué, University of Houston, and Mary Ebbott, College of the Holy Cross, “The Homer Multitext and the System of Homeric Epic.”

Nikolay P. Grintser, School of Advanced Studies in the Humanities, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, “Common Grief: Weeping Over Hector and Rāma.”

Minna Skafte Jensen, University of Southern Denmark, “Menelaus in the Odyssey: Introducing the ‘Doubled Pattern’.”

Mirsad Kunić, “The Many Deaths of Mustaj Beg of Lika.”

Françoise Létoublon, Université Stendhal – Grenoble, “The Trojan Formulaic Theater.”

Olga Levaniouk, University of Washington, “The Dreams of Barčin and Penelope.”

Carl Lindahl, Univeristy of Houston, “The Poetics of Immanence in the American Mountain Märchen.”

Peter McMurray, “There Are No Oral Media?: Multisensory Perceptions of South Slavic Epic Poetry.”

Joseph Falaky Nagy, University of California, Los Angeles, “Heroes and Their Snakes.”

Zymer U. Neziri, University of Prishtinë, and Nicola Scaldaferri, University of Milan, “From the Archive to the Field: New Research on Albanian Epic Songs.”

Karl Reichl, Emeritus, University of Bonn, “The Singing of Tales: The Role of Music in the Performance of Oral Epics in Turkey and Central Asia.”

Dwight F. Reynolds, University of California in Santa Barbara, “Composition in Performance Arab Style.”

Gísli Sigurðsson, The Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies, University of Iceland, “The Oral Background of the Eddas and Sagas.”

Lotte Tarkka, University of Helsinki, “The Field of Song and the Four-Legged Horse: On the Dialogue of Genres in Kalevala-Meter Poetry.”

Aida Vidan, Harvard Univeristy, “Magicians and Captive Maidens: Oral Sources and the Croatian Renaissance Drama.”

Live Presentations and Performances

For video presentations of the papers above, as well as additional presentations and performances, visit the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature.