Oral Literature of the Turkic Peoples of Central Asia I: Heroic Epos
In the early 1950‘s Stalin, the ruthless dictator of the Soviet Union, who kept the Central Asian Turkic peoples under a brutal colonial rule, launched a severe attack against their heroic epic songs. He tried to outlaw their singing and publicizing on the grounds that they were nationalistic in content by portraying the heroes as generous, ideal leaders of their people. Fortunately, Stalin died in 1953 and the campaign against the most essential part of the cultural heritage of the Turkic peoples was stopped. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Turkic peoples again celebrated their national epics, e.g. in 1995 all Kyrgyzstan rejoiced in the festivities for their national epic hero Manas and in 1999 the Uzbeks honored their epic hero Alpamish.
Starting with the shamanistic origin of the Turkic heroic epic poetry, the course will explore the variety and diversity of the Turkic oral epic traditions comparing them with the heroic epic songs of the Mongols, the ancient Greeks and the medieval Germanic tribes. Special attention will be paid to the singers and their role as oral poets in the nomadic Turkic society, the style of their performances and the interaction with the audience. Other topics will deal with the structure of the songs, story patterns, language and style.
Course Requirements: Midterm and final examinations consisting of questions to be answered in essay form.