The study of oral poetry often elevates mythological or heroic epic, ancient traditions and untroubled poetics. In the research of Finnic oral poetry, this has meant a focus on regular Kalevala-metric poems from eastern Finland and Russian Karelia. My aim is to investigate poetics and practices in a corpus that does not comply with these classical characteristics. The focus on ambiguous poetic forms, contemporary or everyday themes, literary influences and Christian themes calls for the review of methods and theories in several disciplines, and has a potential to create new views on the interaction of poetic forms, performance practices, historical processes, identities and beliefs. The projects develops on three fields of discussion on 1) metrics, music and performance, 2) literary and oral, folk and elite cultures and 3) registers of expression and systems of belief, and it also aims at testing some digital tools in the analysis.
I aim to analyse the changes in poetic registers that took place in early and late modern western Finland as Lutheran church, hymn singing, slowly spreading literacy, rhymed folk songs and various socio-cultural changes affected and interacted with folk cultures and traditional oral poetics. It seems probable that the spectrum of poetic registers and the associations carried by these was wider than has been thought, and that the relationships between poetics and layers of belief (heathen, popular, Catholic, Lutheran, revivalist etc.) were far more complex. This will affect the traditional interpretations on the relationships of elite and folk, oral and literary cultures in folklore and literary studies, history, and musicology.
The project is founded on analysis of poetic, metrical and musical patterns. This work is combined with views on performance, intertextuality, genre, register and belief as seen in folklore studies and linguistic anthropology, and contextualised to historical and socio-cultural circumstances, with attention to changes in literary and ecclesiastical practices. The primary corpus consists of 4871 poems in the database SKVR, 383 published melodies, hymnals, chapbook songs, some early dictionaries and proverb collections with verse quotes, archival material and ethnographic descriptions. The material is well indexed and mostly digital. In collaboration with colleagues, the analysis is compared with data and research on later materials and other Nordic, Finnic and Sami oral and literary traditions.
I examine the associations and interpretive frameworks conveyed by song languages and performance practices in historical speech communities. The core material consists of songs and poems recorded or published in western Finland. In collaboration with other researchers, these are set into wider comparative perspectives.
The data covering various genres and spanning over three hundred years gives good possibilities to analyse historical changes. What were the relationships, amalgamations and uses of the old oral idiom, emergent rhymed folksongs, learned literary poems and Lutheran hymns? It seems probable that the spectrum of poetic registers and the associations carried by these was wider than has been thought, and that the relationships between poetics and layers of belief were far more complex.