Forging the Nation(al Epic)
Date: 26 November 2014
Venue: University of Amsterdam, University Library – Potgieterzaal. Singel 425, Amsterdam
Credits: 1 ECTS
Open to: RMa students and PhD candidates
Fee (non-members): € 50,00
Coordinated by: Monika Baár (RUG), Simon Halink (RUG)
“Forging” on the one hand means “creating a unity out of diverse materials”, and on the other “creating a document with deliberate attempt to deceive”. The best example of the former meaning is perhaps Elias Lönnroth’s creation of the Kalevala from the runor he had collected, in the process (some say) creating a national identity for Finland. The best example of the latter may be the Oera Linda-boek, 1867, which Goffe Jensma has convincingly shown to be the production of the philologist Francois Haverschmidt.
In between, however, are a number of less determinate or still-disputed cases, such as:
- James Macpherson’s “Ossian” works, from the Scottish Highlands (works without an original manuscript: “forgeries” of unknown basis?)
- The Old Russian “Lay of Prince Igor”, 1795 (one alleged MS has not survived. Its authenticity has been challenged by Edward Keenan, who ascribes it to the philologist Josef Dobrovsky, a theory strongly denied by Andrey Zaliznyak and others)
- The Welsh “Triads” of Iolo Morgannwg (forgeries closely imitating genuine works)
- F R Kreutzwald’s Estonian Kalevipoeg,1853 (like Kalevala, significant in the creation of national identity)
- T H de la Villemarqué’s Barsaz Breiz, 1839 (ballads said to have been recorded orally, but without corroboration).
Several other cases could be mentioned, but note also how less disputed “national epics” were treated, in ways which gave differing models for imitators. Both the Nibelungenlied and Beowulf were disintegrated by Lachmann and his followers, back to the Lieder or “ballads” from which the epics were assumed to derive. By contrast Lönnroth stitched his runor together, to create the extensive epic from which he assumed the runor derived. Liedertheorie itself derived from such collections as Des Knaben Wunderhorn, Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poesy (based on one MS, which Percy refused to make public for many years), or the Border Ballads of Sir Walter Scott (probably heavily edited, but by someone in close touch with the oral tradition). Liedertheorie led in its turn to such creations as Macaulay’s Lays of Ancient Rome. One might note further the existence of genuine epics which gave powerful support to national feeling, such as La Chanson de Roland, El Cid, and – another dubious case – the Flemish Reynard.
The master class will serve as a platform for discussion of the underlying philological principles, and by consideration of the relationship between forgery, philology and national feeling – or sub-national feeling, for it will be evident from the above that works of this nature were often created by ethnic or linguistic groups (Scottish, Welsh, Breton, Occitan, Low German, Baltic and Slavic) which felt themselves to be unrecognised or under pressure.
The master class intends to cast light on the way in which philology affected politics, especially during the 19th century, with consequences into the 20th. To some extent it would be a history of error, or of deception, but the nationalistic errors have by no means been forgotten or corrected and the subject remains sensitive.
Tom Shippey, emeritus Professor of Humanities at St. Louis University, is famous among the wider public as the world’s foremost specialist on the work of J.R.R. Tolkien and its background in Germanic and Comparative Philology. In the scholarly community, Shippey’s best-known work is on the 19th-century intellectual history of Germanic and Mythological Studies; among his publications in that field are a documentary reception study of Beowulf (Beowulf: The Critical Heritage, with Andreas Haarder) and The Shadow-walkers: Jacob Grimm’s Mythology of the Monstrous. He was editor of Studies in Medievalism from 2003 to 2007.
The evening before this master class, Tom Shippey will be delivering the annual SPIN (Study Platform on Interlocking Nationalisms)-lecture in Amsterdam, on theories about myth. Participants of the master class are encouraged to attend this event. For more information, see: http://www.spinnet.eu/2014/07/22/spin-lecture-2014-tom-shippey.
This event is organised by the Huizinga Institute in cooperation with SPIN and the University of Groningen.
The master class will consist of an introduction to the theme by Tom Shippey, followed by three sessions of 45 minutes, in which the articles/bookchapters, the participants’ prepared questions and their essays will be presented (ca. 5 minutes per presentation) and discussed, after which a plenary discussion on the theme can take place.
The master class will be organized as an interactive research class, in which it will become clear how philology has affected politics, especially during the 19th century, with consequences into the 20th.
Preparation and readings:
Partcipants of this master class (PhD and Research Master students) can receive 1 ECTS for their active participation, which generally includes the lecture and critical assesment of 1 to 3 articles/bookchapter (including the preparation of questions or arguments concerning the texts), and writing a short essay (ca. 1500 words) on a related topic, which has to be presented in a short presentation (ca. 5 minutes). All in all, preparation for the masterclass should constitute approximately 28 hours.
Participants are expected to prepare a question concerning each of the following required readings, to be discussed during the master class.
- Tom Shippey, “A Revolution Reconsidered: Mythography and Mythology in the Nineteenth Century”, in Shippey (ed.),The Shadow-walkers: Jacob Grimm’s Mythology of the Monstrous (Tempe, AZ: MRTS, and Turnhout: Brepols, 2005), 1-28
- Keith Battarbee, “The Forest Writes back: The Ausbau of Finnish from Peasant Vernacular to Modernity”, in Andrew Wawn et al, eds., Constructing Nations, Reconstructing Myth (Turnhout: Brepols, 2007), 71-96
- Joep Leerssen, “A Cross-Country Foxhunt: Claiming Reynard for the National Literatures of Nineteenth-Century Europe”, in Patrick J. Geary and Gabor Klaniczay, eds., Manufacturing Middle Ages: Entangled History of Medievalism in Nineteenth-Century Europe ((Leiden: Brill, 2013), 259-77. [Note as supplement to this, Leerssen, De Bronnen van het Vaterland (Nijmegen: Uitgeverij Vantilt, 2006), ch. 4, “De nationaliteit van Reinaert (1834-1870)”, pp. 75-95.]
- David Elton Gay, “Jacob Grimm and the Reconstruction of Estonian Religion and Mythology”, in Andrew Wawn et al, eds., Constructing Nations, Reconstructing Myth (Turnhout: Brepols, 2007), 343-55
- Mary-Ann Constantine, “Welsh Literary History and the Making of ‘The Myvyrian Archaeology of Wales’”, in Dirk Van Hulle and Joep Leerssen, eds., Editing the Nation’s Memory: Textual Scholarship and Nation-Building in Nineteenth-Century Europe” (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2008), 109-128
- Tom Shippey, “The Case of Beowulf”, in Dirk Van Hulle and Joep Leerssen, eds., Editing the Nation’s Memory: Textual Scholarship and Nation-Building in Nineteenth-Century Europe” (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2008), 223-239
- Joep Leerssen, “’Retro-Fitting the Past’: Literary Historicism between the Golden Spurs and Waterloo”, in Hugh Dunthorne and Michael Wintle, eds., The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Britain and the Low Countries (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 113-131
- Joanne Parker, “The Victorians, the Dark Ages and English National Identity”, in Hugh Dunthorne and Michael Wintle, eds., The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Britain and the Low Countries (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 133-150.
Participants are expected to write a short essay (max. 1500 words) on a subject related to the general theme of the master class. The essays of the participants should cover at least most of the following topics:
- The ethnic and linguistic situation in which the work was produced, and the way this had been affected by 18th or 19th century philology
- The political situation
- Circumstances of discovery / publication / creation, and opinion as to degree of genuineness (this latter concept depending on the claims made by the editio princeps)
- Intention of the first discoverer / publisher
- Underlying editorial theory
- Most important: effect on national or sub-national sentiment
- Modern responses and sequels.
It is required that the essay is sent to Simon Halink (firstname.lastname@example.org) at least two weeks before the master class (deadline: 12 November).
After successfully completing all these requirements for this masterclass, you can obtain a certificate of the credits upon request (Huizingaemail@example.com). With this certificate you can validate the credits at your own local Graduate School.