Published: Jan. 13, 2013

A book on Russian women's folk traditions published by the University of Wisconsin Press has won the 2013 Chicago Folklore Prize, the oldest and most prestigious international book award in folklore studies, established in 1904. It also was awarded the Eli Köngäs-Maranda Prize for folklore studies of women. Both awards were announced at the annual conference of the American Folklore Society last week in Providence, Rhode Island.

Laura Osterman

Laura J. Olson is associate professor in the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Based on nearly three decades of fieldwork, from 1983 to 2010, The Worlds of Russian Village Women by Laura J. Olson and Svetlana Adonyeva follows three generations of Russian women and shows how they alternately preserve, discard, and rework the cultural traditions of their forebears to suit changing needs and self-conceptions. In a major contribution to folklore studies, Olson and Adonyeva document the ways that women’s tales of traditional practices associated with marriage, childbirth, and death reflect both upholding and transgression of social norms. Romance songs, satirical ditties, and healing and harmful magic reveal the complexity of power relations in Russian villages.

Osterman book

In accepting these awards, the authors commented, "We invite all who read our book to enter into dialogue with us, especially about the theoretical topic we care most about: how best to treat the words of others, how to weave the stories of others into an overarching narrative in a foreign language, without diminishing the power and value of the original words."

 Svetlana Adonyeva

Svetlana Adonyeva is professor of folklore and theory of literature at St. Petersburg State University in Russia.

“Olson and Adonyeva skillfully interweave fieldwork data with historical background, theoretical connections, and interpretation. In-depth and balanced, the book covers a number of important topics: the village life cycle, magic and healing, gossip and consumption of mass media, and women’s relationship to both traditional and popular music.”
—Sibelan E. S. Forrester, Swarthmore College