Mythology as a Symbolic Matrix and Voices of Runo-singers: Outlines for a Methodology

Tuukka Karlsson, University of Helsinki

The paper offers a view of some recent concepts in mythology research: mythic discourses and the view of mythology as a symbolic matrix that obtains it mythic epithets in discourse. These concepts are based on the idea of myths as emotionally invested symbols, that are simultaneously fundamental and enduring, while in a constant process of interpretation, re-interpretation and negotiation. These symbols and motives are discussed and negotiated in small communities and adapted into individual performances, based on subjective views of the symbolic matrix. (Doty 2000; Siikala 2012; 2016; Frog 2015.) This kind of view accomplishes a more comprehensive idea of mythology and deals with problems that arise when viewing mythology comprising only of narratives (see Frog 2015).

Along with aspects mentioned above, I will discuss how the concept of voice can be utilized in the research of Kalevala-meter runo-performances (see e.g. Tarkka 2013 for Kalevala-meter poetry and runo-singing). Voice is a linguistic anthropological term that can be described as a linguistic construction of social personae. It helps to illuminate how social identities are performed, represented, evaluated etc. (Keane 1999: 271). Voices are socially recognized in communities as means of positioning and stance-taking. (Keane 1999; 2016.)

In the current paper, I will present outlines for a methodology that combines concepts of mythic discourses, symbols etc. and voice in the research of Kalevala-meter poetry. I will discuss how the methodological framework includes also aspects of Speech Act Theory (Austin 1962; Searle 1977; 1979; see also Derrida 1982) and how it can be utilized in relation with earlier research done with runo-singing. The methodology outlined suggests a way to inspect individual performances at textual level in relation to collective mythology.