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STONE WALLS AND DISTANT CALLS: FEMININE SPACES IN ORAL TRADITIONAL LYRIC Elizabeth Boretz Eastern Oregon State College In his book about oral traditional lyric of the world, Lyra Minima, Stephen Reckert identifies a feeling of "suspended time" in such song, resultant from a pleasing mix of verb tenses (38). Alongside this phenomenon of disorienting temporal expression one may note a prevailing sense of ambiguous space, for often in the Hispanic feminine love lyric such as the villancicoor the cantigade amigo,in addition to the romance,time, space and image combine with the medium of the voice to heighten the emotional impact of the piece. These are originally oral texts, often displaying a subtle consciousness of song as a tool of transcendence in itself, and perhaps this phenomenon accounts for the endurance of so many traditional lyric songs and ballads centered on themes of captivity and the liberating power of the voice. The oralist Walter Ong explains: Language is a mode of action and not simply a countersign of thought . . . Sound cannot be sounding without the use of power. A hunter can see a buffalo, smell, taste and touch a buffalo when the buffalo is completely inert, even dead, but if he hears a buffalo, he had better watch out: something is going on. In this sense, all sound, and especially oral utterance, which comes from inside living organisms, is 'dynamic." ... The fact that oral peoples commonly and in all likelihood universally consider words to have magical potency is clearly tied in, at least unconsciously, with their sense of the word as necessarily spoken, sounded, and hence power-driven (32). The words used by Ong to describe the oral tradition: "action," "power-driven," "dynamic" and "magical" are all applicable to the villancicos,cantigasand romancesdiscussed below, for each example displays some element of lyricism. This broad-ranging, common term, " lyricism," calls for definition. Walter Ong has unwittingly defined it above. A more deliberate attempt, and an equally successful one, can be found in the work of Krinka Vidakovic, a scholar of the Balkan ballad tradition, who has defined "lyricism," not as a CALfOPE Vol. II, No. 2 (1996): pages 70-84 ~ FEMININE SPACES IN ORAL TRADITIONAL LYRIC~ genre-specific concept, but as the foregrounding of emotional or psychological tensions and contrasts. This phenomenon occurs in the ballad as well as in the "lyric" traditions. The most striking similarity between the assessment of lyric by Vidakovic and Ong' s discussion of orality lies in the emphasis on power and dynamism. In a lyrical ballad or song, in the Balkan as well as the Hispanic tradition, metaphysical oppositions overtake the "narrative" elements of the piece; they center on setting, dialogue or monologue rather than physical actions and socio-historical events. By and large, traditional songs which meet Vidakovic's criterion for "lyricism" are sung by or about women - the very characters who are frequently marginal to the better known, epic-based narratives of the oral tradition. Whereas narrative song, commonly relates events associated with particular geographical entities, the feminine lyric or lyrical ballad leads the audience into a magical space without bounds: the realm of the voice. One oft-quoted lyric, which offers an example of the confinement motif in traditional Hispanic lyric, poses a fine starting point for definition of feminine space as a deliberately disorienting, lyrical entity: Miraba la mar la malcasada, Miraba la mar como era ancha y larga (Frenk #241) Clearly, the sea is linked to a sense of both vagueness and lack of freedom for the malcasada.We see no possible escape for her. Perhaps she looks to the water because her true lover is out to sea, and this sorrowful bride gazes in a manner reminiscent of the cantigadeamigo, which often is set on the shore, and even relates drownings in the erotically charged churning of the waves, as examples below shall demonstrate. Water's edge, be it a spring, river or vast ocean, is a common setting for both the cantigadeamigoand the villancicoof the 15th-16th centuries. It is a dangerous realm for a young female to visit alone, as water in motion is an uncontrollable force capable of overpowering her; it is dizzying and entrancing. In...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2377-9551
Print ISSN
1084-1490
Pages
pp. 70-84
Launched on MUSE
2017-11-06
Open Access
No
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