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Orality and Literacy

Orality and Literacy: Reflections across Disciplines

Keith Thor Carlson
Kristina Fagan
Natalia Khanenko-Friesen
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Orality and Literacy
    Book Description:

    Orality and Literacyinvestigates the interactions of the oral and the literate through close studies of particular cultures at specific historical moments.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6193-6
    Subjects: Anthropology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Map of Selected Place Names
    (pp. viii-2)
  5. Introduction: Reading and Listening at Batoche
    (pp. 3-18)

    The wind was constant and cold on that October day in 2004 as we walked across the open Canadian prairie toward the little graveyard on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River. The Batoche cemetery still sits where it did when the conflict between the Métis, a people of mixed Aboriginal and European descent, and the Canadian military forces raged over its grounds in 1885. As we made our way into the burial ground, bending our heads against the stinging gale, we paused to examine a tall monument listing the names of those Cree and Métis who fell in the...


    • Chapter 1 Boasting, Toasting, and Truthtelling
      (pp. 21-42)

      Most literature, and all history, begins with boasting and toasting. Where truthtelling comes in is the subject of this essay. Boasting and toasting, of course, connect across cultures. When Muhammad Ali insulted his opponents and entertained his audiences with lines like ‘I’ll float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,’ he was speaking in a tradition of exaggeration that was part of his African heritage, but also part of European, Asian, and Aboriginal oral traditions.¹ In fact, he sounded exactly like one of Homer’s heroes, or any number of trickster figures boasting and toasting in the great storytelling traditions of...

    • Chapter 2 Orality about Literacy: The ‘Black and White’ of Salish History
      (pp. 43-70)

      Some indigenous histories not only challenge Western chronologies but dispute Western ways of knowing. Indeed, a number of indigenous stories circulating among the Salish people of south coastal and plateau British Columbia challenge us to reconsider both the history of Native-newcomer relations and our understanding of such core concepts as the relationship between orality and literacy, and ultimately, our definitions of indigeneity.

      If communication theory and ethnography have interpreted literacy as a force capable of facilitating profound cognitive (and thereby assimilative) change in non-literate people,¹ as a colonial ‘weapon capable of inflicting damage’ by relocating the sacred from local control...


    • Chapter 3 The Philosopher’s Art: Ring Composition and Classification in Plato’s Sophist and Hipparchus
      (pp. 73-109)

      With Plato, argued media theorist Marshall McLuhan, the Greeks ‘flipped out of the old Homeric world of the bards into this new, rational ... civilized world.’¹ McLuhan and other scholars associated with the foundations of media studies cite Plato’s writings as evidence for dating the shift from primary orality to literacy in ancient Greek culture. Further research has demonstrated that the ‘great divide’ of orality versus literacy is untenable; traditional oral modes of communication persist alongside and into written texts.

      This study re-examines Plato’s dialogues in light of recent research concerning ring composition, an oral formulaic technique found in Homer....

    • Chapter 4 The Social Lives of Sedna and Sky Woman: Print Textualization from Inuit and Mohawk Oral Traditions
      (pp. 110-150)

      To write about the social lives of Sedna and Sky Woman is not to pass on hot gossip about how two powerful women get around but to consider how their stories do, tracing their movement from multiple iterations in oral tradition to various print versions. The short stories ‘Summit with Sedna, the Mother of Sea Beasts,’¹ by Inuit artist and writer Alootook Ipellie, and ‘This Is History’² by Mohawk/Kanien’kehaka author Beth Brant/Degonwadonti are prime examples of the extension of the social life of stories from oral tradition into literature. The specifics of the stories’ relationship to the oral and their...


    • Chapter 5 ‘Private Stories’ in Aboriginal Literature
      (pp. 153-176)

      In 2004 Cherokee writer Thomas King delivered the prestigious Massey Lectures and they were subsequently published as a book under the titleThe Truth about Stories: A Native Narrative. This published version, however, contains a final chapter, entitled ‘Private Stories,’ that was not part of the lectures. In this chapter King tells the story of his friends John and Amy Cardinal and their struggles with their adopted daughter, who has fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. As I read this chapter I was troubled by King’s use of his friends’ names and his public exposure of the family’s problems.¹ Apparently he, too,...

    • Chapter 6 From Family Lore to a People’s history: Ukrainian Claims to the Canadian Prairies
      (pp. 177-196)

      When in 1932, Ivan Pylypiw recounted his coming to Canada to Professor Ivan Bobersky,¹ neither of them could have predicted that Pylypiw’s story would acquire a life of its own, serving, in more than one way, not only the Pylypiw descendants but also the history of Ukrainian Canadians at large.² It was early spring when the Winnipeg-based professor set out to visit Pylypiw on his rural Alberta farm. The train took him the majority of the distance, but Bobersky still had to travel by sleigh for the last three-quarters of an hour after leaving the town of Lamont. For Bobersky,...


    • Chapter 7 Literacy, Orality, Authority, and Hypocrisy in the Laozi
      (pp. 199-216)

      Readers will probably remember the scene early inThe Matrixwhen Neo, or ‘Mr Anderson,’ first experiences the powers of the nefarious Agent Smith. He is placed under arrest, and Agent Smith tells him that he is expected to cooperate in the hunt for an international terrorist. ‘Mr Anderson’ responds by declaring, ‘You can’t scare me with this Gestapo crap. I know my rights. I want my phone call.’ Agent Smith’s response is to smile and remark, ‘And tell me, Mr Anderson, what good is a phone call if you areunable to speak?’ At this point, ‘Mr Anderson’ finds...

    • Chapter 8 Unstable Texts and Modal Approaches to the Written Word in Medieval European Ritual Magic
      (pp. 217-244)

      In the late 1520s one of the most influential Western authors on magic, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, wrote to a friend concerning his attempt to absorb, understand, and synthesize the diverse written traditions of Jewish, Greek, Latin, and Arabic magic circulating in his time:

      O how many writings are read concerning the invincible power of the magic art, concerning the prodigious images of the astrologers, the marvellous transformation of the alchemists, and that blessed stone which Midas-like immediately turns every base metal it touches to gold or silver. All these writings are found vain, fictitious and false as often...


    • Chapter 9 A Tagalog Awit of the ‘Holy War’ against the United States, 1899–1902
      (pp. 247-279)

      The Philippine–American war commenced in February 1899 when the U.S. Army advanced into territory defended by a Filipino Republican government that had been inaugurated only a few months earlier. The Americans came originally as allies of the Filipino revolutionaries who were fighting against Spain. As U.S. forces trounced the Spanish navy and entered Manila, Filipino nationalists led by Emilio Aguinaldo forced the surrender of Spanish garrisons inland and declared independence on 12 June 1898. The United States refused to recognize Philippine independence, however, and instead ‘acquired’ the former Spanish colony at the Treaty of Paris in December for some...

    • Chapter 10 Telling the Untold: Representations of Ethnic and Regional Identities in Ukrainian Women’s Autobiographies
      (pp. 280-314)

      I was eleven when my grandmother Oryna died. I did not know much about her life. She was born in 1899 in the Poltava region in Central Ukraine. She came to western Ukraine immediately after the Second World War and was among thousands of ordinary Communists sent by the Communist Party to establish the Soviet regime there. At that time She married a widower named Mykhailo from western Ukraine. Shortly thereafter, in 1946, his daughter from his first marriage gave birth to my mother, Nina. When she was a baby, her parents perished tragically – they were found shot at night...

  11. Contributors
    (pp. 315-318)
  12. Index
    (pp. 319-336)