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Astrid Kulsdom

The Representation and Reception of Lucy M. J. Garnett as a Specialist on Balkan (Women’s) Folklore


Around the turn of the nineteenth century British folklorist and traveller Lucy Mary Jane Garnett (1849-1934) published several books on Turkish folklore and mysticism. Having travelled extensively in the Balkans and Middle East, Garnett was considered an expert on the cultures in these regions both by fellow folklorists and the wider British audience that read her books. Her knowledge of Greek and Turkish, languages she learned in Smyrna and Salonica, aided her greatly in compiling books such as Greek Folk-Songs from the Turkish Provinces of Greece (1890), The Women of Turkey and their Folk-Lore (1890), Mysticism and Magic in Turkey (1912), Ottoman Wonder Tales (1915) and Balkan Home Life (1917). Together with her publication of reviews and articles on the same subjects in well-known and widely read journals and magazines, Garnett’s body of work presented her perspective on the customs of the Balkans to a large British audience.

Lucy Garnett aimed to supplement the accounts of earlier, mostly male travel writers who visited the Balkans with information about the lives of women, which she thought to be sorely lacking in previous works about the region. She sought not just to educate her fellow countrymen about the folklore of the Balkans, but specifically emphasised the life and status of Balkan women. This presentation will consist of a comparative study of Garnett’s statements about her role as a mediator between East and West and the perception of that role and her work by the British press in reviews of her work, in particular The Women of Turkey and their Folk-Lore which includes chapters written by male folklorist John. S. Stuart-Glennie. Specific attention will be paid to the influence of Garnett’s co-operation with Stuart-Glennie on her reception in Britain.

Ask, September 2012

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