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    Ukrainian Minstrels: And the Blind Shall Sing
    "Ukrainian Minstrels: and the blind shall sing" by Natalie Kononenko

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  • More N. Kononenko fotos at U. of Virginia

  • Ukrainian Minstrels: And the Blind Shall Sing
    © 1998 M. E. Sharpe, Inc., all rights reserved.
    Kononenko, Natalie O.
    ISBN 0-7656-0144-3 (C:alk.paper)
    ISBN 0-7656-0145-1 (pbk:alk.paper)

    To order this book:

    Natalie Kononenko is professor of Slavic Languages, Literatures, and Folklore at the University of Virginia and the author of Ukrainian Minstrels: And the Blind Shall Sing. The book was published by M.E. Sharpe in 1998 and won the Kovaliv Prize for best book in Ukrainian Studies.

    Prof. Kononenko collected material for her book from living Ukrainian minstrels and from archival sources and was one of the first non-Ukrainians allowed extensive archive access. As a result, her book presents information never before published in any language. For example, she describes the process of apprenticeship and training, isolating stages of training, examining the master-pupil relationship, and offering both descriptions and translations of the secret minstrel initiation rite. She gives extensive quotes, many from archival sources, where minstrels themselves describe their professional and personal lives.

    Professor Kononenko is the first scholar to focus on the personal lives of performers and, as such, she shows us that, at least on one level, minstrels were very much like their fellow villagers: they farmed small plots of land; they married and had children, the children becoming farmers, just like the other villagers, unless they, too, were, blind. Since minstrelsy was a social welfare institution which took care of disabled villagers, while at the same time meeting the artistic needs of the whole population, the question of what happened to blind girls intrigued the author and, using archival sources, she has been able to show that women, too, were trained, although they were not allowed to play musical instruments, thus keeping them from competing with their male colleagues.

    Of special interest is the section where Prof. Kononenko examines the life of a blind child about to be apprenticed. Being blind in a village setting was a terrible burden and many parents had a hard time admitting that a child's blindness could not be cured. Thus the decision to apprentice a child was full of poignancy: there was both hope that the child would learn a profession and be able to take care of himself or herself and the pain of admitting a handicap was irreversible. All this information and more, plus additional photographs and translations of at least one sample of very part of a minstrel's repertory is available in Prof. Kononenko's book.

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