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Persistent FormsExplorations in Historical Poetics$
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Ilya Kliger and Boris Maslov

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780823264858

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823264858.001.0001

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Innovation Disguised as Tradition

Innovation Disguised as Tradition

Commentary and the Genesis of Art Forms

(p.172) Chapter 6 Innovation Disguised as Tradition
Persistent Forms

Nina V. Braginskaya

Fordham University Press

This chapter explores one way in which new forms arise within self-consciously traditional cultures. What are tradition’s own inner motors of innovation? Braginskaya focuses on the practices of commentary on sacred texts central to the given culture and ostensibly aimed at elucidating their true meaning. As the linguistic idiom of the “Scriptures” grows out of sync with the spoken language and their doctrinal import is increasingly subject to uncertainty and disputation, the task of interpreting them generates a variety of new kinds of discourse. To make sense of the genesis of artistic forms in a traditional society, we need a historical poetics of commentary. Based on a broad survey of diverse kinds of ethnographic and literary evidence, Braginskaya demonstrates that commentary, in different cultural environments, can give rise to genres of dramatic performance, “philosophical” inquiry, and fictional storytelling. In particular, revisiting Veselovsky’s insights on the origins of theater, Braginskaya points to the cross-cultural diffusion of the hybrid proto-dramatic form that combines an “archaic” and “obscure” core with a “colloquial” and “interpretive” supplement.

Keywords:   commentary, heteroglossia, innovation, narrative, philosophical prose, theatre, tradition

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