CIRCA:Sophie McCall, "A life has only one author”: twice told aboriginal life narratives."


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Sophie McCall, "A life has only one author": twice told aboriginal life narratives. Canadian Literature, Vancouver: Spring 2002., Iss. 172; pg. 70, 22 pgs

This article examines “how collaboratively produced “told-to” life narratives radically mutate when they are re-told and re-framed” (1) The author use the example of Bobbie Lee: Indian Rebel to show how the structuring and reception of a supposed collaborative text build upon trust and reciprocity could differ in the hands of either the Native story teller or White paternal editor once put down to writing. The White editor becomes “a detached, sometimes clinical, orderer or even exploiter…for anthropological ends, research data, raw material, or the like.” (3) This lost of trust is according to the author the problem of authorship that allows and gives credit to only one single individual instead of relationality, dialogue and collaboration. But if the emphasis shifts from the White editor to the Native narrator, as what John Beverly called testimonio, it is simply another “sharp divide between the two interlocutors, thereby nullifying any potential forms of intersubjectivity.” (4) Therefore in the new edition of Bobbie Lee: Indian Rebel edited by the narrator Maracle, the antagonistic, interventionist stance she undertook helps to free the writing as double-voiced, thus open the possibility of reading told-to life narratives without paternalistic control and making readers aware of the fact that “various versions of the life story spring from the struggle for narrative control within the collaborative relationship.”(5) Other retelling/writings by Bussidor and Hungry Wolf along with this one exemplifies how they “transform the genre modes of the testimonial, report and ethnographic life history to suit their own goals.” (10)

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