HIS367H5 Lecture Notes - Edward S. Curtis, Formal Language, Edward Said

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4 Apr 2012
Lecture 2 Defining terms & concepts I: the importance of narrative; identity
Office Hours: IB Lobby between 2-3 Thursday or Wednesday after 3
Assignment due Next week
There are four books to read, all were written by novelists
The Truth About Stories Thomas King
Canadian native but is half Native American and half Greek. He self identifies as a Native
American and teaches at Guelph University.
This book began as a radio lecture series
There are three reasons to read this:
o Emphasis on narrative
o Explication of identity and the complications of identity
o Explication of question on colonialism and post-colonialism
The prime minister is not acting as a diasporic person, but is actually trying to be diasporic activity
Question on the importance of Narrative
Question of narrative and question of stories has three levels
o Importance as an individual: how do stories give us meaning, making sense about the
world around us
o Importance as a community
o Importance as a wider political society: nations have stories, and have stories that affect
and conflict with stories of communities and individuals
He starts every chapter with the same beginning. He illustrates this by saying that we all are grown
up the same way. It does not mean we are stuck the same way but we are a collection of the stories
that we have heard and choose to live by.
Stories are dangerous because once you understand a story in a certain way, it affects how you act
in certain ways.
o Politically, no state understands this more than Turkey. Turkey spends untold amounts of
money and time making sure that the massacres in Armenia are not declared genocide.
This is a battle world wide because the Armenian community wants the massacre to be
declared genocide. Not long ago, a writer who was Turkish had an interview with the
German news magazine was jailed.
o On the other hand, France absolutely declared that not only is it genocide, it is a crime
not to declare that it is genocide. It does not want Turkey in the EU, because they are
anti-Islamic-phobic. These stories have immense power and it is important to recognize
these powers.
Sometimes when we believe one story, it makes us blind to another contrary view.
o He talks about the different between the earth diver story and Genesis. He assumes that
most of his readers have some knowledge of Genesis; he introduces Genesis in a different
way as the diver story.
With Genesis, he is not involving any animation into the work while the earth
diver story is more personal making it more objective and animated. The earth
diver story is not really what you need to follow, while the Genesis is the
“better” story. If you believe one, you cannot believe the other. The earth diver
story is more appealing to a child while the Genesis is more philosophical
We tend to find the Genesis story more authoritative because it tends to sound
more like the truth, gospel, etc. Whereas, the earth diver story is more a fairy
tale. There is no real logical reason why one is taken to be more authoritative,
but we still do take it more as truth.
These dichotomies make people believe that Genesis is more logical and
therefore people who do believe in the earth diver story are taken less seriously
o When he goes back into his own story, he says that it is probably more complicated than
in the mind, yet it is the story for him to tell himself because it is easy and can contain his
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