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Koret, Peter D. (1994) Whispered so softly it resounds through the forest, spoken so loudly it can hardly be heard: The art of parallelism in traditional Lao literature. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Parallelism is a fundamental yet overlooked organizational device in the composition of Lao literature. This device is used in the creation of style, developing in complexity and sublety from the spoken language, prose, to poetic literature. In literature composed in the poetic form of Kau:n A:n, the plot on every level is organized in an intricate and symmetrical layering of parallel pairs. Narrative is built from a pattern which can be referred to as AAB, which consists of two initial sections, parallel in meaning and frequently similar in grammatical structure, followed by a third and final section which provides a conclusion. AAB patterns, which can be of any length, have traditionally been used by Lao (and other Tai) poets to narrate a progression of ideas, time, or events. Typically within a Lao story there are numerous layers of overlapping patterns. There is a consistent symmetry in the placement of smaller patterns inside of larger ones. The AAB pattern provides a model from which the evolution of a Lao story can be interpreted. A comparative study reveals that when a story is copied, the text evolves through the systematic grafting of new AAB patterns onto older patterns, the enlargement of existing patterns, and the strengthening of existing parallels between statements. It appears that the continual recopying of Lao literature is responsible for the incredible intricacy of its parallel layers. This thesis, in its initial chapter, also provides a general description of Lao literature, including the topics; a) the history of ancient Lao scripts and literature, b) the relationship between the literature and the Buddhist religion, c) sources of the literature in other societies, d) literary works in the Nitsay, Ha:y and Kau:n A:n literary forms; the different roles they play and the circumstances of their composition, transcription, performance, and preservation, e) the relationship between the literatures of Lanna and Laos, f) the major plot types, g) the use of formula and themes, h) the role of creativity in composition and transcription, and i) a history of the study of parallelism and a consideration of the role that parallelism plays in traditional Lao literary narrative. The inventory in the appendix provides a list of 142 works of Lao literature, describing the literary forms in which they are written, their length, extent of distribution, published equivalents, and possible relationship with works in other societies.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:08

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