The Introduction offers a comprehensive account of the Breton gwerz or narrative song tradition. It situates the discovery of the tradition in the context of a broader European Romantic revival of interest in popular culture, and introduces readers to the major collectors and collections of gwerziou from the early 19th century to the present day. It discusses the strengths and limitations of the corpus as it has come down us—what types of song may or may not have survived. It also examines the main generic characteristics of the Breton ballad form, comparing them briefly with narrative songs from France and the other Celtic-speaking countries. It then considers the songs’ relationship to history: what events are recorded/remembered in the songs, and how are they presented? The Introduction concludes by considering aspects of performance and the social contexts that have given these songs their cultural meaning and ensured their renewal and survival to the present day.
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