Edited by Marcel Bax
[Journal of Historical Pragmatics 4:2] 2003
► pp. 249–267
Although in some traditions (notably in India) oral epics are performed as part of a religious ritual, there is no overt ritual function of the epic in most oral traditions known today. However, even in a purely secular and seemingly non-ritual context, the performance of oral epics can have ritual dimensions. This is discussed with reference to the oral epic poetry of the Turkic peoples of Central Asia. It is argued that the performance of oral epics is a particular type of communicative event, of which the comparatively rigid act sequence can be seen as being on a par with the patterning of ritual. A second important aspect linking epic performance to ritual is that both events are meaningful in a similar way. It can be shown that in the performance of heroic epics tribal and cultural origins are explored and that hence the primary function of epic is not entertainment but the search for ethnic and cultural identity.
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