Sunday, September 6, 2009

Telling Truth

Thomas King is a writer and professor of English at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. He teaches Native Literature and Creative Writing.

King gave the 2003 CBC Massey Lectures which have since been compiled into a book: The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative.

The CBC Massey Lectures began in 1961, broadcast yearly in November. Each year, a famous scholar gives five lectures on the CBC show Ideas. Some other past guest lecturers include Northrup Frye (1962), Martin Luther King, Jr. (1967), John Kenneth Galbraith (1965), and Noam Chomsky (1988).

King's begins each lecture with a Native oral story:

There is a story I know. It's about the earth and how it floats in space on the back of a turtle. I've heard this story many times, and each time someone tells the story, it changes.

King underlines the importance of Native storytelling with this changing opening tale, but also uses the changed story of each lecture to demonstrate the many myths, ideas, caricatures, and lies that Whites tell and have told about "the Indian of fact" ( House of Anansi, jacket cover).

Kings claims remind me of Edward Said's in Orientalism, where he argues that Europeans created the demon Oriental, a whole construction of myths, ideas, caricatures, and lies about, mostly, Muslims - a construction which supposedly justified whatever ill treatment Europeans devised. King's lectures should be added to Said's in any discussion of post-colonial literary theory.

Narratives can destroy and demonize, but according to King, they are also the only hope for understanding.  I appreciate these lectures; they helped me to understand.

I would like to invite Thomas King to my soiree.

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