A quarterly specialized journal
The Message Of Folklore from Bahrain To The World

The Documentation of Popular Literature

Issue 17
The Documentation of Popular Literature

Nasir Al Baqluti (Tunisia)

This research focuses on popular literature. Though it is a subset of heritage, it conveys independent messages based on the compositional function of words. In studying this genre, we must apply the structural approach if we are to understand the underlying connotations of its discourse beneath its surface narrative structure.

The typological approach will also help us to arrive at a classification of popular literature’s structure and motif.    

Popular literature is regarded as a creative art by many cultures; its tools of expression stem from verbal discourse, which is derived from written standard language in countries such as those of the Maghreb. In fact, spoken Arabic is more eloquent than standard Arabic because it conveys the messages of the people, and is more profound and intimate.

Whatever the approach and background, popular literature comes from spoken language; it reflects the collective experience and shared values of the group’s members, it does not necessarily convey the messages of the individual speaker, nor reflect his experience without bringing forth his relation to the whole group, which is why it is called popular literature. The name is self-explanatory and it refers to the concept of cultural exchange between different members, and the norms of behavior, practices and productivity among the group’s members. This concept is based on the conventionality and popularity of ideas and values among particular groups in a specific residential area.

The concept of intangible heritage emerged as a result of an idea common to many heritage and anthropology scholars, namely that globalization threatens heritage - particularly that which is intangible - through standardization, marginalization or even dilution. In 2003, UNESCO issued the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, defining the content of this genre of heritage and describing intangible cultural heritage’s role in identity and cultural diversity.

Popular heritage is so fragile that it risks becoming extinct despite the development of means of communication because of the decline in oral tradition, the lack of reproduction of these stories and the decline in the number of narrators. This makes the collection, documentation, preservation, circulation and publication of popular literature all the more urgent.

The documentation of popular literature is necessary, but documentation requires that this literature be transcribed and transformed from the oral to the written, transforming the audience from listeners and observers to readers. It is so challenging to transcribe popular oral heritage - especially that which is narrated - that we must question whether the documentation of popular literature is paradoxical.

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