Mälestuste kogumisprotsessis loodud tekstide žanrilisus. 1905. aasta sündmuslugude näitel. Generic Status of Texts Created in the Process of Collecting Memories

Tiiu Jaago

Abstract


In this article I will focus on how the situation of storytelling influences the nature of stories based on memories. More precisely, I will look at the texts that have been collected at the initiative of the researchers and stored in the archive. These are partly written life story accounts and partly oral recollections that have been written down. How do we define their genre? To what extent is it possible to study the interpretations of history from the folk--or any other perspective--through these texts? To what extent is it possible to explore the aspects of these texts that relate to reminiscing and storytelling? The research is based on material collected by the members or grant-aided students or scholars of three academic societies (The 1905 Society, Academic Historical Society and Estonian Literary Society) in the 1920s and 1930s, which are now stored in two collections of the cultural historical archives of the Estonian Literary Museum: the collection of the 1905 Society (f 172) and the collection of Historical Tradition (f 199 and 200). The texts under discussion have a common theme, the 1905 events in tsarist Russia on the Estonian territory, and are based on memories. When the collected materials were compared it became clear that the collectors of the stories had posed their questions in a similar way (how the events were remembered). But the general context of the interviews highlighted other aspects. In the first case, the emphasis was on the events in 1905, in the second case it was just one of many events to have happened over a couple of centuries. The roles that the interviewers assumed were also different: the collectors of historical tradition listened to what the storytellers themselves wanted to talk about on a given topic; those collecting memories on behalf of the 1905 Society presented a clear plan to their interviewees, telling them about what events they wanted to get information. The result was that the storytellers within the framework of historical tradition concentrated on the consequences of the events. The interviewees talked about what the people had experienced. The stories in the 1905 Society collection featured a first-person narrative and focused on mass meetings and the unrest. Two methods were used in collecting the memories: responding to written calls (collection of the 1905 Society) and fieldwork (both collections). Although the stories in the archive are written in both cases, the situation of storytelling is different depending on the method of collection. In the first case the respondent wrote his/her own account, following a questionnaire compiled by the researchers. In the second case the researcher put down a spoken conversation, editing it later for an archive. In editing three rules were followed: the contradictions in a storyteller’s account were smoothed over, the events were put in a chronological order, and the isolated fragments of one and the same topic were combined in the written text. The storyteller’s actual wording and style remained unchanged, and the first person was also retained. The genre of the texts created during the collection of memories is connected with the spoken or written form of the story. The wording of the source texts reveals that a memoir belongs to the genre of written text. During oral communication, the storyteller relied on memories, but did not call the retold story a memoir. “Life stories” can be written or spoken, but as a folk narrative genre they have been instigated by the researcher. During the practice of collecting memories a genre --a questionnaire--is created that is used for supervising written papers. Oral and written texts differ from each other not only because of their presentation, but also because of their comprehensibility: a text for reading requires a different composition than a recounted oral story. When the oral presentation is the basis for a sentence in the written archival text, certain aspects of storytelling can be studied (such as themes, points of view, or style), but not the structure of storytelling or the schemes of recalling. When the researcher’s point of view is prevalent in creating the archival text, then we should, in the analysis of texts, look at the interconnections between the different points of view (academic and folk) rather than look for one or the other view of the past.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7592/methis.v4i5-6.526

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