The relationship between vernacular genres and their discursive, social, and historical context is one of the major problems of folkloristic scholarship. In order to understand generic expressivity we need to look into its communicative uses and surroundings, whereas it is often diffficult to identify genres, diffferentiate between them, and delineate the boundaries that would set them apart from the rest of discourse. Some verbal genres can easily be distinguished from the flow of communication, as stylistic or performative features mark them offf, but there is also a range of verbal genres that are “not rendered as performances”. Legend as a distinct communicative genre often remains indiscernible, because it is “not set apart from the flow of conversation through the use of distancing formulas”. With its long history of research several definitions of legend exist, starting from the Grimm brothers who drew attention to their historicity, that is, their connection with their temporal and geographical environment. Leander Petzoldt in his comprehensive monograph about legend research fused the results of earlier scholarship when he summarized the essential features of the genre, describing it as a mimetic narrative form that generates an impression that the narrated event has really taken place and tries to verify this event by providing temporal, spatial, and personal data. Remarkably, most of the existing characterizations of legend point out that claims about the veracity of the reported extraordinary event are the distinctive feature of the genre. Secondly, some definitions note that the rhetoric devices employed in these narratives are there to ensure believability and draw attention to the peculiar embedding of the genre in sociohistorical, natural, and psychological contexts. Definitions indicate that credibility as a potential quality of all legends is achieved through the blending of the narrative plot with a surrounding reality that is familiar to the storyteller and the audience.
"Discursive Shifts in Legends from Demonization to Fictionalization,"
Narrative Culture: Vol. 2
, Article 7.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/narrative/vol2/iss1/7