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Voice and Presence: Performance Aspects of Turkic Oral Epics

April 11, 2011 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Portrait image of Karl Reichl wearing a blue button-ed up shirt

Monday Seminar:

Karl Reichl

Honorary Fellow (2010-2011)

Turkic Studies, University of Bonn


Based on my field-work in the Turkic-speaking areas of Central Asia, I will explore and illustrate some of the elements that characterize the live performance of an oral epic. The singer is present as narrator, musician, actor, entertainer, tribal historian, and the voice of authority. Interpretations and discussions of these epics generally focus only on their textual structure. This is also true of the study of other oral traditions, as well as (by necessity) of medieval oral-derived epics. The questions with which I am concerned in my paper are how to incorporate these extra-textual aspects (in particular music) into our interpretations and how essential they are for our understanding of oral (and oral-derived) epic poetry.


Karl Reichl is Carl Schurz Memorial Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for the spring semester of 2011 and Professor Emeritus of the University of Bonn. As a medievalist, he has been teaching in the English Department of the University of Bonn but as visiting professor also in departments of comparative literature and Oriental/ Near-Eastern studies. His main research interests lie in medieval oral literature and in contemporary (or near-contemporary) oral epic poetry in Turkey and in the Turkic-speaking areas of Central Asia. His publications include: Turkic Oral Epic Poetry: Traditions, Forms, Poetic Structure, New York, 1992 (translated into Turkish, Russian and Chinese); Singing the Past: Turkic and Medieval Heroic Poetry, Ithaca, NY, 2000; Edige: A Karakalpak Oral Epic as Performed by Jumabay Bazarov, FF Communications 293, Helsinki, 2007. Forthcoming is a handbook (in English) in the ‘de Gruyter Lexikon’ series: Medieval Oral Literature, ed. K. Reichl, Berlin, New York: de Gruyter.


April 11, 2011
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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University Club, Room 212
432 East Campus Mall
Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States