Long teaching day, could go on, won’t. Here’s a description of an upcoming course, hope it makes you laugh.
ENG 334: Texts of North America and Europe: Metamorphosis
Change happens. Now, there’s a vulgar way to say that, begins in S and ends in T and says “hello” in the middle. And that about sums it up. Change happens, and we don’t always like it, and so we call it after a process that humiliates us, even as change meets us anyway with an ahem-eating grin.
All that’s to say, Euro-American culture has felt sort of averse, much of the time, to the facts of metamorphosis, and has proposed various stays against it. Platonic Forms. An Eternal Immutable Deity. Your Immortal Soul. Important Things In Capital Letters. But an equally complex literary tradition, the indigenous American one that predates the Euro-American on this soil and now lives uneasily intertwined with it, offers responses to transience, loss, mortality, that at least feel different, and may mean differently, too.
Instead of the hero Aeneas, the trickster Raven. Instead of immortal gods, spirit beings learning to spit mussels from a longhouse roof. Instead of a Heaven incalculably distant, a mythworld alive in your own speech, your own dreaming.
Ah but these binaries are too easy. The West, too, has always been embracing change, the mercurial, even in the middle of texts honouring a changeless God or King or State or whatever. We’re going to read us some of those. Meanwhile the texts of indigenous America express a wish (elegiac) that some changes not ever have happened, and an intention (political) that changes to come go one way not another. And we’re going to read us some of those, too.
Texts of Europe: Cave paintings of Lascaux, Chauvet. Fragments of Herakleitos, Parmenides, Empedokles. Plato’s cave parable. Ovid, from Metamorphoses. Dante, from Inferno. The Bible, Revelation. Shakespeare, The Tempest. bpNichol, from The Martyrology.
Texts of North America: Newspaper Rock. Ghandl, Nine Visits to the Mythworld. Rothenberg, from Technicians of the Sacred. okpik, Corpse Whale. Drunken Boat 15, “Native American Women Poets.” Abel, The Place of Scraps.
bpNichol liked to alter words like this. Storm becomes St. Orm. Strap, St. Rap. Stranglehold, St. Ranglehold. What happens to permanence, and hell to sainthood, when a period can change meaning underfoot, like that?