2019 | 75 | 117-140
Article title

Rahvaluule opetamise alguskumnendid Tartu Riiklikus Ulikoolis. Eduard Laugaste 110

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The professorship of Estonian and Comparative Folklore was established at the University of Tartu in 1919. Among others, Eduard Laugaste (1909–1994) studied folkloristics here. His first research studies, including his master’s thesis titled “The Song of the Nightingale”, which he defended in 1937, mainly dealt with bird sounds. This topic guided the researcher to use the historic-geographic method, a widespread method in folkloristics at the time, but also to reflect on the relationships of literature and folklore. He studied archival materials that had been created in the course of pupils’ folklore collecting campaigns. It turned out that many of the texts written for the archives did not come from songs of oral tradition, but rather from textbooks. Laugaste also studied the international counterparts of Estonian bird sounds. After defending his master’s degree, Laugaste stayed at the university to write his doctoral dissertation on songs of lamentation. At the same time, he was working as a schoolteacher. The situation changed drastically with the Soviet occupation in 1940 and the events of World War II in Estonia in 1941–1944. In this period, Laugaste remained away from the university. After the front had moved across the city of Tartu, and the Soviets had reinstated their power, the university continued operation. As the former scholars of folklore, Professor Walter Anderson and Acting Professor Oskar Loorits, had emigrated to the West, Eduard Laugaste was invited to teach folklore. Due to his educational background, he leaned on continuity in folkloristics. Yet he had to adapt to the principles of Soviet folkloristics (which viewed folklore as a part of literature), as well as to Marxist-Leninist ideology. The article deals with Laugaste’s activities from 1944 to the end of the 1950s, based on three sources: the university documents of these years, Laugaste’s research studies, and memoirs of that time. The paper reveals Eduard Laugaste’s commitment to teaching (translating and preparing teaching materials, using modern means to make educational or documentary films) and research (studies of folk songs, folk narratives, and the history of folkloristics). The evolution of Eduard Laugaste’s folkloristic views can be followed from his student years to the end of the 1950s. This is characterised by the defining of folklore in the narrower and wider sense (in the former case, the folklore genres that could be investigated using methods of literary research – in line with the principles of the Soviet folkloristics; in the latter, folklore encompassed the whole cultural tradition). He maintained the position that folklore belonged to the past (as opposed to recognising the existence of the contemporary Soviet folklore). His interest in literary research and the changes in the theory of folklore in the pre-war period led him to study the folk song – its imagery and the information contained in songs about social relationships. In the research of folk narratives, he focused on the delimitation of genres of different types of folk narratives. For example, he distinguished everyday life stories ‘pajatus’ from legends ‘muistend’ (Laugaste’s teacher Oskar Loorits had classified such stories as personal and domestic life narratives). In humour, besides the classical joke ‘naljand’ he also pointed out a relatively later type of folklore, the punchline joke ‘anekdoot’. In conclusion, it might be said that on the one hand, the observed period in Laugaste’s work represents the ensuring of continuity in folkloristics, and on the other hand, the preparation of the ground for the emergence of the next generation of folklorists in the 1960s.
  • Department of Estonian and Comparative Folklore, Institute of Cultural Research, University of Tartu, Ülikooli 16, 51014 Tartu, ESTONIA
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