Project announcement and Tam, kjer murke cveto

When I was informed at the end of September 2022 that our project Towards a History of Comparative Literature in a Global Perspective: Matija Murko and his International Collaborators was accepted for funding by the Slovenian Research Agency ARRS (J6-4620), I immediately informed our research team of the results. One of project team members, dr. Jan Ciglenečki replied to my email by sending everyone a well-known song by the Avsenik Brothers Ensemble entitled Tam, kjer murke cveto (in the literal translation: There, where black vanilla orchids bloom). It is just one of those songs that everyone knows: the Avsenik Brothers Ensemble is among the most famous music groups in Slovenia, the beginners of the so-called “Oberkrainer-Stil Musik,” and this song was published in 1959 on their first album with the same name. You can listen to it here:

Jan’s humorous pun was of course in drawing the attention to the similarity between the surname Murko and the name of the flower “murka” mentioned in the song (“murka” is the name for “black vanilla orchid” or Nigritella nigra). According to Marko Snoj, the name Murko literally means “the man with a darker skin” (Marko Snoj, “Od kod priimek Murko?” in: Matija Murko – Slovanski filolog v najširšem pomenu besede, ed. Marko Jesenšek and Marija Stanonik, Ljubljana, SAZU, 2020: 9) and has the same etymological root as the flower “murka” (from *murъ̏ ‛črn’ like the lat. niger in Nigritella nigra, see link

What made Jan’s reference even better is the second verse of the song, which mentions the Slovenian folksong Pegam and Lambergar:

But from a high mountain,
The castle Kamen brings back memories,
Remember Pegam,
He smiles and thinks: it all passes away.

(Slovenian:
A z visoke planine
Grad Kamen obuja spomine
Spomni Pegama se
Se smehlja in si misli: vse mine.)

The “castle Kamen” and the name “Pegam” both refer to the old theory that the folksong about Pegam and Lambergarrefers to Gašper Lambergar (Kaspar von Lamberg) who in the 16th century owned the castle Kamen, which still stands in Begunje na Gorenjskem. 

What the folksong is about is the topic of one of our future posts—so stay tuned! For now, I just want to explain why the poem is relevant. One of the several scholars who researched it was no other than Matija Murko who wrote extensively about it in several of his writings. Murko had a prominent role in the state-sponsored project Das Volkslied in Österreich, which aimed at gathering and publishing folk songs of different languages within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and it was in this context that he wrote about Pegam and Lambergar. More importantly, Murko used a comparative approach in an almost revolutionary way, and if you are interested why it was revolutionary, you can read more about it in Marija Klobčar, “Kako in kdaj so prišle žene do tega, da pojejo pesmi tudi o takih junakih, kakor sta Pegam in Lambergar —?”, Glasnik Slovenskega Etnološkega Društva 54, no. 3 (2014): 21–29 (see link) and in Marjetka Golež Kaučič, “Matija Murko med slovenskim in južnoslovanskim ljudskim pesemskim izročilom«, Matija Murko – Slovanski filolog v najširšem pomenu besede, ed. Marko Jesenšek and Marija Stanonik, Ljubljana, SAZU, 2020: 198–216.

All this neatly underlines some of the topics and questions that we will be dealing with in this project. Over the next few years, we intend to look into the work of Matija Murko, think about his comparative methodology, see how it influenced the development of comparative literature, discuss the importance of folksongs for world literature, and much more. All of you are kindly invited to follow and to contribute, so please, feel free to contact us if you are interested in our research (complitmurko@gmail.com). Or as the Avsenik’s song says, our team is There where the gentian blue / gently beckons all happily bragging (Tam, kjer encijan plav / Ves prešerno bahav nežno vabi).

Welcome!

This is the official webpage of the research project “Towards a History of Comparative Literature in a Global Perspective: Matija Murko and his International Collaborators,” financed by the Slovenian Research Agency. In this project, we explore different ways in which to bring peripheral academic voices to the mainstream narratives about the history of comparative literature. We are especially interested in bridging the gap between close and distant reading and micro- and macro-history, which, we believe, can assist researchers in exploring unknown narratives in history of scholarship.