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Lecture 4

ENG252Y1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Kitimat, Rich Woman, Eden Robinson


Department
English
Course Code
ENG252Y1
Professor
Robert Mc Gill
Lecture
4

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ENG252Y Lecture 4 – Term 2 Jan 27, 15
Eden Robinson, "Queen of the North"
Popular Culture, Haisla Identity, Place
Concern about environmental damage right at the start - its concerned with the loss
of the frogs and the damage to their ecosystem.
The story is attentive to industrious possible damages that could occur. It also asks
us to link those industrial and environmental damages together to the damages
brought about by colonialism, and the destruction it caused to the Indigenous
peoples.
Related to GGRW, it’s interested in environmental/industrial aspects. King's novel
ties it down neatly into culture damage that colonialism had on the Indigenous people
especially. Problems in regards to hierarchy too. In “Queen of the North,” there are
those problems too. GGRW first nation’s people are seen as culturally
hybrid/adaptable – they are modern citizens but can be modern people too. But in
“Queen of the North,” its relation to popular culture is pervaded by it. Karaoke has
cousins who share similar names to iconic beverages (eg. Coke and Pepsi). One
way of reading the story might be to see that the Haisla identity is being threatened.
Or maybe it’s showing how the Haisla identity is bound up into popular culture and
why those people can't act like others – keep their culture in tact with the modern
world.
See popular culture doing damage to cultures of all kinds. Uncle Josh is as close to a
villain in the story. He’s described to look like Elvis, and wear dark clothing. He's this
agent of mainstream perpetual pop culture.
Back story of the narrator: obtaining the name Karaoke. Her friends got her drunk
and sent a video of her singing to America’s Funniest Home Videos. Most iconic
moment might be when Karaoke awakens with Jimmy in the forest, and find out
they're there because she wanted to pick blueberries, which are a traditional Haisla
food. A parallel later on might be when she wakes up from a state of intoxication. It
might think about the traditional being treated as a more positive thing.
The story doesn't go back to the representation of Kitimat, BC, being seen as a rural,
hick, confinement place in contrast to the city which can be seen as modern and a
place of refuge – there is none of that in this story. That idea however is more seen
in Lampan's work. In this story, Adelaine only goes to Vancouver to have the abortion
and then return. There is no big development (no epiphany).
Trauma and Communication
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ENG252Y Lecture 4 – Term 2 Jan 27, 15
Trauma: mental/emotional damage caused by the experience of horrific events.
(Some) symptoms include denial, unpredictable emotions, flashbacks, strained
relationships.
Get a picture of Adelaine as a person who is dealing with many different forms of
trauma. We know early on she had experienced this kind of abuse. Early on, we also
see her admit (and promote) several of the symptoms witnessed in "trauma"
Story is interested in how trauma expresses itself, and the possibilities of recovery
from trauma. It might be telling Adelaine's story to keep track of these symptoms.
This is a story interested in recording and tracking trauma.
For Freud, the idea of naming trauma and addressing it might be a way to tackle it
and then move on from it - occurs in A Jest of God. Meanwhile, "Obasan" exhibits
the opposite that Freud suggests. It’s a silent kind of communication which does not
help in tackling the issue.
For this, the lack of frogs is what first attracts Adelaine's attention. She has the
impulse to talk to people but she never opens up. The story wants us to see that she
is speaking in other ways. Such as her dreams, which depict her wanting the abuse
to stop. Her fighting with other girls might be another way we see her speaking. By
inflicting violence on others, she's mimicking the violence that was inflicted on her. It
also makes reference to her name 'karaoke' as she's singing someone else's song -
she's mimicking past actions she received onto others, you can say.
A lot of things the readers never get told directly from her narrative. We never get
told she had an abortion, or whether she thinks the baby is Jimmy’s or Josh's. She
never connects her abusive relationship with Josh to her fighting with other girls.
These are things the readers need to put together on their own as they read.
No space for herself in her flashbacks, which is a common characteristic seen in
"trauma."
Readers are asked to be interpreters again, and do what most characters fail to do:
read between the lines and determine Adelaine's feelings. Only her mother seems to
be the one who can piece it together. "You figure it out" is both implied to the mother
and the readers. By reading b/w the lines, you can see that there are problems
between Adelaine and Josh.
The Bannock Booth
Indirectly and directly the story shows how Adelaine changes. A scene in a restaurant
in Vancouver: Adelaine's interactions with Arnold show us how he is trying to
stereotype her as a typical Indigenous woman. He does that by asking, "Are you
Indian?" She doesn't respond directly but instead says, "Haisla." She's rejecting the
urge for stereotypes to form by suggesting her national identity. When then asking
his nationality, she's flipping the entire spectrum. His identity is taken for granted,
2
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