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Intercultural Transmission of Motifs : Mapping Narrative Content Between Civilizations

Intercultural Transmission of Motifs : Mapping Narrative Content Between Civilizations

By Alexander Kulik

The talk will present a project mapping narrative content in texts from around the world. The project is a new database and search engine of motifs and small narrative units. It is meant to allow researchers easy access to intercultural and intra-cultural parallels, simplifying intercultural and interdisciplinary research.

Inter-cultural and interdisciplinary research today poses new challenges for the researcher who does not want to be limited to the disciplines, cultures, or languages most in proximity to his or her area of specialization. The need for accurate, easily accessible point-of-departure information for comparative inter-cultural research has not yet been answered. Neither has the need to have this information online.

Our database makes it possible for researchers and other interested users easily and quickly to find inter- and intra-cultural motifs dispersed over time, to refer to primary and secondary sources, and to contribute to the mapping of parallel motifs and stories and their classification.

The goal of the database is to make possible the kind of research that has largely been neglected during the last half-century, or that has never yet been possible at all in the past. The database will make it possible to locate, to compare, or to analyze sporadic occurrences of narrative units or images. It constitutes a tool actually capable of serving any school of thought. The database is supposed to provide a response for researchers of literature, cultural history, religion, folklore, art, anthropology, and more, who attempt to keep track of the manifestations of a certain motif, and the various cultural meanings which have been given to it. In the long run, the database aims to include material from every culture, time period, and genre, thus enabling both the specialist as well as the amateur in any particular discipline to access what it has to offer.
An entry in our database is defined as any unit of content whose passage within and between cultures is likely to be of interest. In order to make the database operate efficiently, compound methods and search cross sections may be used.
What makes the database unique is that users will be able to perform searches of different kinds in it, either relying on a free search to find any word or expression which comes to mind, or choosing a keyword or super-category from among those suggested by the database matrix. Users will be able to search by time period, culture, similar or related words, and in accord with a number of indices that are already available (ThMot AT/ATU), i.e., to search not only for words, but also for concepts, motifs, and tale types.

In addition, every user will be able to add entries or to edit or correct entries already extant in the system, a feature which will ensure the intake of new information not limited to the spheres of knowledge of the database initiators and its employees. This feature will also enable cultures which were, until present day, under-represented to find their way into the global scene.

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