Living Language and Dead Reckoning: Navigating Oral and Written Traditions

Living Language and Dead Reckoning: Navigating Oral and Written Traditions

by Edward J. Chamberlin, J. Edward Chamberlin
     
 
In this highly personal essay, Ted Chamberlin asks some old, old questions such as "why do we need stories and songs?" Turning frequently to First Nations people, he looks at their culture and asks what it means to listen. In response, he notes that we take great pleasure in the comforts of narration, of finding our way within a story, a kind of "dead reckoning" out

Overview

In this highly personal essay, Ted Chamberlin asks some old, old questions such as "why do we need stories and songs?" Turning frequently to First Nations people, he looks at their culture and asks what it means to listen. In response, he notes that we take great pleasure in the comforts of narration, of finding our way within a story, a kind of "dead reckoning" out at sea when the fog rolls in and we experience "being almost lost." Much of the essay focuses on people from around the world who have often been described as pre-literate. Chamberlin takes issue with this view and argues that such people "read" a whole host of signs and stories, and that in understanding how this reading takes place we can understand something of our own habits of reading and listening. Whereas scholars such as McLuhan and Ong have claimed that such cultures are "imprisoned in the present," Chamberlin points out that this is demonstrable nonsense. All cultures are both oral and written, he argues, and knowledge comes from both listening and reading. Employing his own position as a "teller of tales" he asks whether we believe the teller or the tale, and draws attention to the importance of not only the storyteller but also the community of listeners. For Chamberlin, Living Language and Dead Reckoning, the publication of the Garnett Sedgewick annual lecture for 2005 at the University of British Columbia, is the first step towards a "history of listening."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781553800378
Publisher:
Ronsdale Press
Publication date:
08/01/2006
Pages:
35
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.10(d)

Meet the Author

J. Edward Chamberlin was born in Vancouver and educated at the universities of British Columbia, Oxford and Toronto. He is now University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Toronto. His books include The Harrowing of Eden: White Attitudes Towards Native Americans (1975), Ripe was the Drowsy Hour: The Age of Oscar Wilde(1977), Come Back to Me My Language: Poetry and the West Indies (1993), and If This Is Your Land, Where Are Your Stories? Finding Common Ground (2003).

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