Cyprus and Its People: Nation, Identity, and Experience in an Unimaginable Community, 1955-1997

By Vangelis Calotychos | Go to book overview

11 Ideology, Orality and Textuality The Tradition of the Poietáridhes of Cyprus

George Syrimis

The study of oral poetic traditions does not take place in an ideological void. The asymmetrical status of oral versus written poetry in literary circles is an issue that features prominently in the writing of scholars of what is generally called 'orality' (Lord 1990:15-39; Nagy 1990:17-51; Ong 1982:17-49). In this paper I wish to examine the discourse of orality and textuality as it is formulated and promulgated by Greek scholars and internalized, resisted and/or manipulated by the traditional poets of Cyprus, the poietáridhes. My study is based on an analysis of critical texts on the poietáridhes and on interviews I conducted with a number of poietáridhes in Cyprus during July of 1991.1

This study takes a closer look at the position and 'positioning' of the tradition of poietáridhes in the literary and ideological context of contemporary Cyprus. The study attempts to relate literary theory (orality, folklore, and its Greek variant laografía) to the dominant political ideology of nationalism.2 Though I believe that a comprehensive study of my subject should involve a close analysis of the poetry itself, I focus at this point on broader issues of state policy and politics, ideology and identity, cultural perceptions and cultural perversions, as these are acted out on a specific aspect of contemporary Cypriot culture, the poetic traditions. I will thus be dealing with poetic production, state policy, ideology and the construction, promulgation and performance of identity as these factors are plotted along the oral/traditional versus written/modernist opposition. This opposition is becoming increasingly problematic and cannot explain the complexity of the cultural milieu in Cyprus.

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