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Border Crossings

Border Crossings: Thomas King's Cultural Inversions

Arnold E. Davidson
Priscilla L. Walton
Jennifer Andrews
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 240
  • Book Info
    Border Crossings
    Book Description:

    The authors argue that, by situating concepts of cross-cultural dynamics within a comic framework, native writer Thomas King avoids the polemics that often surface in cultural critiques.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7153-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction: Whose Borders?
    (pp. 3-28)

    Thomas King is one of the first Native writers to generate widespread interest in both Canada and the United States. He has twice been nominated for Governor General′s Awards; his first novel,Medicine River(1990), has been transformed into a CBC movie; and his books are reviewed in a range of publications, from theNew York Times Book Reviewand theGlobe and Mail, toMaclean′s, Newsweek, andPeoplemagazines. Moreover, he has authored and been part of the ensemble cast of a CBC radio show,The Dead Dog Cafe Comedy Hour(1995-2000), which gained immense popularity with listeners across...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Comic Contexts
    (pp. 29-48)

    In his examination of genre fiction, Cawelti argues that textual formulas ′serve both conservative and progressive functions, allowing culture to negotiate, through symbolic representation, both commonly shared values and the possibility of change′ (Adventure35-6). Audiences and readers may seek the conventionality of a familiar genre, for it is readily accessible and requires little effort to comprehend. But without some innovation, the genre becomes redundant and potentially unsatisfying. King′s adaptation of comic formulations extends and revises the concept of comedy by integrating serious concerns about Native rights into his writings. Specific comic strategies characterize his works and alter the conventions...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Comic Inversions
    (pp. 49-74)

    As King′s works suggest, counter-narratives or, in Lipsitz′s terms, ′countermemories′ are forceful means of opening discourse to question. That is, shifting the terms of homogeneous narratives can unsettle their seeming ′normality,′ at the same time that it can create a space, as de Certeau has noted, for interrogating and re-imag(in)ing their production. Relying upon the inversion of such constructions, the comic surface of King′s fictions enables pointed political critiques.

    Through their counter-narratives, King′s texts work to overturn the dominant discursive field. In theoretical terms, Foucault argues that this is a crucial step in disrupting master-narratives:

    Discourses are not once and...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Genre Crossings
    (pp. 75-94)

    If, as we have been arguing, King′s fictions concentrate on various border crossings for political and cultural reasons, his texts also incorporate a number of disciplinary, genre, and media crossings to similar effect. Kings works serve as performative ′hybrid′ texts, or works that combine diverse modes and forms as they venture across cultural and literary boundaries - boundaries, it is worth noting, that have been in place for decades, and boundaries that influence the ways in which writings are read and categorized. The inversion of such academic categorizations may not seem as socially relevant as some of the other subversions...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Comedy, Politics, and Audio and Visual Media
    (pp. 95-121)

    Just as the movement afforded by short stories can be used to political ends, so can that of other artistic forms. Indeed, in King′s hands, visual and audio media become loci for collective action. The author integrates these venues into his texts, at the same time that he utilizes the space they provide to include audiences that might not have access to his works. Branching out from the written word, then, King uses technology to traverse and encompass alternative locales. In particular, his photography, radio work, and television writing are sites of political articulation for King, who depicts and subverts...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Humouring Race and Nationality
    (pp. 122-156)

    Border crossings and re-crossings of various kinds are central to King′s work. As a writer, photographer, and even an actor (King makes a cameo appearance in the television movie ofMedicine Riveras a member of a local basketball team, who comically taunts Will′s initial clumsiness on the court), his creative endeavours blend different genres and blur the boundaries that typically separate disciplinary categories. By playing with audience expectations and posing provocative questions about how we define texts and their contexts, King cultivates a vision of hybridity and diversity that highlights the complex political and cultural double bind faced by...

  10. CHAPTER SIX The Comic Dimensions of Gender, Race, and Nation: Kingʹs Contestatory Narratives
    (pp. 157-196)

    In his introduction to Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson argues for the formal universality of gender and nationality as ′socio-cultural′ concepts (14). Anderson contends that ′in the modern world everyone can, should, will "have" a nationality, as he or she "has" a gender′ (14). Although Anderson notes the contradictions inherent in such gross generalities, especially ′the irremediable particularity of ... [the] concrete manifestations′ of nationality, which varies from country to country, apparently gender remains a stable measurement of one′s identity: individuals are either male or female (14). What Anderson′s formulation demonstrates is that gender and nationality both depend upon the existence...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Comic Intertextualities
    (pp. 197-204)

    InDreams of Fiery Stars: The Transformations of Native American Fiction, Catherine Rainwater singles out Thomas King′sGreen Grass, Running Wateras the text that ′best illustrates the maximum effects an author may achieve through a cross-culturally allusive work′ (142). She argues that ′from the vast array of Western literary works available′ King ′has fashioned an intertextual network of stories rich in subtextual messages about the relationship of European peoples to indigenous cultures throughout the world′ (143). Through this process, King′s work highlights the ways in which European settlers to the New World were - and their descendants continue to...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 205-210)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 211-220)
  14. Index
    (pp. 221-223)