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Trickster Ethics, Richler and King Fiddling David Heinimann Northwest Community College T he co n tem po r ar y tr ickster is the closest to a postmodern, post­ colonial persona we have in literature. Representing both the play and the politics of current fiction, the trickster can permit a new narrative route to problems that range from legitimacy of voice to canonicity. Iwant here to construct the figurative relationship between reader and work that I call trickster ethics. The new emphasis on ethics in literature demonstrates a turn from theory to conduct and performance. I do not see this turn as a new moralism, however; pluralism has discredited prescriptiveness. Ethics now emphasizes a closer understanding of how to describe the ethos of the subject, as Wayne C. Booth, Charles Taylor, and Richard Rorty, among others, have shown. Under the influence of postmodernism and postcolonialism, our own subjectivity inscribes our critical positions as never before. The most valued critique becomes a congruently mixed metaphor of one’s own subjectivity and the exclusionary status of the object studied. We have made ourselves metonymies of the politics and stylistics of the literature we admire— and, of course, anti-types of the literature we loathe. Mordecai Richler’s Solomon Gursky Was Here and Thomas King's Green Grass, Running Water are exemplary texts through which to demESC 30.3 (September 2004): 39-56 David Heinimann teaches humanities in northern British Columbia. He expects to soon publish his own trick novel, The Meeting. onstrate the trickster ethic. They will illustrate my development of the trickster persona (which I shall gender male; though as important, there are fewer female tricksters, and “it” denies the human element). Both Richler and King raise issues and questions relevant to our current and historical ethical relationship to alterity, and as minority writers— Richler Jewish, King mixed race but emphasizing his First Nation’s heritage— they do so from the position of the now privileged outsider. But they also upset that position in the way Naipaul does with his mimic men, writing parody rather than praise. It is that upset, that trickster play, that I believe defines the persona— the offspring?— of the cohabitation of postmodernism and postcolonialism. Dee Horne alluded to this cohabitation in King’s novel in her analysis of its “creative hybridization,’’ combining satire and post­ colonial interaction between cultures (257); I continue her consideration in a cross-cultural context to describe a universal trickster. In my descrip­ tion, moreover, the phenomenon of return that Mircea Eliade elaborated encodes the helix of this character. If repetition is about inculcation, then we can say that this trickster ethic, this “pomoco” offspring (postmodernism + postcolonialism), is a didactic literature deeply concerned with alternative ways of showing us the recurring problems we encounter in the recognition and accommodation of alterity. I: Ethics in the Pomoco World A survey of ethics in literature presents a troubled field. Historical and cultural difference prohibits general agreement as to what is a suitable ethics and how to constitute it. Postmodernism and postcolonialism both inspire and frustrate attempts to prescribe an ethics of salvation, yet the paradox of postmodernism and postcolonialism is that salvation is not found in its pursuit but rather in ignoring it: pursuit means following the path of prescription and then scapegoating when the path is inevitably discovered to lead to the lip of a volcano instead of the stairway to heaven. Postmodernism and postcolonialism are better understood, especially as they converge in critical discourse, through the practice of pluralism. Accepting that, I can only define a trickster ethics through the highly determined selectivity of reading in a time when it is impossible to read everything. Reading the “right” texts is impossible, too: deconstruction and pluralism problematize them into maps for herd wanderings only, and even those herds steered away from the abattoir of fashion still range within the fences of dogma. Tricksters are mavericks, as are the most interesting scholars. If there are trickster scholars, they play with both “essential” and eccentric work, make from it unexpected and sometimes 40 |Heinimann undesired discoveries; the names are enough to reveal that: Foucault, McLuhan, Derrida, Said, even Bloom (either). It is with no great...


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