Migration Theory

Migration Theory


(theory of borrowing, theory of migratory plots), a theory attributing the similarity between the folklore of various peoples to the diffusion, or migration, of poetic works. The theory was universally accepted in the second half of the 19th century, when world cultural ties were growing. Among its adherents in Russia were A. N. Pypin, V. V. Stasov, V. F. Miller (in the 1890’s), and to some extent A. N. Veselovskii and I. N. Zhdanov. In Germany the migration theory was propounded by T. Benfey (its founder), R. Kohler, M. Landau, and J. Bolte; in France, by G. Paris and E. Cosquin; in England, by A. Clouston; in Italy, by A. d’Ancona and D. Comparetti; and in Czechoslovakia, by G. Polívka.

The migration theory brought much new textual material to the attention of scholars, but it dealt primarily with structural and thus limited comparisons of plots and themes. It attributed the similarity between folk works to cultural and historical influences even in instances where there was a typological similarity between phenomena of world artistic culture.

The migration theory, an approach that ignored national and historical factors in the development of folklore and literature, has become obsolete. Comparative literary scholarship provides a modern interpretation both of migratory plots and the role of literary influence.


Azadovskii, M. K. Istoriia russkoi fol’kloristiki, vol. 2. Moscow, 1963.
Pypin, A. N. Istoriia russkoi etnografii, vols. 1–4. St. Petersburg, 1890–1892.
Arkhangel’skii, A. S. Vvedenie v istoriiu russkoi literatury, vol. 1. Petrograd, 1916.
Cocchiara, G. Istoriia fol’kloristiki v Evrope. Moscow, 1960. (Translated from Italian.)


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