- Η γλωσσική σάτιρα στην ελληνική κωμωδία του 19ου αιώνα: Γλωσσοκεντρικές στρατηγικές του γέλιου από τα «Κορακιστικά» ως τον Καραγκιόζη, and: Ράμπα και παλκοσένικο: Δέκα θεατρολογικά μελετήματα
Walter Puchner can convincingly lay claim to the title of the most productive scholar in the Greek academic community. With approximately fifty books and hundreds of articles to his name, he sets a standard of industriousness that cannot easily be surpassed. Even if one takes into consideration the fact that his publication record is somewhat inflated because most of his books are merely collections of previously published articles—sometimes on more than one occasion—his output remains formidable. In regard to quality, however, the record appears somewhat uneven, as can be demonstrated by the examination of two of his more recent publications. Ράμπα και παλκοσένικο (Limelight and Stage Floor) is a collection of ten articles, nine of which had been published previously, on topics ranging from Cretan Renaissance drama to post–World War II stage practice and theory. Η γλωσσική σάτιρα στην ελληνική κωμωδία του 19ου αιώνα (Linguistic Satire in Nineteenth Century Greek Comedy), on the other hand, is an original treatise that aims to provide a thorough survey of the efforts of early Greek dramatists to produce laughter by ridiculing on the stage patterns of speech unacceptable to their audiences.
Puchner divides his study of the comic strategies of nineteenth century dramatists into three parts of unequal length. In the first section of the book (pp. 23–202), he focuses on the figure of the pedantic schoolteacher in which he traces the development of satire about the purist language from Iakovos Rizos Neroulos's Κορακιστικά, produced in 1813, to Γουανάκος by Yiannis Psycharis in 1901. The author claims that, as the century progressed and as katharevousa became established as the linguistic standard in Greece serving as the language of the state (of the educational system and high society), the satirical castigation of the pedant moved from the followers of the "middle road" of Adamantios Korais to the extremist partisans in favor of the revival of the Attic dialect of the Golden Age in antiquity. In the second part of the book (pp. 203–385), Puchner examines, at the other end of the spectrum, the comic exploitation of the local dialects of the uneducated traditional provincial masses. Beginning once more with Κορακιστικά, the survey passes through the famous Βαβυλωνία of Demetrios Byzantios and the less known Καρπάθιος by Soterios Kourtesis, concluding with the stereotypical regional characters of the Komeidyllion and Karagiozis. The main argument in this section is that, on the nineteenth century comedic stage, local dialects were conventionally represented by a very limited number of characteristic aberrations from standard speech and that even these became scarce as time passed and dialects began to disappear. In a very short third part (pp. 391–405), Puchner concentrates on the ludicrous incorporation of foreign words and speech patterns from Turkish, Italian, and French in the everyday conversation of the Greeks.
In general terms, the book is long on description and short on analysis. One [End Page 137] does not really have to document minutely the idiomatic phonology, grammar, syntax, and vocabulary of each dialect represented in Βαβυλωνία, and one does not have to refer copiously to every scholarly study in the field of dialectology in order to arrive at the obvious conclusion that stage dialects are conventional and schematic and can only be judged by artistic and not scientific criteria. Yiannis Psycharis had said the same as far back as 1889, trying to warn over-enthusiastic European scholars away from attempts to study Greek dialects with the aid of Greek comedies of the time. Despite the very large number of pages devoted to its promotion, however, the above conclusion does not form the central argument of the monograph whose main theme is quite different. Its author is primarily concerned, as he stresses on several occasions, to demolish the myths created at the beginning of the twentieth century by partisans of the demotic language and to restore the status and reputation of the rejected katharevousa or at least of the "meikte" (a mixture of demotic and katharevousa Greek). According to Puchner's argument, unadulterated demotic was never the language of the Greek people. It was, instead, a jargon preferred by a small group of intellectual activists intent on...