24 September 2009

More on the Oresteiaka riots

Here's more background on the Oresteiaká riots of 1903 (my blog entry of 14 May 2009):

“Throughout the nineteenth century, the campaign for a ‘mixed language’ (μίχτή) envisaged a fusion of simplified Katharevousa and Demotic, removed from its natural morphology and syntax. The mixed language was associated with the journal Panathinaia, edited by Kimon Mikhailidis, whereas the Athens University professor A. Skiás battled against the mixed language, calling it a ‘linguistic monstrosity.’ Th. Frangopoulos observed (1983) that the language question still affected the way novels were written between 1830 and 1930, and only after 1920 was the Demotic really approved over Katharevousa for prose, the way it had been for poetry since 1820.

“Writers were naturally among the first to look to the Demotic as a vehicle of expression (see Vilarás). It began to be accepted as the linguistic form in which new texts could be published.”

“Historically, the dispute has even led to tragedy: the ‘Oresteia riots’ (Oresteiaká) of 8 November 1903 were the consequence of an attempt to stage Aeschylus in a mixed rather than classicizing idiom. Three demonstrators were killed and seven wounded.” ("The Language Question" in Encyclopedia of Modern Greek Literature, by Bruce Merry, 2004, p. 245)

In every period in every country, there are always those that oppose any kind of mixing of languages in writing. These are, to use their very own words against them, linguistic monsters, because they try to put a limit to creativity. Similarly, in the field of literary criticism, there are those that oppose even thinking that a writer might be self-translating from a mother tongue or from an idiolect into what on the surface appears to be her or his main language; these, too, pardon me, should also be regarded as linguistic monsters, or perhaps more precisely, critical monsters.

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