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Living Language & Dead Reckoning - J Edward Chamberlin

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Living Language & Dead Reckoning - Navigating Oral & Written Traditions
J Edward Chamberlin
Paperback / softback
Ronsdale Press
UK Publication Date

Turning frequently to First Nations people, Ted Chamberlin 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.

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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).

Country of Publication
British Columbia
Number of Pages

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