intro to native american literature

started this class, one which i’m quite excited for. i had had an idea that the main focus of my advanced playwriting independent study would be interviewing local tribes to record their storytelling – not just the story but the oral tradition, the theatricality of, in real-time, relating a sequence of events to another person. i think what i like best about theater is its roots in storytelling tradition – not only straight out verbal narratives but the silent theater of dance and expression and gesture and timing that nevertheless creates a world. the oral tradition combines both linguistic mastery and this sense of dance – how the storyteller physically changes their expression, their posture, their vocal pitch, their breathing and their timing – so the story relates not only the information present in the meaning of words but all of the wordless context of the story, of the teller and whoever told it to them, of the audience. i tend toward monologues when i write plays. toward… people explaining themselves to someone else as honestly as possible. to me explaining myself to someone as honestly as possible.

because every explanation is an act of theater, of acting in fact, is it not? my professor condemns followers of “method acting,” saying that it isn’t really acting, saying that the idea “acting is believing” is entirely false, but i can’t agree with her. i think that people act whenever they know someone is watching. which isn’t the same as dishonesty by any means, although in some cases it may be, but the simple fact that people act differently when they are aware of being watched. and theater, all art really, is deliberately making oneself be watched (terribly passive construction, i know). which isn’t to belittle art into calling it a cry for attention by historonic individuals, because i do believe that it is more, that art can be transcendent even if its origins may have been a cry for attention, but a somewhat inevitable product of human consciousness.

i think that we forget that the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge gave us not only the awareness of what was good and what was evil, but what was beautiful and what was not. somehow i can’t help but think that morality and aesthetics go hand in hand.

going on a tangent, this is more meant as a place to put down quotes.

“The Indians are a looking-glass into the souls of North Americans. If we want to dissect the Anglo and analyze his character we must find out what he does when no one else cares, when no one is in a position to thwart his will – when he can do as he pleases. And with the Indian the Anglo has done what he pleased, with no one to care, and with the Indian ultimately too weak to resist, except passively.” – Prof. Jack D. Forbes

“Writing for me is the ultilization of language, and “the utilization of language” means referring to the oral tradition. So that the oral tradition is fundamental to how the language you learn and develop in writing then expresses itself in the contemporary period, in writing. It’s not a step removed or even a bridge crossed, but actually part of that path or road or journey that you are walking. … You recognize your birth as coming from a specific place, but that place is more than just a physical or geological place, but obviously a spiritual place, a place with the whole scheme of life, the universe, the whole scheme and power of creation. Place is the source of who you are in terms of your identity, the language that you are born into and that you come to use.” – Simon Ortiz

i wish that i had roots. but i’m hardly the only one without them. i think that the ambiguous concept of “america” is ultimately rootless, created by increasingly rootless people who are instead just scraping the surface but gaining no traction or drifting altogether.

i could go on and on about how much this subject matters to me, but it’s time to sleep.

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