"A megcsalt férj", or Cunningly Lingual Wives in Hungarian Ballad Tradition


  • Louise O. Vasvári Stony Brook University




The European ballad, an orally-performed narrative song, developed in the medieval period with many cross-fertilizations among ballad types in various language areas. Nevertheless, to date there have appeared only a handful of comparative studies of these pan-european themes, with investigations dominated by the Finnish geographical school, whose primary interest is in finding genetic archetypes. In this study, my aim is, rather, to do a typological and stylistic analysis of one wide-circulating song-type, known in many variants throughout the continent, some in comic and others in tragic versions. The ballad I shall analyze appears in Hungarian in several variants as "A megcsalt ferj," in Anglo-American tradition - recorded in over 400 variants – the ballad is known as "Our Goodman," or "The Cuckold's Song," or, in more blatantly obscene versions as "The Old Man Came Home" and "Home Drunk Cam' I". There also exist Spanish, Catalan, French, Italian, and even Yiddish versions, all of which I shall be taking into consideration.

Author Biography

Louise O. Vasvári, Stony Brook University

Louise O. Vasvári, who received her M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of California in Berkeley, is Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature and of Linguistics at Stony Brook University. She has also taught in various visiting capacities, including at the University of California, Berkeley, at the Eotvos Lorand University and at the Central European University, the University of Connecticut (Storrs), and the Université de Jules Verne (Amiens). Currently she teaches one course yearly in the linguistics department at New York University and is also Affiliated Professor in American and English Studies at the University of Szeged, Hungary. She works in medieval studies, historical and socio-linguistics, translation theory, Holocaust studies, and Hungarian Studies, all informed by gender theory within a broader framework of comparative cultural studies. She has published widely in these areas, ranging from medieval Spanish, Italian, German, English, and Hungarian, to queer theory. Related to Hungarian Cultural Studies she has published with Steven Tötösy, Imre Kertész and Holocaust Literature (Purdue UP, 2005) and Comparative Central European Holocaust Studies (Purdue UP, 2009). She has also published a monograph-length work in Hungarian on memoirs of Hungarian women survivors (Mult és Jövö, 2009).






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