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Epopées régionales
dans leur contexte ethnohistorique

Jeudi 28 mars 2019

Les épopées régionales dans leur contexte ethnographique, historique et politique et dans la langue vernaculaire de la région concernée expriment la vision des indigènes, la vision des subalternes, qui va à l'encontre de l'histoire officielle.

Les paroles épiques chantées par un artiste et reçues par un auditoire ont le pouvoir d'actualiser dans le lieu et le moment de leur performance (au sens anglais, un spectacle, une représentation jouée, chantée, dansée, une récitation dans un cadre rituel) l'imaginaire partagé par la communauté.

Les citations en anglais ci-dessous sont tirées de la remarquable introduction de Blackburn and Flueckiger au livre clé sur la question, Oral Epics in India.

Stuart H. Blackburn and Joyce Flueckiger, Introduction in Stuart H. Blackburn, Peter J. Claus, Joyce B. Flueckiger and Susan S. Wadley, Eds., Oral Epics in India, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1989.

Sur l'épopée comme performance continuée

Le récit ou l'épisode chanté aujourd'hui est la partie qui fait référence au tout de l'épopée. L'épopée régionale possède une qualité spéciale, son énonciation au cours d'une performance exerce un effet structurant sur la communauté, elle possède une force perlocutoire. Cette force structurante qui exerce des effets politiques sur la communauté de parole qui la reçoit distingue les épopées de tous les autres genres de littérature orale, chants, ballades, légendes, etc.

This special quality is the relationship epics have with the community in which they are performed, a relationship acknowledged by performers and audiences in many parts of India when they call an epic "our story." Epics stand apart from other "songs" and "stories" in the extent and intensity of a folklore community's identification with them; they help to shape a community's self-identity. While other genres may also be vehicles of a group's self-image, the oral epic is the most geographically widespread form that still preserves a community's identity (see Roghair 1982; Narayana Rao 1986). It also frequently represents a more diverse social group than do other genres. Given their geographical and social spread, oral epics are able to present regional worldviews; oral epics thus make a statement that other folk genres do not. Perhaps the epics presented in this volume share this feature more than any other. [The "same" narrative, even performed in similar styles, may thus be epic in one community and not in another. For example, the tradition of Ḍhola is performed as a long, sung narrative in both the northern plain of Uttar Pradesh and the central Indian region of Chhattisgarh. In U.P., it is an epic tradition, whereas Chhattisgarhi performers and audiences do not perceive it to be a true story or a story specifically identified with their community.]

Tant comme textes de littérature orale que comme performances, devant un auditoire, les épopées orales, locales ou régionales exercent ce que Blackburn et Flueckiger appellent «une énorme force culturelle», ce que j'appelle avec les sociolinguistes «une énorme force perlocutoire» sur la communauté de parole qui les reçoit, et ce que Jean-Claude Galey au séminaire, pour éviter le jargon (perlocutoire d'après Austin, métonymie référentielle d'après Foley), décrivait comme «une puissante mise en présence avec l'imaginaire collectif de la communauté».

As both text and performance, the oral epics discussed in the following chapters exert enormous cultural force. Epic performances ritually protect and cure, while epic narratives express local ideologies and form pathways between regional and pan-Indian mythologies. But most important, oral epics in India have that special ability to tell a community's own story and thus help to create and maintain that community's self-identity.

J'inscris ce dossier indiaste dans le cadre des études contemporaines sur l'épopée comme art de la parole et je reprends à mon compte la thèse désormais classique de John Miles Foley (1947–2012) dans Immanent Art (Bloomington, 1991) selon laquelle, pour une épopée à multiples épisodes dont la longueur interdit qu'elle puisse être récitée ou chantée dans sa totalité en une seule performance, l'épopée dans son intégralité n'existe qu'à l'état immanent dans la mémoire des participants au spectacle de sa récitation.

http://orfeo.tessitures.org/actes-de-langage/anthropologie-linguistique/epopee-performance-continuee/

Je m'intéresse à la distinction entre deux espaces-temps, celui de la performance et celui de l'épopée dans sa structure globale. C'est une polarité entre l'événement de parole (la performance) et le référent (la tradition) qui donne leur force iconique, leur force instauratrice d'une présence, aux paroles épiques lorsqu'elles sont chantées. Les paroles épiques chantées par un artiste et reçues par un auditoire ont, selon Foley, un pouvoir de métonymie référentielle (metonymic referentiality). Elles rendent présente dans l'espace-temps du récit ou de l'épisode chanté ici et maintenant l'espace-temps de l'histoire globale dont l'épopée est la tradition.

Traits spécifiques de l'épopée orale locale

Blackburn et Flueckiger énumèrent successivement deux ensembles de caractéristiques d'une épopée orale (oral epics) et plus spécifiquement d'une épopée locale vivante dans les petites villes et les villages (folk epics).

We use the term "oral epics" to refer to contemporary performance traditions of Indian epics, including the Sanskrit epics. We use the term "folk epics" when drawing attention to the distinction between the Sanskrit epics as literary texts and other epic traditions that are sung, heard, and patronized primarily by low and middle castes in small towns and villages.

1 / Trois traits fondamentaux: l'épopée orale est narrative, poétique, héroïque

[Īl y a en folkloristique] a fairly strong consensus on its three primary features: epic is narrative, it is poetic, and it is heroic. […] Epic songs are narrative poems in formulaic and ornamental style dealing with the adventures of extraordinary people. […] One link between praise-songs and the oral epic is that both are poetic, the second generic feature of the epic. Although Indian oral epics certainly contain poetry, the research supporting this book signals a shift of attention from poetry to song. Several contributors have found that the language of the epic is more influenced by song rhythms than by poetic meters […]. Although epic performances are dominated by song, many also include significant prose and nonsung sections (vacaṉam, vārtā, arthāv), which are used to explain or elaborate the sung material. The poetry/prose distinction, therefore, is misleading when discussing Indian oral epic performance. A more useful performative distinction exists between what is sung and what is not sung. Significantly, the indigenous terms for several Indian epic traditions literally mean "song" (Chhattisgarhi gīt, Tamil pāṭṭu, and Tulu pāḍdana). […] The third generic feature of the epic, its heroic nature, is perhaps the most fundamental as well as the most troublesome. Much of the literature contrasts the "heroic" epic against the supernatural myth and fairy tale (märchen); "heroic," in the epic context, is seen to be martial as opposed to magical, human rather than celestial. Rarely, however, is there any clear division between the heroic and the supernatural in the epics themselves. […]

Dans l'hindouisme et plus généralement en Inde, il n'y a pas de ligne de démarcation claire et nette entre les humains et les dieux, et les épopées orales ont précisément pour thème central cette collusion entre les héros (qui sont humains) et les dieux.

2 / Trois types épiques s'entremêlent: guerrier, sacrificiel, romantique

le type guerrier rapproche l'épopée de la légende, de la Geste;
le type sacrificiel la rend proche du mythe, du récit mythologique;
le type romantique la rapproche du conte (folktale) et du folklore.

The variety of the heroic in Indian oral epics is significant because there appears to be a correlation between the type of heroism in an epic and both its social and its performance contexts. For this reason, we have found it useful to distinguish between three epic types: martial, sacrificial, and romantic. The martial and sacrificial epics are similar in that both are concerned with power, social obligation, and social unity; they turn on the themes of revenge, regaining lost land, or restoring lost rights. What distinguishes the martial from the sacrificial epics is the emphasis in the struggle. Martial epics ceiebrate external — often military or political — conflict and a warrior ethic. The sacrificial epics, in contrast, center on a heroic act of self-sacrifice, or even suicide, by a woman. She is often a leader of her caste and becomes a goddess or a satī (a woman who immolates herself on her husband's funeral pyre).

While both martial and sacrificial epics stress group solidarity, the romantic epics often celebrate individual actions that threaten that solidarity. The primary conflict in romantic epics is not territorial control or the preservation of caste purity, but rather a quest for love. The goal in the romantic epics is personal freedom rather than external control. The main character, often a woman, is a strong-willed figure, either cast out or self-exiled from her social group, who must rely on trickery and cunning rather than on martial skills. Heroes and heroines of the romantic epics may die, and even die in battle, but their deaths are without the sociological significance of the deaths in the martial and sacrificial epics. If the martial epics recount the rise and fall of castes or kingdoms and are externally focused, the romantic epics follow the fortunes of individuals (usually lovers) and look within. In these respects, the martial epics are close to legend, the sacrificial epics closest to myth, and the romantic epics approach the folktale. By expanding the "heroic" to include female and nonmartial heroes and by replacing "poetry" with "song," we suggest that Indian oral epics are a cultural variant of an international genre.

Liens des épopées locales avec le Mahābhārata et le Rāmāyaṇa

Les versions régionales (regional retellings) dans les langues vernaculaires des épopées sanskrites constituent une première forme de liens entre traditions locales et Grande Tradition pan-indienne. Un deuxième type de liens est la réincarnation des héros et héroïnes du Rāmāyaṇa et du Mahābhārata dans les épopées locales, qui a souvent pour effet de légitimer ces dernières (often simply a means of legitimizing the folk epics). Les emprunts aux épopées sanskrites n'empêchent pas que les épopées locales véhiculent d'autres valeurs et soulèvent d'autres enjeux politiques et sociaux. Despite extensive borrowings from the Sanskrit epics, folk epics carry new meanings because they live in new social settings.

Epopées in performance

Epics are a public performance genre in India; therefore the singers are almost exclusively male.

Patrons tend to be from the middle-level castes, the dominant landowning and merchant groups. Classical performance traditions of the Sanskrit epics, dramas, and public discourses, in contrast, are controlled by high-level castes, often Brahmins.

Deux grandes catégories: récitations chantées, théâtre dansé.

Performances of Indian oral epics also display a wide variety of presentational styles that fall into two broad groups: song-recitation and dance-drama. Song-recitation, usually performed by a small group of men with some musical accompaniment, is the primary form of performance; dance-drama is a secondary form in that it only exists where song-recitation also exists. Variations on these two general performance styles include song-recitation with a painted scroll, shadow puppet theater, and possessed dancer-singers. Several oral epics are performed in more than one style. This diversity of performance styles is perhaps another measure of the genre, for only a story of extraordinary cultural importance would be performed in so many ways.

Performances souvent associées à des rites. Les épopées guerrières et sacrificielles impliquent couramment des possédés en transe et parfois des actes d'automutilation.

Oralité et écriture

Distinguons trois processus où intervient l'oralité dans un texte épique: sa composition, sa performance, sa transmission.

Some Indian epics remain oral on all three levels and have no written text at all. Others are orally composed, recorded in some written form, and then orally performed and orally transmitted. The Sanskrit epics differ from other Indian epics in that they exist in highly literate and national (even international) culture and are transmitted as books. In uncounted folk traditions, however, the Sanskrit epics as well as the other Indian epics are primarily transmitted through oral performance. […]

Performers also use written texts in a variety of ways during epic performances. Some performers are nonliterate and keep the text sitting in front of them for the sake of authenticity. Other performers seem to memorize and repeat parts of the written text in performance. […]

One significant difference between the written text and oral performance of an epic is the episodic nature of the latter. Immensely long epic stories, which would take hundreds of hours to sing if performed in one sitting, are commonly divided into more manageable segments. The Palnāḍu epic, for example, contains thirty kathalu (stories), each of which may take one or more nights to perform. The Pābūjī epic is similarly divided into twelve parvāṛo (episodes) and the Ālhā into various laṛāī (battles) which organize the performance of these epics. These performance segments are not, however, evenly weighted, like chapters. Certain episodes are more popular than others and are repeatedly performed; others are rarely heard and may even be unknown to certain singers. Furthermore, even when an epic story is well known to the audience, the complete story, from beginning to end, is rarely presented in performance — or even in a series of performances. The full story is sometimes found in written and published texts, but we prefer to speak of an epic tradition that encompasses not only text and performance but also what is unwritten and unperformed.