Nomad Memory: Inscribing Orality in Literatures of the Americas and South Asia translation missing: zh.hyrax.visibility.files_restricted.text

Lobnik, Mirja (2010)

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This dissertation investigates conceptions of memory as they emerge from the
inscription of orality in literary texts. It argues for the central role of an oral sensibility as
it pertains both to the sonic and rhythmic materiality of the textual body and to the
latter's positionality relative to the reader, in establishing memory as a contingent,
situated, and intersubjective practice. By engaging with the oral dimensions of literature
through the lens of literary thinkers such as Walter Benjamin and Édouard Glissant, it
lays bare an aesthetic that reveals material processes of transmission and auditory
agency as defining features of memory. Through readings of Michael Ondaatje's The
English Patient, Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things, Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon,
and Leslie Marmon Silko's Storyteller, it traces the emergence of what I call nomad
memory: a site of a passage where sound reverberates inside and across bodies that act as
vessels for the articulation and transmission of the past. The idea of nomad memory
derives its use from an emphasis on a communally bound, interactive sort of becoming
that refers less to memories as such than to echoes of memory. Insofar as these echoes
migrate among human and textual bodies whose structural design determines their very
resonance, they both exceed the boundaries between the self and others and capture the
social, spatial, and temporal situatedness of historical remembrance. The chapters follow
a trajectory that yields an increasingly intensifying oral sensibility, from an apprehension
of the physical components responsible for sound production to an awareness of the
inherently subjective and communal nature of oral discourse. While each of the texts
considered mark stages of development in their capacity to approximate an oral
transmission, their narrative design reflects an affinity with mnemonic structures and
processes. Apart from literary conceptions of memory, findings by neuroscientist Daniel
L. Schacter afford a complimentary view on how literary representations of memory
intersect with the brain's processing of mnemonic information. This dissertation finally
involves a dialogue between Canadian, Indian, African American, and Native American
writers whose work is crucially linked by a common literary aesthetic.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Memory and Orality: Crossing Conceptual Thresholds 1

Chapter One
Echoes of the Past: Nomad Memory in Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient 38

Chapter Two
The Sensuous and the Silent in Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things 96

Chapter Three
The Pulsing Tapestry of Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon 156

Chapter Four
Telling the Past: Rhythm and Voice in Leslie Marmon Silko's Storyteller 208

Nomad Memory: Toward a Literature of Orality 264

Works Cited 275

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