Margaret Beissinger

Research Scholar and Lecturer
Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures
Office Phone
238 East Pyne

PhD in Folklore & Mythology (South Slavic and Romanian) (Harvard University, 1984)
AB in Folklore & Mythology (Harvard University 1976)



In my research and writing, I focus on Balkan cultures (especially Romanian, Serbian, and Bulgarian) and oral tradition, oral epic, and Romani traditional culture and music-making. Much of my fieldwork has been carried out in southern Romania, where I have worked extensively, both before and after the 1989 revolution, with Romani musicians. I am particularly interested in Roma as marginalized yet admired performers of traditional and popular culture in Balkan society and the implications of this role, oral epic as a genre, and gender and narrative in southeastern Europe.

Current Project: 

My coedited volume, Manele in Romania: Cultural Expression and Social Meaning in Balkan Popular Music, was published this summer (August 2016); it treats manele, the contemporary “Oriental” Balkan ethnopop genre performed by Romani musicians.  I am presently working on two other book projects.  The first, From Slavery to Celebrity: Culture and Performance among Romani Musicians in Romania, is on Romani musician families, their worlds, and repertoires and is based on fieldwork.  I explore how the post-communist period has shaped culture and performance among lăutari (traditional Romani musicians) and manelişti (performers of manele).  The second is a volume of essays that I am coediting with Aida Vidan on South Slavic and related oral traditional poetry (Words in Performance).

Courses Taught: 

  • Traditions, Tales, and Tunes: Slavic and East European Folklore (COM/SLA/HLS/ANT/NES 236)
  • Russian Folklore (SLA 301)
  • Narratives of Identity in the “Other” Europe: Reading Culture in the Balkans (FRS 167)
  • Romani (Gypsy) Culture in Russia and East Europe (FRS 151)
  • “Once Upon a Time . . .”  Magic Tales and their Meanings (FRS 163)
  • Beginning Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian I (BCS 101) 
  • Beginning Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian II (BCS 102)
  • Intermediate Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian I (BCS 105) 
  • Intermediate Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian II (BCS 107)
  • Advanced Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian Reading Course (BCS 90)
  • Romanian Reading Course (SLA 90) 
  • Bulgarian Reading Course (SLA 91)

Authored Books: 

The Art of the Lăutar:
The Art of the Lăutar: The Epic Tradition of Romania

New York: Garland Publishing, 1991.

Selected Edited Volumes: 

Manele in Romania: Cultural Expression and Social Meaning in Balkan Popular Music book cover
Manele in Romania: Cultural Expression and Social Meaning in Balkan Popular Music.

Volume Editors: 
Margaret Beissinger
Anca Giurchescu
Speranta Radulescu

Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2016.

Epic Traditions in the Contemporary World: The Poetics of Community book cover
Epic Traditions in the Contemporary World: The Poetics of Community

Volume Editors: 
Margaret Beissinger
Jane Tylus
Susanne Wofford

Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

Selected Articles: 

"Romanian Manele and Regional Parallels: "Oriental" Ethnopop in the Balkans" 
in Manele in Romania, 2016, 95-139.

"Village Manele: An Urban Genre in Rural Romania" 
in Manele in Romania, 2016, 205-45.

"History and the Making of South Slavic Epic"
in Archaeology and Homeric Epic, ed. John Bennet & Paul Halstead, Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2016, 135-55.

"Serbian Tales"
in Folktales and Fairy Tales: Traditions and Texts from around the World, 2nd ed., Vol. 3, ed. Anne E. Duggan & Donald Haase, Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Press, 2016, 902-5.

"Romani Performance and the Music of Celebration: Traditional Weddings in Pre-and Post-1990 Southern Romania"
in Romanian Music - Music in Romania, ed. Thede Kahl. Vienna: Austrian Academy of Sciences. 2015, 113-25.

“Why Does Epic Survive?  A Comparison of Balkan Oral Traditions” 
in Balkan Epic: Song, History, Modernity, ed. Philip Bohlman, Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2012, 55-82.

“Court Poetry, Village Verse: Romanian Oral Epic in the Medieval World” 
in Medieval Oral Literature, ed. Karl Reichl, NY, Berlin: de Gruyter Publishing Co., 2012, 386-408.

“Oral Poetry” 
in The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, 4th ed., Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012, .978-81.

“Romani (Gypsy) Poetry” 
in The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, 4th ed.Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012, 1207-8.

“Interlocking Oral Narrative Patterns in South Slavic Traditional Song: A Comparative Reading of ‘Banović Strahinja’” 
in A Festschrift in Honor of Valtazar Bogišić, ed. Luka Breneselović.  Belgrade: Institut za uporedno pravo, 2011, 443-65.

“Schimbarea identităţilor în România postcomunistă: convertirea la penticostalism în rândurile lăutarilor romi” 
in Spectrum.  Cercetări sociale despre romi, ed. Toma Stefánia & Fosztó László.  Cluj-Napoca: Editura Institutului pentru Studierea Problemelor Minorităţilor Naţionale, 2010, 267-79.

"Muzica Orientală’: Identity and Popular Culture in Post-Communist Romania" 
in Balkan Popular Culture and the Ottoman Ecumene: Music, Image, and Regional Politica Discourses, ed. Donna A. Buchanan.  Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2007, 95-141.

"Roma." in Encyclopedia of World Folklore and Folklife. Vol. 3. Ed. William M. Clements. Westport, CT: The Greenwood Press, 2006. 395-408. 

"Romani (Gypsy) Music Making at Weddings in Post Communist Romania: Political Transitions and Cultural Adaptations." 
in Folklorica: Journal of the Slavic and East European Folklore Association. Vol. 10, No. 1 (Spring 2005): 39-51. 

"The Performance of 'Oriental Music' in Contemporary Romania." 
in Ethnic Identities in Dynamic Perspective. Eds. Sheila Salo and Csaba Prónai. Budapest: Gondalat Ethnic and National Minority Research Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, 2003. 229-36. 

"Rites of Passage and Oral Storytelling in Balkan Epic and the New Testament." 
in Oral Tradition: A Special Issue--The Bible in Ancient and Modern Media. Vol. 17, No. 2 (Fall 2002): 236-58. 

"Gender and Power in the Balkan Return Song." 
in Slavic and East European Journal. Vol. 45, No. 3 (Fall 2001): 403-30. 

"Occupation and Ethnicity: Constructing Identity Among Romani (Gypsy) Musicians in Romania." 
in Slavic Review. Vol. 60, No. 1 (Spring 2001): 24-49. 

"Teaching South Slavic Languages: A Survey of Textbooks and Reference Works." 
in The Learning and Teaching of Slavic Languages and Cultures. Eds. Olga Kagan and Benjamin Rifkin. Bloomington: Slavica Publishing, 2000. 609-26. 

"Creativity in Performance: Words and Music in Balkan and Old French Epic." 
in The Oral Epic: Performance and Music. Ed. Karl Reichl. Intercultural Music Studies. Vol. 12. Ed. Max Peter Baumann. Berlin: Verlag für Wissenschaft und Bildung, 2000. 95-113. 

"Epic, Gender, and Nationalism: The Development of Nineteenth Century Balkan Literature." 
in Epic Traditions in the Contemporary World: The Poetics of Community. Eds. Margaret Beissinger, Jane Tylus, and Susanne Wofford. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. 69-86. And "Introduction." coauthored with Jane Tylus and Susanne Wofford. 1- 17. 

"Balkan Folklore and Literature." 
in Folklore and Literature: An Encyclopedia. Eds. Mary Ellen Brown and Bruce A. Rosenberg. Santa Barbara: ABC CLIO, 1998. 42-46. 

"Text and Music in Romanian Oral Epic." 
in Oral Tradition. Vol. 3, No. 3 (October 1988).