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Karagiozis: Culture and Comedy in Greek Puppet Theater

Linda S. Myrsiades
Kostas Myrsiades
Copyright Date: 1992
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Karagiozis -- a form of comic folk drama employing stock puppet figures -- was immensely popular in Greece until recent years, when newer forms of entertainment have virtually eclipsed it. Derived from ancient Byzantine and Greek sources, it takes its name from the principal puppet character, the clever, humpbacked fool-hero Karagiozis, who appears in many guises, surrounded by a cast of folk caricatures from all walks of life.

    Kostas and Linda Myrsiades present here a tripartite view of Karagiozis: a translation of a typical text taken directly from a live performance; interviews with one of the last master Karagiozis puppeteers; and an analysis of the place of this indigenous genre in Greek life and culture. The first part of the book examines critical issues concerning the context of Karagiozis performance: its place as an expres¬sion of an unofficial social world, as a gender statement that reveals the split vision of its culture, as an expression of a pluralistic society, and as an indigenous event shaped by economic, geographic, political, and social forces.

    The second portion offers insights from interviews with Giorgos Haridimos, until his retirement Greece's preemi-nent Karagiozis player, and a translation of his classic text "Karagiozis Baker" reflecting an actual performance by Haridimos. Through novel verbal and typographic devices, Kostas Myrsiades succeeds in preserving the full flavor of his oral source -- its rhythms and intonations, its linguistic nuances, and even audience reactions -- to convey the actual experience of the theatergoer. This unique translation thus establishes a model for collecting and disseminating oral theatrical tradition.

    Folklorists, cultural historians, and students of theater will appreciate this introduction to an ancient but little known folkloric form.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5941-6
    Subjects: Performing Arts, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. [Illustration]
    (pp. x-x)
  5. INTRODUCTION: Enter Karagiozis
    (pp. 1-12)

    The Karagiozis tradition dates from at least 1799 in Greece, but it has its origins in the Ottoman empire. Turkish theater historians have bemoaned the loss of this satiric and political performance in Turkey over the last generation, but few believed the end in Greece would follow so soon.

    Part I of this book provides an extended study of critical issues that have been debated but have not been conclusively addressed in the numerous critical studies of the Karagiozis performance that have appeared in Greek. These issues require comment and resolution if we are truly to engage the performance in...


    • CHAPTER ONE Official and Unofficial Culture
      (pp. 14-30)

      The Karagiozis shadow puppet theater performance was born out of an Ottoman subterfuge responding to an Islamic prescription that only permitted the artistic representation of human figures when they appeared as shades cut with holes to allow the spirits to escape. Subsequently, in both its Turkish and Greek forms, that is, as Karagoz as well as Karagiozis, the performance has capitalized on its association with the mime grotesque, the carnival fool, divine madmen, and psychological shadow figures. Freed from conventional standards of behavior, the Karagiozis figure has been tolerated for four hundred years as an antithetical, even anathematical expression that...

    • CHAPTER TWO Karagiozis as Urban Folklore
      (pp. 31-47)

      Anthropological discourse has raised the issue of a dichotomy between official and unofficial culture as an opposition between rural and urban, rural acting as a trope for unofficial culture and urban for official culture. It has, nevertheless, been difficult to separate discussion of urban folk culture from concepts of traditional values, beliefs, and expressions. Thus, much of urban anthropological and folklore research has involved searching for survivals of rural folk culture in the city, looking for preservation of some idealized past. In some sense, we are looking for continuity or adaptations of rural traditions in the city and not for...

    • CHAPTER THREE Gender in Karagiozis
      (pp. 48-77)

      Official and unofficial ideologies have been described as gender-based. Muted official culture is identified with the passive female orientation of Ottoman domination. Limited to the private world of the domestic domain, it represents the inner world of self-knowledge, that which a culture admits only to itself. Dominant official culture is identified with the active male, Eurocentric world of postliberation Greece. Extended to the public social world, it represents the outer world of self-presentation, the honor that a culture exhibits to outsiders (Goffman, 1959; Herzfeld 1987). Maintaining ties between such dichotomies as that between official and unofficial culture and other levels...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Text and Context
      (pp. 78-112)

      The study of folklore in the last several decades has radically altered a variety of notions that had been widely held, including traditional notions that stress the antiquity of folklore material, the collectivity of oral composition, and the simplicity of the folk (Ben-Amos 1972). This challenge has expanded the concept of folklore to include expressions that presently circulate in a culture and that assume new forms that can be transmitted in modes other than oral transmission. Here a distinction is drawn between residual and emergent cultures (Bauman 1972b), stressing the need to focus on the new meanings and practices of...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Giorgos Haridimos, Karagiozis Player
      (pp. 113-122)

      The lives of the Karagiozis player Giorgos Hardimos and his player-father, Hristos Haridimos, offer a study in contrasts that reveals the differences between two ways of becoming a Karagiozis performer. Moreover, to truly understand the son, it becomes useful to understand the father, whose work the son inherited and continues. Since both Hristos and Giorgos Haridimos have spoken and written about their lives, it becomes possible to trace the connections between them through their own words.¹

      Hristos Haridimos was born in the St. Paul area near Larissa Station in Athens, of Athenian parents. His father, Giorgos Haritos, worked as a...

  7. PART TWO Karagiozis Baker
    (pp. 123-210)

    Information in brackets indicates audience reaction, while commentary on the aural and visual elements of the performance is enclosed in parentheses. Words in full capitals are spoken loudly. Words in small type are whispered. Terms such as “ … [2]” indicate pauses; the number in brackets is the length of the pause in seconds. Hyphens separating words signify rapid speech, and a ⁐ sign at the end of a line means that the following line is spoken with almost no pause.

    Uncle George:Aha

    I’m me.

    Giorgos Vlatsaras, they calls me.

    Honorable gentlemen,

    good evenings to you from here to...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 211-219)
  9. References
    (pp. 220-231)
  10. Index
    (pp. 232-238)