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Talking on the Page

Talking on the Page: Editing Aboriginal Oral Texts

Laura J. Murray
Keren Rice
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  • Book Info
    Talking on the Page
    Book Description:

    Essays examine the problems inherent in attempting to record oral cultures for a visual society. What happens when the oral stories, beliefs, or histories of North American Native peoples are transferred to paper or other media?

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8034-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-2)

    In adducing the words of Greg Sarris, a mixed-blood scholar and writer of Coast Miwok, Pomo, and Jewish descent, as an epigraph to our introduction, we both display and demonstrate his point. While without any intention to distort (quite the contrary), we have taken his words out of context, in distancing them from the story they comment on. The story in question is a layered one: Sarris tells of the misunderstandings that occurred when Mabel McKay, a Pomo teacher and Dreamer, told a story about a woman who loved a snake to a white graduate student in English. The widely...

  5. 1 The paradox of talking on the page: Some aspects of the Tlingit and Haida experience
    (pp. 3-42)

    This is a conference about oral texts, so we have allowed ourselves some oral comments as context for the written paper. First of all, we thank Keren Rice and Laura Murray, our colleagues in the Canadian connection, for organizing this conference, and for inviting us to be a part of it. Being here on stage reminds us that it is easier for us to talk about our work than to write it or write about it; and it′s easier to write it than to read it. We′ve figured out how to co-author; but we haven′t figured out how to co-read....

  6. 2 How do we learn language? What do we learn?
    (pp. 43-52)

    There are, of course, many ways a case may be argued or a thesis presented. The matter of establishing the bond between language and literature for the purpose of improving language instruction is no different. Language and literature may well be considered separate and independent, as if they were unrelated. But to treat these topics as if they had no bearing one upon the other is representative neither of the kinship between them nor of the manner of their growth and development. It is precisely because language has been separated from literature in Native language programs for teachers and students...

  7. 3 Writing voices speaking: Native authors and an oral aesthetic
    (pp. 53-68)

    The relationship between the oral tradition and the written word, between story telling and story writing and reading, informs all contemporary encounters with Native Literatures. As Brian Swann notes, ′No matter how we try to finesse the problem, the question of translation remains paramount. All other topics are subsumed in it′ (1992, xvii). Contemporary Native authors work to translate not only language, but form, culture, and perspective. And within their written words, many attempt to continue the life of the oral reality.

    The significance of such attempts was underscored for me recently when I heard Harold Scheub discussing his book...

  8. 4 Doing things with words: Putting performance on the page
    (pp. 69-90)

    I am going to start right off by offending most of you.

    ′On the aforementioned occasion, the said Mr. Bruce did use the word cunt; and four times, the word fuck.′ This was Lenny Bruce – dirty Lenny, as he liked to be called – speaking about himself on stage. Well, sort of speaking – for in fact he was reading from the transcripts of his latest trial, using the very same words he had been arrested, tried and convicted for speaking on stage some months earlier ... which were then dutifully written down in the official court transcript. And...

  9. 5 It shall not end anywhere: Transforming oral traditions
    (pp. 91-96)

    Although it was delivered as an observation during song-making sessions, I took it to be an admonition as well when my Guardian said recently, ′This Hopi language will end, possibly for the recording of everything.′ I thought perhaps he was referring to the belief prophecying the dissolution of the Hopi language and saying that our preoccupation with recording the language was hastening the process. But since it was not in the nature of our relationship for him to scold me I knew he meant me to ′be there, feel the song and Know′ and not only to learn the words...

  10. 6 The social life of texts: Editing on the page and in performance
    (pp. 97-120)

    During the last two decades, I have spent considerable time thinking about issues at the centre of this conference. From the early 1970s until 1984, I lived in the Yukon Territory and had the good fortune to work with elders engaged in the project of recording their life stories. They and their families wanted to see accounts written in their own words describing memories and experiences spanning almost a century. Ongoing discussions about how these words should be recorded and transcribed on the page were central to the process we followed in trying to develop a shared ethnographic authority.


    (pp. 121-122)