The Anguish of Snails: Native American Folklore in the West

By Barre Toelken | Go to book overview

Epilogue
“Gleaning” and the Active Audience

ALL THAT REMAINS is for us to take a look back over the vast array of implicit and explicit cultural meanings we have been discussing and contemplate how Native people derive significance from performed texts, artifacts, and movements which don’t announce their meanings openly. How do they know what they mean—and more problematic—how can we be sure we know? After all, Native Americans do not go around giving explanatory lectures to each other, mostly, I presume, because the interpretations are seldom perceived consciously. I have been arguing that knowing more about a culture’s assumptions and traditions helps us—Native and non-Native— immensely in gaining a sense of what is performed, and what those performances mean in their cultural contexts. To be sure, the argument is complicated by the tremendous range of cultural differences among tribes in North America, yet it is mitigated to some extent by certain similarities that allow us room for speculation and comparison. We have tried to avoid “reading into” our texts, yet we have to admit that much of what we have shared in this book is interpretive and tentative, rather than certain.

What we need is a good model for understanding just what happens when a talented storyteller, singer, or basketmaker performs a story, song, or basket for people who recognize the cultural codes in the genre. John Miles Foley uses the phrase immanent art to characterize the kind of artistic expression which comes into being as a traditional artist performs a traditional expression in the presence of a traditional audience in a traditional context: the art does not reside in the text or performance but emerges in the interaction between the artist and a knowledgeable audience as the event takes shape. It’s a wonderful concept, and it resonates with the reciprocal systems we have encountered. But how does it work?

In a 1982 prepublication photocopy distributed to friends and colleagues, Ron and Suzanne Scollon discussed a number of special linguistic

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The Anguish of Snails: Native American Folklore in the West
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Dedication and Acknowledgments ix
  • She Comes along Carrying Spears xi
  • Prologue- The Snail’s Clues 1
  • 1- Cultural Patterns in Native American Folklore An Introduction 9
  • 2- Visual Patterns of Performance Arts 25
  • 3- Kinetic Patterns of Performance Dance 80
  • 4- Oral Patterns of Performance Story and Song 110
  • 5- Patterns and Themes in Native Humor 146
  • 6- Cultural Patterns of Discovery 165
  • Epilogue- "Gleaning" and the Active Audience 191
  • Notes 197
  • Index 198
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