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Body, Performance, and Agency in Kalevala Rune-Singing

Anna-Leena Siikala

The Kalevala meter was once the poetic code throughout much of the
Balto-Finnic area: among the Estonians, Finns, Izori, Karelians, Livonians,
and Votyans. The Balto-Finnic peoples were and continue to be a culturally
diverse lot. Thus, rune-singing praxis—itsinstitutional contexts, performing
styles, performers, and their goals and poetic skills—varied, often in
fundamental ways, according to the region and people in question. The
place and significance of Kalevala poetry in a community had an impact on
itsreproduction and interpretation. Because many of the poems were known
in several cultural areas, even in the form of very different variants, the
comparative studies of individual poems largely ignored the cultural
variation of rune-singing practices. The same concern affects the new
approaches dealing with individual singers and their small communities.
Much of the research on Kalevala poetry has thus been produced either
under the assumption that, although the ways of singing varied in different
cultural areas, rune-singing culture can be characterized as a totality with
similar features, or on the basis of generalizations regarding specific forms
of rune-singing.

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