Essays on Arctic Narrative
Publication Year: 1997
Published by: University of Ottawa Press
Series: Reappraisals: Canadian Writers
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Echoing Silence: Preface
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The Honourable Nellie Courneyea said, "call me Nellie." Graham Rowley, thirty-some years my senior, although I'm a grandfather, was equally casual. Rudy Wiebe, whom I've known since before he won the first of two Governor General's Awards, was characteristically informal. Nellie spoke not as the premier of the Northwest...
Documenting the Oral History of the Inuvialuit
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First, I want to thank Professor Moss for the invitation to speak at this symposium and for including the Committee for Original Peoples Entitlement Project in the deliberations on Arctic narrative. Although the COPE Collection also includes historical and traditional information gathered in interviews with the Gwich'in and North Slavey, its...
An Arctic Affair
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When you saw on the program that I was to speak on "An Arctic Affair" you may have wondered what "an Arctic affair" was. I did too, although the phrase was taken from the subtitle of my book, then in preparation, Cold Comfort: My Love Affair with the Arctic; so I asked our convenor, and...
Coursing a Naked Country
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Canadians are so generally uninformed about their Arctic existence—one might as well say, not only uninformed but resolutely blind—that I think we need the guidance of a poet for our northern considerations in Ottawa this weekend. I thank Nellie Cournoyea for invoking an Inuvialuit elder's story, and I would call upon Leonard Cohen, his inimitable voice and words...
An Early Meeting of Cultures: Inuit and English, 1576–1578
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The setting of this paper is Frobisher Bay, southern Baffin Island, approximately 1300 air miles (2080 km) north of Ottawa. For background, a seventy-second review: although there had been earlier contact between the Norse and the Greenlandic (and possibly Canadian) Eskimos, and although a drawing published in Augsburg in 1567...
"All Well": the Third Franklin Expedition
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Historians, literary critics, and archaeologists have all agreed that there exists no published "narrative of a third Franklin expedition" since everyone on that tragic journey perished in the Arctic some time between the fall of 1845 and the spring and summer of 1848; David Woodman, in his book...
Inuit Accounts and the Franklin Mystery
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Confucius said that "pale ink is better than the most retentive memory," and this prejudice against oral tradition has long held sway. Yet in the last century a great deal of research into the mechanics of saga and its transmission through folk tales has led to a re-evaluation of...
Science as Poetic and Visual Narrative: J. Dewey Soper (1893–1982)
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In John Buchan's Sick Heart River the hero has been diagnosed with a probably fatal disease, tuberculosis. He can stay home in Britain and wait to die or he can accept an assignment to cross the ocean and search in the Far North for a missing man, the Canadian husband of...
On Making History
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I have been thinking lately about polar opposites. There is a line in Philip Rahv's book The Myth and the Powerhouse that has long intrigued me: ''The mythic," he writes, "is the polar opposite of what we mean by the historical." Until I went north, I believed it. History, in Rahv's view, stands for process, mutability; it is, he says, "that powerhouse...
Creating Willem Barentsz; Piloting North
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Narratives of the Arctic, however much they may attempt to display some essentialist Canadian configuration, are polyvocal, even global alchemies. I have lent ear to many such stories and my own refuses to follow their directive, although my discourse engages a version of Arctic story, as well it should. There exists a perpetual complicity...
Thirsty for Life: A Nomad Learns to Write and Draw
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I don't know what it is about this day and age, but wherever I go in this world, I always end up being surrounded by so many Qallunaat of all persuasions. This reality usually gives me a strange feeling, and I get a little scared at times. How did this ever happen to an innocent Eskimo such as I? I do not mean to offend any of my Qallunaat friends here, but...
Speech Habits and Inuit Ethos
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When I decided to attend this symposium the first thing I did was re-read my own Arctic narratives—not the biography of Captain Bob Bartlett, which concerns white explorers almost exclusively, and the Inuit only marginally, but the novel White Eskimo, and the short...
Farley Mowat, Harold Horwood: Conversations
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Robbeson: We are very pleased and honoured to welcome now to the panel Farley Mowat, who will join Harold Horwood and Alootook Ipellie. Harold Horwood has been described as something of a Renaissance man; his career has included politics and art. He was a member of the Newfoundland House of Assembly from 1949 to 1951 and...
Approaches of White Regret: John Steffler's The Afterlife of George Carturright and Harold Horwood's White Eskimo
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"Who, if not God, is to blame for making monsters like me?" (268). With these words John Steffler's George Cartwright arrives finally at the question central to his maker's text and more broadly to postcolonial ruminations in our times. Steffler constructs a fictional Cartwright based on journals written by the eighteenth-century British...
Places of Spirit, Spirits of Place: The Northern Contemplations of Rudy Wiebe, Aritha van Herk, and John Moss
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In the last six years, three unusual books have been published about the Canadian north. Part literary theory, part personal narrative, part philosophical reflection, Rudy Wiebe's PlayingDead (1989), Aritha van Herk's Places Far from Ellesmere (1990), and John Moss's Enduring Dreams (1994) are "explorations" or, to use Wiebe's word, "contemplations"...
Questions of Being: An Exploration of Enduring Dreams
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At times Enduring Dreams seems more like a philosophical treatise than a narrative. What, then, is the nature of this philosophy? How does Moss define metaphysics when he uses a phrase like "the metaphysics of geography" (27)? "The struggle to define geography is a...
The Spirit of the Arctic or Translating the Untranslatable in Rudy Wiebe's A Discovery of Strangers
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Since the death of the transcendental signified, how does one read a new novel by a writer whose previous novels have posited transcendent vision as the essence of political action? I cannot pretend to be the reliable interpreter, but I can venture a reading. One temptation is to read it as a more subtle enactment of earlier themes, and while I think...
Go North Young Woman: Representations of the Arctic in the Writings of Aritha van Herk
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Currently the north is hot—especially within the fictions of Aritha van Herk. Her writing may well convince Canadian authors, particularly women, to adjust their bearings and set their compasses due north. In her experimental fiction Places Far from Ellesmere (1990), the narrator stages a daring rescue of Tolstoy's tragic heroine...
Gendering Northern Narrative
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When Zoom the cat knocks on the door of his friend Maria's Victorian mansion in the children's book Zoom Away, he is about to embark on an Arctic adventure.1 As Maria tells him, Zoom's uncle, Captain Roy, has gone missing on a voyage to the North Pole, and Maria wants Zoom to help search for Uncle Roy and his Catship. Maria leads Zoom
"A Brave Boy's Story for Brave Boys": Adventure Narrative Engendering
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Arctic adventure narratives contribute to a representation of the north which is, in the words of Hugh Brody, "the saga of a few heroic individuals" (Brody, 17). Whether faced with the challenges of endless possibility or intractable circumstance, the white, solitary, adventurous male hero thrives in this setting. In early exploration literature, this...
Imagination and Spirituality: Written Narratives and the Oral Tradition
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For over a millennium, Inuit history and culture were carefully nurtured and preserved by the oral tradition. With the arrival of the Qallunaat, a second, quite different history and identity began to take form in the written narratives of the Arctic explorers. For a while, each evolved in isolation, as if the other did not exist, with both cultures believing...
The Sea Goddess Sedna: An Enduring Pan-Arctic Legend from Traditional Orature to the New Narratives of the Late Twentieth Century
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Within the rich Inuit tradition, there is a legend of a female spirit who dwells at the bottom of the sea. For generations, Inuit orature has related how this woman came to be mistress of the sea creatures. The explanations of who she was vary, as do the interpretations of how she came to have dominion over the denizens of the ocean and...
Stories: "Skeleton Woman," "Woman of the Sea"
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We have lost, in particular, the family stories. We have forgotten our ancient gods. And that is the wonderful thing about conferences: we watch, listen, and meet the ones who have not forgotten. Women have always carried the bundles for healing. We have always carried the medicine for all things. We carry the stories: dreams, words...
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Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 1997
Volume Title: 20
Series Title: Reappraisals: Canadian Writers