3:3 Green Grass Running Water – Found Allusions

Water Everywhere

Searching for allusions in Green Grass Running Water is an eventful task. Drawing on historical, literary, mythical, or personal knowledge to better understand and appreciate King’s characters and stories is well worth the time that it takes to do so. The imbedded allusions and references make you question all that you read, and they lead you to enjoy the process of reading, or listening, that much more. Since acknowledging the thoughtful, humorous and insightful connections that King makes (at least the ones that I have found), I have begun to look at all that I read with a more critical eye, hoping to find hidden allusions or references that would otherwise be overlooked. The following blog post explains some of the character allusions that I have found (or have created) in Green Grass Running Water between pages 254 and 270.

“Alberta let the water rise”: Alberta, as one of the main characters in the realist story within Green Grass Running Water, is connected by name to the Canadian province where Thomas King lived and taught for some years (Flick). More than likely her name was taken from Frank, Alberta, a small town in the Rocky Mountains that was the site of a disastrous slide in 1903 (Flick). She also earns her name by being frank in her communication (Flick). Following King’s humor and intent throughout the novel leads me to believe that Alberta’s name is a combination of the above ideas expressed by Flick, as well as a purposeful tribute to the province. Alberta’s character is able to speak to anyone who has a vision of, or any sort of relationship with the province. The reader is left to interpret Alberta as they see the province and themselves in relation to it – Funny, stern, contemplative, loving etc. Alberta means a lot of things to a lot of people.

Between pages 254 and 256 we visit Alberta in the washroom where she is contemplating (dreaming) about the joy of having a baby in the tub with her. This dream is interrupted by thoughts of Lionel and Charlie, as well fears surrounding impending disaster and the practicalities of motherhood. In an attempt to block these thoughts and feelings, Alberta sits down in her half bath-half shower and “lets the water rise”. I believe that this moment connects the reader to a major theme in the novel, which is the cleansing presence of water, and how it represents new beginnings and directions. More than this, the presence of water, while comforting, can also represent a time for sober reorganization of thoughts and dream analysis. In this particular case, Alberta is able avoid all thoughts and dreams as she lies in the tub. It is only after the bath, when she surveys her day, that she makes the clear decision to go back to bed with a smile on her face because she has, at least momentarily, put things in perspective.

“I guess we’re the ones to say what’s right and what’s not right”:  The American border guards who search Alberta’s family car during a trip (pages 256-257), proceed to harass and interrogate Alberta’s family regarding their dance outfits, and because they are “Indians”. By asserting their “authority” in a brash and racist fashion, these two border guards serve to represent the treatment of Indigenous peoples by law enforcement in Canada and the US. The apparent white supremacy and abuse of power in this short vignette is underlined by the fact that the border guards confiscate the dance uniforms, for no reason, and threaten to jail Alberta’s family if they do not comply. This represents the power imbalance that exists between police authority and Indigenous rights, while also shedding light on the abuse and racism that is present at border crossings that represent nation states. As one of the border guards is a young skinny kid, and the other is an authoritarian figure, I thought immediately of the Andy Griffith Show and the dynamic between Andy Taylor and Barney Fife. While the border guards described above do represent a departure from these two characters, I think that King might be applying the antiquated image of the white American sheriff to all law enforcement agents here in order to emphasize the absurdity of the actions taken by these border guards.

Barney Fife (Right) and Andy Taylor

 “You can’t flood me out: Between pages 259 and 260 Eli Stands Alone is reflecting on his relationship with the Damn. In discussion with Sir Clifford Sifton, Eli externally explains his defiance, while internally acknowledging the futility of his standing alone. He understands, that is, the inevitable outcome of one man attempting to block a damn, but he is proud of his actions. He knows that the damn will, at some point, “maneuver around him”, but in the meantime he is enjoying the process of resistance because he is firm in his convictions. For Eli, standing alone is better than lying down. Eli is based on “Elijah Harper who blocked the Meech Lake Constitutional Accord in 1990 by being the standout vote in in the Manitoba Legislature”(Flick). In this short passage, King is able to explain what Elijah Harper, and others like him may feel in the face of adversity; that there are profound pleasures to be found in the act of resistance. When reading his name aloud, I was forced to think of the song “Here I stand alone” from the Tolkien Ensemble’s “The Hobbit”. Although the message is about isolation, the connection is mostly a phonetic one.

“As long as the grass is green and the water runs”:  Between pages 265 to 268, Buffalo Bill Bursum is depicted as a businessman-idealist who yearns for Parliament Lake and it’s trees, bushes and peace. According to Jane Flick, Bill Bursum’s character is named after Buffalo Bill, “an exploiter of Indians for entertainment” and Holm O. Bursum, who, as a New Mexico Senator, proposed a bill to strip land from Pueblos and give land title and water rights to non-Indians (Flick). As one of the first people to buy a property on Parliament Lake, Buffalo Bill Bursum embodies the spirit of his namesake, Holm O. Bursum, by demonstrating little regard for others while designing his dream cabin as he wishes, and exploiting resources and others as he goes. This mentality persists in his home entertainment business where his other namesake, Buffalo Bill, takes over to represent Buffalo Bill Bursum’s exploitation of the consumer and a mentality that sees him selling entertainment as an escape, no matter the cost.

Works Cited:

Elijah Harper, Key Player in Meech Lake Accord, Dies at 64″. IdleNoMore. N.p. June 14 2103. Web. 6 April 2014.

Flick, Jane. “Reading Notes for Thomas King’s Green Grass Running Water.” Canadian Literature 161-162. (1999). Web. March 28/2014.

Keir, Nick. “Here I Stand” Youtube. N.p. Oct 6 2009. Web. 6 April 2014.

King, Thomas. Green Grass Running Water. Toronto. Harper Perennial. 1993. Print.

“The Andy Griffith Show”. IMDB. N.p. n.d. Web. 6 April 2014.

 “Water, Water Everywhere, Nor Any Drop to Drink” . Environmentaltrends. N.p. Oct 23           2012. Web. 6 April 2014.
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3:2 What’s In a Name?

  Thomas King wants us to read aloud so as to “maintain the dialogic fluidity of oral storytelling performance in written text” (Chester). By writing a novel that leads the reader to benefit from reading passages and sections aloud, King connects the text-based content within “Green Grass Running Water” with an oral storytelling tradition of performance and dialogue. This interactive and “dialogical” platform from which King writes, combines Native oral tradition with non-Native approaches to storytelling to great effect (Chester). King does this in order to highlight the different ways in which the material can be offered to the audience, and to comment on the various ways that people digest and understand the stories and the traditions that give birth to them. Blanca Chester suggests that the way in which King approach his stories and characters in “Green Grass Running Water” “suggests viewing Western theory through the lens of Native experience and traditions, rather than the other way around” (Chester). As such, and by asking the reader to read aloud, for example, King emphasizes the importance of Native oral tradition while also establishing that the novel and the act of reading a novel can be interactive – that a novel can express many layers and be understood deeply when read in the context of an oral storytelling tradition. Viewing “Green Grass Running Water” through a Native lens may therefore provide a richer and more rewarding experience for the reader as it is meant to emphasize the power of Native oral traditions.

Throughout the novel, King asks the reader to engage in both the western process of reading a novel and the Native oral storytelling tradition. He does so in order to engage the reader in something perhaps unfamiliar and to underline the idea that it is possible to combine the two mediums to tell engaging stories and to uncover differing world-views and ways of approaching stories. By creating a situation where the reader benefits from reading the text aloud, King carries on the tradition of oral storytelling through his writing. He ensures that the importance of oral storytelling is not lost on the reader of “Green Grass Running Water” by creating moments and passages that yearn to be read aloud and shared in a dialogical way. In fact, this is the only way to gain access to some of the material. By reading the text aloud the reader also “becomes an active participant in the process of constructing “the text”” and engaging with it’s meaning (Chester). By reading aloud the reader may uncover some of the allusions and references in King’s text that are more or less hidden to the silent reader. In other words, by reading aloud, and through a Native storytelling lens, the reader is able to find the irony, humour, and  messages contained in certain passages or character names.

Three such instances in King’s novel are in his use of character names. Dr. Joseph Hovaugh (Jehova), Louis, Ray and Al (Louis Riel), and Sally-Jo Weyha (Sacajawea) are examples of how King “emphasizes the sound of names as puns so that only through their aurality does the reader understand their reference” (Chester). In each of these examples, King is asking the reader to uncover the significance of the names as well as the secondary narrative that the reference implies. By reading these names aloud, the reader enjoys a laugh and is automatically connected to the oral storytelling tradition that necessitates interaction with the text. By either mouthing these names, as I first did, or by speaking them aloud, the reader is entering “into a highly contexted discourse where every name suggests a story, and every story suggests yet another story (Chester). Listening for imbedded stories and meanings within a story is common in Native oral tradition. In “Green Grass Running Water” King playfully introduces these and other characters to the narrative that then lead to additional stories and connections with historical significance. King intentionally asks his readers to speak up so as to maintain these types of connections to orality and to continue the Native oral tradition within the novelistic form”(Chester).

Works Cited

Chester, Blanca. “Green Grass, Running Water: Theorizing the World of the Novel”. canlit.ca. Canadian Literature, 9 Aug. 2012. Web. 17 Mar. 2014.

“Green Grass, Running Water Character Analysis”. Schoolworkhelper. St Rosemary Educational Institute., n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2014

“Sacagawea – Reunited and Saved”. biography.com. N.p.,n.d. Web. 17 Mar.2014.

“Louis Riel Biography”. Manitoba.ca. N.p.,n.d. Web.17 Mar. 2014.


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Racist Imaginations

The Indian Act 1876

The Indian Act of 1876 was developed by colonial powers to consolidate all existing legislation that covered First Nations people and their relationship to Canada. The goal of this state governing activity was to assimilate and “civilize” First Nations people in Canada and to control every aspect of Indian life through oppressively constructed regulations (Hanson). This legislation notably represents the colonialist convictions of early white nation builders, but it also works to reinforce systemic discrimination in Canada based on ideas about racial inferiority. (Paterson). The Indian Act of 1876 adds another state governed layer to the already racist and patriarchal endeavor of nation building and colonization by aiming to create, as Daniel Coleman puts it, a “normative status of British whiteness in Canada (Paterson). Despite it’s amendments and its proposed abolishment, the Indian Act continues to represent a history of oppression in Canada that is built on the foundations of white privilege and the idea that “civility” can be constructed.

Taking from the mindset that gives birth to legislations such as the Indian Act, Coleman describes how the construction of “fictive ethnicities”, by which he means “how nations of diverse peoples are represented as if they are a “natural community””, lead us to believe that we are supposed to build upon and live by the idea of normative whiteness. He implores us to analyze nation building as a process that forces First Nations Peoples to adopt a white identity and live in a “natural community” that is constructed to suit “a specific form of whiteness that is based on the British model of civility” (Paterson). Coleman says that if we live through these fictive ethnicities that support a white and “civil” Canadian identity, we forget “all the very uncivil acts of colonialism and nation building” that continue to persist today (Paterson). Looking at a diverse nation as one “natural community”, denies responsibility for our brutal colonial history and the mindset that allows for state governing projects such as the Indian Act of 1876 to exist.

Coleman, who looks at matters of nation building and colonization through the lens of Canadian literary canon building, argues that “white civility” has permeated Canadian literature while working to create a white normative national identity in Canada. The assimilationist mindset of the Indian Act and other state governing activities underscores the outlook that is defined in Coleman’s project of “white civility”. He highlights the fictional aspect of nation building, as well as this fictions connection to colonialist goals of eradicating cultural differences in Canada. The process of canon building in Canada cannot, in this sense, be separated from race and ethnicity because it is used in part to ensure that an imagined community holds on to a forced identity.

Works Cited:

“From Residential Schools to Prisons”. Native Women’s Association of Canada: Arrest the Legacy-From Residential Schools to Prisons. N.p.,n.d. Web.9 March 2014

Hanson, Eric. “The Indian Act”. Indigenous Foundations.University of British Columbia. Web. 9 March 2014

“Indian Act 1876”. shannonthunderbird.com. N.p.,n.d. Web.9 March 2014

Paterson, Erika. “Lesson 3.1 Nationalism and Literature.” University of British Columbia. UBC Blogs. 2014. Web. Web. 9.Mar. 2014.

“The White Paper 1969”. Rabble.ca. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 March 2014.


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Words that Paint a Clear Picture

  In his article about the political geography of mapping and the persistence of colonial assumptions about cartography in Canada, Matthew Sparke narrows in on the legal case involving the Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en First Nations and their case against the BC provincial and Canadian federal governments over the recognition of their native sovereignty. While highlighting this case in order to help explain the thoughts surrounding the mapping of a nation-state and the politics surrounding this colonial endeavour, Sparke focuses on one revealing quote by Chief Justice Allen McEchern, which effectively sums up his, and the government’s, views as well as original position on native sovereignty in this case. Referring to a map of Gitsxan and Wet’suwet’en territory that was being used by both sides to argue opposite points, McEchern said that “we’ll call it the map that roared”. In an effort to dissect this statement, Sparke offers possibilities for what McEchern might have meant by saying this. In doing so he also explains what these words and this sentiment meant for the Gitsxan and Wet’suwet’en First Nations and their case for recognition of territory and sovereignty.

According to Sparke, McEchern’s peculiar words about the First Nations map that was being used in court “appeared to refer to the colloquial notion of a “paper tiger”, by which he meant that the map lacked substance and authority. If this interpretation is correct, McEchern’s words worked to diminish the significance of an important map, which outlined Gitsxan and Wet’suwet’en territory. By stating, in his opinion, that the map and such cartographic tools would not withstand a serious challenge by the defense in this case, McEchern offers up his colonialist opinion regarding the recognition of native sovereignty.

Sparke offers a second possibility for what Chief Justice McEchern may have meant by declaring “we’ll call it the map that roared”. He says that McEchern may have been referring to the Cold War movie The Mouse that Roared, starring Peter Sellers, in which “an impoverished backward nation declares war on the United States of America, hoping to lose” (imdb). In an offensive attempt to draw a parallel between this satirical film and the efforts of the Gitsxan and Wet’suwet’en to have their native sovereignty recognized, McEchern again demonstrates a lack of respect that is rooted in colonialism and white supremecy. A further reading into this interpretation might even underline McEchern’s implication that the Gitsxan and Wet’suwet’en were trying to lose the court case. As Sparke says, McEchern may have been “referring to the plaintiffs as a ramshackled, anachronistic nation” when he referenced the “map that roared” (Sparke).

Sparke makes clear that as a result of his “we’ll call it a map that roared” statement, Chief Justice McEchern systematically dismissed the Gitsxan and Wet’suwet’en First Nations claims “ with an absolutist set of colonialist claims about the extinguishment of aboriginal rights” (Sparke)”. He goes on to explain that McEchern’s statement emphasized the fact that the Gitsxan and Wet’suwet’en First Nations were working within the prejudicial framework of Canadian colonial law that decided to ignore their agency, territorial claims, and native sovereignty.

Works Cited:

“Indian Rights No Threat to B.C., Top Court Told”. The Vancouver Sun 18 June 1997. upperskeena.ca. Web. 3 March 2014

Santoro, Amy. “Gitsxan and Wet’suwet’en Decision Could Have Disastrous Effects”. Aboriginal Multimedia Society 1991:1. Web. 3 March 2014

Sparke, Matthew. “A Map That Roared and an Original Atlas: Canada, Cartography, and the Narration of Nation.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 88.3 (1998): 463-495. Print

“The Mouse that Roared”. imdb.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 March 2014.

“The Project”. Historical Atlas of Canada: Online Learning Project. N.p., n.d. Web 3 March 2014


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Purposeful Oppositions

The Women Who Fell From the Sky: a personal photo from a recent visit to the Canadian Museum of History

Thomas King states that creation stories “contain relationships that help to define the nature of the universe and how cultures understand the world in which they exist” (King, 10). He presents us with two such stories, one Native and one Christian, that aim to tell the story of how things came to be. King tells the story of Charm and the story of Genesis, one after the other, in order to highlight their similarities and differences and to also comment on how different ways of thinking and approaching these stories can inform our imaginations and perceptions of the world. The dichotomies that he creates between the two messages in the stories, the two ways in which the stories are delivered, and the two worldviews that these stories represent, serve to emphasize the cultural differences, as well as the universal similarities that exist between the stories. By analyzing these comparisons, the reader is asked to examine the role of authority and the fact that Christian stories are rooted in the ideas of competition and victory, whereas Charms creation story is rooted in the idea of cooperation . The reader is asked to analyze the merits of creating a world of oppositions versus the merits of living in a world of collaboration.

Creation story exhibit in the Canadian Museum of History

The dichotomies that King creates also work to underline the historical context, by which I mean the white privilege, that influences the mindset of those who may interpret the stories. In order to highlight the state of western affairs, King asserts that stories like Charms are forgotten “amidst the thunder of Christian monologues” because “within the North American paradigm we [already] have a perfectly serviceable creation story” (King, 21). King goes on to emphasize the believability of one story (Genesis) over the other (The Women who fell from the Sky) by the way in which he tells the stories so as to underscore the ridiculousness of considering one story as superior and one story as inferior. Indeed, if we believe that only one creation story can be sacred and that all others must be digested only as stories, then we are in danger of asserting our own worldviews on others and subscribing to the dichotomous notion that one must be better than the other. This same ridiculousness is echoed in the oppositional worldview that sees us neglecting each other, hurting ourselves and the environment, and avoiding many difficult realities in the world because we are simply unwilling to cooperate.

King sets the two stories apart by the way he tells them to us. He tells the story of Charm in a storytelling tone in order to open our minds to a new story (for many) and to the fact that other stories have always existed to describe how the world was created. He chooses this tone to diminish the stories authority and to set it up in opposition to the more widely known Christian creation story. This diminished tone also emphasizes the fact that Charms creation story is the lesser-known tale that is overshadowed by a “perfectly serviceable creation story”. King tells the more widely known story of Genesis to an audience with a formal and authoritative tone as if to tell us that this is the way things are. Or at least this is the way that we are told that they are.

King is able to artfully arrange these two creation stories in opposition to one another to highlight the absurdity of doing so. He gives us this analysis in order to give balance and to create equality for the two stories by challenging us to understand that we are allowed to draw from many sources to understand how our world was created. He tells us that once we hear a story it is up to us to decide what it means to us and that it is up to us to decide what to do with it.

Works Cited

“Exhibitions: First People’s Hall”.Canadian Museum of History. N.p., Web. 12 Feb 2014

King, Thomas. The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. Toronto: House of Anansi Press Inc., 2003. Print

Tappenen, Sharon. “Aboriginal Dreamtime: Promoting Aboriginal Culture and Arts to the World”, N.p.,Web. 12 FeB 2014.

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Home: Collective Considerations

below is a list of reoccurring themes and words that I found as I read through our Home stories:

Peace, cooperation, understanding, warmth, acceptance, comfort, family, loss, “my own story”, longing, love, impermanence, and love.

I really enjoyed reading all the stories. Thanks for sharing everyone!

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To Make a House a Home

In order to make a house a home I first had to find out what makes a home. I have heard that home hides in people, in places and in things both expected and unexpected. It hides in the air we breathe and in the sounds that we hear. Home presents itself to us when we are away from it and it provides calm for us when we are closest to it. It is somewhere where we experience the best and also the worst of things and it is where we return to in order to understand ourselves. Home is a dwelling and a location, but it may also move and transform. I have heard that it is the feeling of permanence and of love and of food and sleep. It is the destination that we gravitate to and it is full of the things that we yearn for. These are some of the things that I have heard.

I heard these things and I wondered how on earth I was supposed to create all them for someone else. I was tasked to “make a house a home” for a very important person that I did not want to disappoint. I had limited time, limited resources and limited belief in my abilities to create any sort of home for someone other than myself. This person went away for some time and asked me if I would do them a favor and create a home in their house while they were gone. They said that they were growing tired of the house and that home sounded good to them. Equipped with my own sense of home, which I could not really articulate, let alone think about recreating in someone else’s space, I set to work.

I decided that I would get some help. I started to ask around for some inspiration for how I might make a house a home. I asked people who I thought might have an idea about creating spaces – I asked a museum curator, an architect and an interior designer. They said fill it with light, fill it with soft edges and fill it with comfortable chairs. I asked people who I thought might have an idea about creating a mood – I asked a poet, a musician and a storyteller. They said fill it with love, fill it with sound, and fill it with things that are less than obvious. I asked people who I thought might know about permanence – I asked an elder, a neighbor and an old friend. They said fill it with tradition, fill it with kids, and fill it with trust. I asked animals whom I thought might have an idea about safety and comfort -I asked a tree squirrel, a dog, and an owl. They said fill it with food, fill it with warmth, and fill it with sleep. Finally, I asked my family and loved ones, whom I thought might have an idea about creating happiness. They said fill it with memories, fill it with respect and fill it with us.

In order to make this house a home, I gathered as many of these elements as I could. I knew that a lot of what I was looking for was hidden in the idea of things and that it was impossible to locate everything that I needed before the owner got back, but I set to work anyway. I combined what I had heard with my sense of home and I filled every room with some aspect of what I now considered to be home. I filled the living room with the most beautiful lights, the most comfortable seating, and I filled it with love. I filled the kitchen with the most traditional recipes, with neighborhood kids ready to enjoy the food, and I filled it with trust. I filled the dining room with the most wonderful music, stories and humor. I filled the bedroom with blankets, thick curtains and I filled it with safety.

I arranged everything just so, and I filled the house with family and loved ones so that we could create memories. I had just about everything in its place – enough to make any house a home I thought. I had people and things. I had love and safety and calm. I had a dwelling and a location. I was happy and so was everyone else. I thought I knew what home was and I thought that I had created it. Something very important was missing though. I couldn’t put my foot on it, so I called the owner of the house to explain what I had done and to see if my work was to their liking. They said that it most certainly was, but that I was missing the main ingredient to make a house a home. They said that now that I had gathered so many wonderful people, so many beautiful things, and so many thoughts and feelings in one place, all I needed was time – a lot of time. They also said that since this vision of a home was so very much mine that it might as well be mine. They said that they had moved back to the place that had always felt like home to them anyway. They told me some of the things that they had heard along the way. They told me that home hides in people and in places and in things. They told me to use my time wisely and then they told me goodbye.

Works Cited

“Pacific Spirit”. Metro Vancouver. N.p., n.d. Web. Feb 4, 2014

“How to Make Your House a Home”. Psychologies. N.p.,n.d. Web. Feb 4, 2014

“Revealed: How Producers of CGI PeterRabbit Used Real Settings from Beatrix Potter’s Lake District Home to Create an Animated Home” Mail online. Daily Mail. Web Dec 20, 2012. Feb 4, 2014.

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Words in a Song

Evil entered this world through a song. It was the jazz cats doing. Not the rockers or the folkies, or the classical cats, or the ones with the blues. It was the jazz cats. It happened a long time ago, before the birth of the cool. Jazz cats gathered from all over the world to have a good time and to participate in what they called cutting contests. At this particular cutting contest the jazz cats were trying to see who could come up with the meanest, the baddest and the scariest sounding thing. Some cats were blowing on two horns at once. Others were playing as high and as low as possible. Some were playing as fast as possible and others were playing flatted fifths – “the devils interval”. It must have been fun to watch.Finally, there was one cat left who hadn’t done anything. No one knew where this cat came from, whether this cat was male or female, or whether they had anything to say.

It just so happened that this cat came with words in a song.

Unfortunately, this song was the most awful thing, full of hate and blood and grotesqueness all the way through. When finished, all the other cats decided that this cat had won the cutting contest and that they had just heard the meanest, the scariest, and the baddest thing. What’s more, they unanimously agreed that the song and its words had no place in their world and that it should be taken back! The cats were doing fine with their sounds and without this new tale of terror in their lives so they asked the cat to call the song back. But of course, like with all tales, once it is told it is forever released into the world – it could not be called back.

I paid close attention to the form and content of Thomas King’s retelling of Leslie Silko’s story in order to respect the stories theme when I made it my own. I decided to stay close to this telling, even borrowing some words and phrases from King so that I could change the setting and the characters without straying from the message. I began by taking notes on the stories flow and content. After reading through my notes, I told the story to my friend in my own words, adding the jazz narrative for some fun. Then I wrote out the above version of the story. This is close to the process that a jazz musician might learn another persons solo and change it to make it their own. Theme and variation. I used the jazz narrative because the image of the witches competing and having a good time in a cave called to mind the jazz worlds cutting contests where each jazz cat tries to outdo the other. In my mind, this cutting contest takes place “way back when” and it has very little to do with modern music, but rather the idea and spirit of jazz.  I made sure that the winner of the cutting contest used words instead of sounds to tell the scariest story so that I could communicate the indelible power of story. The irreversibility of the spoken word. 

Works Cited

“The Devils Interval.” Cranach: christianity, culture, vocation. N.p., 27 July. 2011. Web. Jan 25. 2014.

“The Jazz Evangelist: jazz gladiators and cutting sessions.” music.cbc.ca. cbc., 21 Jan. 2013. Web. Jan 25. 2014.

“Jazz Lives”. Jazz Lives. N.p., 14 Nov. 2010. Web. Jan 25. 2014.

King, Thomas. The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative. Toronto: House of Anansi Press Inc., 2003. Print


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The Eye and the Ear

At the beginning of this lesson I pointed to the idea that technological advances in communication tools have been part of the impetus to rethink the divisive and hierarchical categorizing of literature and orality, and suggested that this is happening for a number of reasons.  I’d like you to consider two aspects of digital literature: 1) social media tools that enable widespread publication, without publishers, and 2) Hypertext, which is the name for the text that lies beyond the text you are reading, until you click. How do you think these capabilities might be impacting literature and story?

The binary model of looking at orality and literacy as somehow representing an evolutionary progression from the spoken word to the written word loses relevance in the context of digital literature where we are able to combine so many different forms of communication into one experience. As pointed out by Courtney MacNeil in “Orality”, “The advent of contemporary Internet culture has encouraged the recognition that oral and textual need not be viewed from a hierarchical perspective” (3). This old hierarchy that places literacy above orality based on the notion that orality is “undeveloped and primitive” and that literacy is “civilized” is rooted in racism and is in need of an overhaul. All that we are doing by thinking in this binary way is creating unnecessary categories for orality and literacy to exist where they are in competition with each other – each looking to devalue the other.

The modern truth however is much more blurred than this as the Internet has created a space where multiple mediums are able to combine to tell one or many stories at the same time. As such, we should be able rethink the way we understand the way we communicate and be comfortable with the changing tide of new media and how it relates to aural, textual and visual information exchange. The impact that these new technologies have on literature and story is complex and far-reaching.

Because we are able to use social media to publish our own work, and that we are able to fashion interactive digital creations that appeal to both the eye and the ear, we must also be mindful of the ways in which our experience is being altered. If we fail to acknowledge the author and the medium, then we are devaluing the process of storytelling and ignoring the history and traditions of orality and literacy at the same time. I think that it is very important to pay attention not only to the source of social media content, but also to the author’s purpose for presenting the information. We must constantly question the role of self publication and social media in telling stories in order to protect the art of writing and storytelling. While it is a wonderful thing that we can all publish our own stories through digital media, I think that we must diligently protect the art of communication by acknowledging the impact that our publications may have on the reader. If the author is choosing to alter the readers experience by adding a tool such as hyperlink, I think that it needs to be very purposeful. If a reader is being introduced to a new aural, textual, or visual experience, I think that they should also think about why that is.

The hyperlink, which serves to interactively connect the reader to additional material within the body of the publication is one of these tools that asks the reader to make a decision. Do they want to click on the link and experience something new, which may or may not  (links that lead the reader to related stories) be directly connected to the publication? Do they want to wait until the end of the story to go back and revisit the link for additional information? Or do they choose to ignore the link altogether? All of these choices draw the reader into the story by creating a choose your own adventure type of environment; an environment that blends orailty and literacy while also changing the reader’s relationship to the story by offering interactive options.

Works Cited

“Choose Your Own Adventure”. cyoa. N.p. n.d. Web. 17 Jan. 2014

MacNeil, Courtney. Orality. The Chicago School of Media Theory. Uchicagoedublogs. 2007. Web. 19 Feb. 2013.

Paterson, Erika. “Lesson 1.2 Story & Literature.” University of British Columbia. UBC Blogs. 2014. Web. Web. 17.Jan. 2014.

Rice, Waubgeshig. “#20 Electric Powwow”. The Walrus. N.p. Dec. 2013. Web. 17. Jan. 2014.

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Hello from the Hill

Hello and welcome to my blog for English 470A – Oh Canada! “Our Home and Native Land?” I will be blogging and joining this class from Ottawa for the term as my partner is a student at the University of Ottawa and I jumped at the chance to move here for her as well as the opportunity to experience Canada from a different perspective. I plan to return to Vancouver, where I have lived for the majority of my life, in the spring to continue working and preparing for my masters in counselling psychology. I hold a degree in Anthropology from UBC and, after working for the past few years, I have refocused on  career as a clinical counsellor. I am currently taking prerequisite courses for counselling and finishing my diploma in guidance studies through UBC. I am also taking a couple of interesting courses such as this while I am at it. It seems to be a perfect time for me to learn more about this nation through Canadian literature and story.

This course looks to explore the relations between canon building and nation building, emphasizing the often overlooked role of Canada’s Indigenous peoples in this process. I expect that this class will teach me about the relationships between literature and storytelling in Canada through a lens that will help me challenge colonizing narratives and representations that are prevalent in Canada. I am also hopeful that this course will explore the idea of having a Canadian identity and what it really means to be Canadian, both historically and in Canada today. I expect to learn about this idea and many others through rich and powerful stories that will deepen my interest in this land. I also hope to expand my working knowledge of social media platforms and the way in which they can be used to positively connect individuals, tell stories and create social change. I have avoided Facebook and the like thus far, but I now feel that it is a good time to join the blogosphere and connect with others on important topics. This course is giving me a great reason to explore this important medium and to learn about its connection to the future of Canadian literature.

Works Cited

“Discover Canada, The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship”.  Government of Canada, 1 July, 2012. Web. 9 Jan, 2014.

“Rideau Canal National Historic Site of Canada, Ottawa Locks Walking Tour”. Parks Canada. Government of Canada, 16 Sept, 2013. Web. 9 Jan, 2014


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