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Serbian Epic Poetry 101: Vuk S. Karadžić - “The Father of Serbian Folk-Literature”


Serbian Epic Poetry 101 is a series created with the intent of providing the most important information about Serbian oral folklore to the widest audience possible. It is an attempt to systematize the vast amount of data regarding the epic tradition of the Serbian people that was created over many centuries. This series will provide its readers with key characteristics of the corpus of the Serb epic tradition, such as its history, classification, versification, motifs, and themes, as well as resources for further research. Interdisciplinary study is required when analyzing the oral tradition of any nation, combining ethnology, mythology, history, folkloristics, and literature.

Serbian Epic Poetry 101 is divided into seven different chapters:

Vuk S. Karadžić - “The Father of Serbian Folk-literature”

The period between the 18th and 19th centuries is of the utmost importance when looking at the modern history of Europe. It was a time of revolution and of national awakening, driven by great faith in humanity, freedom, and progress. In arts, Romanticism was starting to arise and one of its main subjects was the return to nature which symbolizes the irrational and mystical. All of these elements can be found in national Oral Traditions, which is why a great interest in the artwork of the collective exemplified by folk literature was on the rise. It is thus no coincidence that the appearance of a man such as Vuk Stefanović Karadžić (1787-1864) was perfectly aligned with the spirit of the time. His most important contributions, although there were many, to the evolution of Serbian culture were his reform of the Serbian language based on the dialect of the common folk, rather than the elite, and his work of collecting Serbian folk literature into several paramount volumes. These volumes represent the core reservoir of Serbian epic poetry, among other genres.

Portrait of Vuk Stefanović Karadžic - Pavel Đurković (1816).
The Bigger Picture
''Such national poems are not appropriate to look at individually, out of context, much less to judge, least of all to enjoy in the right sense. The universally human is repeated in all peoples, but under the foreign costume, under a distant sky draws no real interest; the most special thing about any people is only strange, it seems bizarre, often repulsive, like everything peculiar that we have not yet grasped in a concept, have not yet learned to appropriate'' (Goethe, 1960, para. 6).