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The Act of Performance as Hospitality

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Abstract: Our educational system has always prepared the Romanian student to consider popular creation uprooted from its ethnographic context, either esthetically monumentalising it as unique or as a masterpiece marked by profound meanings that is endowed with every power to back up an identity discourse, or inducing the idea of sub-literature, of a superficial text, a reflex product of some Romanian traditional primitivism. Popular culture, however, is neither a collection of masterpieces nor an assemblage of written passages only. Ethnographic or performance contexts provide a paratext pregnant with clues, some suggestive “stage directions” in the absence of which the apprehension of the masterpiece would be nothing but a fake, a mystification of reality. In the middle of these “stage directions”, there is the performer himself, the one who with each performance, re-interprets a cultural heritage which is both codified and formalized. His performance is a response not only to the stimuli forwarded by inheritance but also to the ones dictated by immediate pressures. Any act of performance is, actually, a process of working out a crisis. The performer seeks for solutions to appease the two pressures, namely inheritance and immediate pressures. He inserts the solutions within the text he performs. The aim of this paper is to demonstrate this by analysing two epic variants of the same motif (The walling up alive of a human being) situated almost a century apart, when power and human sacrifice are dissimilarly understood by the collectivity. The paper discusses the anonymous society’s apprehension of the mechanisms of power, highlights the textualisation of the motif (its monumentalisation through national education), points out the interpretations it generates and makes evident the changes it entails.

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