The power of the spoken word

The power of the spoken word

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The power of the spoken word literature in the American mass media of the 1990s
Cozma, Codrina
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[Tampa, Fla.]
University of South Florida
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Subjects / Keywords:
Oral literature
Mediatized literature
Book clubs
Literary aesthetics
Dissertations, Academic -- English -- Doctoral -- USF ( lcsh )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


ABSTRACT: The 1990s saw a climax of literature representations in what Ong called the secondary orality, particularly in film, television, and radio; for instance, the film industry produced a number of adaptations of novels that had been accepted into the American literary canon, while television and radio marketed literature through book clubs and literary shows. All these literary productions mediated through film, radio, and television are referred to in this study as mediatized literature. The argument of this dissertation is that 1990s U.S. mediatized literature constitutes a post-modern re-enactment of the traditional oral literature that initially emerged on U.S. territory with pre-literate populations. In support of this thesis, chapter 1 presents the features of the oral traditions of four ethnic groups, while subsequent chapters feature an application of these characteristics, or variations thereof, to literary discourses from film, television, and radio.and some of the movie adaptations discussed in chapters 2 and 3 that are based on fiction representing the same ethnic groups (Beloved for the African-American mediatized literature, The Mambo Kings for the Hispanic one, etc.). While analyzing the features common to both the oral tradition and the mediatized literature, this study makes use of four variables (authorship, audience, literary product, and literary aesthetics) and of a complex critical apparatus that includes theories of the linguistic sign, the Bakhtinian dialogic system, the Jungian concept of the collective unconsciousness, Bolter's concept of remediation, etc.Throughout this dissertation, I will argue that, in spite of the Ongian condescension vis-‚àö¬âˆž-vis oral cultural messages as inferior to the written ones, and contrary to Postmanian media apprehensions and Franzenian inertia toward mediatized literature, both oral and mediatized literary messages can be classified as literature, although they may not always follow traditional aesthetic parameters embraced by canonical written literature. Chapter 5 of this dissertation presents some of the major points of the current conversation related to the acceptance of mediatized literature and of the oral tradition into the category of literature and to the complex socio-economic and literary implications of the dissemination of literature through mass media.
Dissertation (Ph.D.)--University of South Florida, 2005.
Includes bibliographical references.
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Document formatted into pages; contains 289 pages.
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Includes vita.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Codrina Cozma.

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Cozma, Codrina.
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The power of the spoken word :
b literature in the American mass media of the 1990s
h [electronic resource] /
by Codrina Cozma.
[Tampa, Fla.] :
University of South Florida,
ABSTRACT: The 1990s saw a climax of literature representations in what Ong called the secondary orality, particularly in film, television, and radio; for instance, the film industry produced a number of adaptations of novels that had been accepted into the American literary canon, while television and radio marketed literature through book clubs and literary shows. All these literary productions mediated through film, radio, and television are referred to in this study as mediatized literature. The argument of this dissertation is that 1990s U.S. mediatized literature constitutes a post-modern re-enactment of the traditional oral literature that initially emerged on U.S. territory with pre-literate populations. In support of this thesis, chapter 1 presents the features of the oral traditions of four ethnic groups, while subsequent chapters feature an application of these characteristics, or variations thereof, to literary discourses from film, television, and radio.and some of the movie adaptations discussed in chapters 2 and 3 that are based on fiction representing the same ethnic groups (Beloved for the African-American mediatized literature, The Mambo Kings for the Hispanic one, etc.). While analyzing the features common to both the oral tradition and the mediatized literature, this study makes use of four variables (authorship, audience, literary product, and literary aesthetics) and of a complex critical apparatus that includes theories of the linguistic sign, the Bakhtinian dialogic system, the Jungian concept of the collective unconsciousness, Bolter's concept of remediation, etc.Throughout this dissertation, I will argue that, in spite of the Ongian condescension vis--vis oral cultural messages as inferior to the written ones, and contrary to Postmanian media apprehensions and Franzenian inertia toward mediatized literature, both oral and mediatized literary messages can be classified as literature, although they may not always follow traditional aesthetic parameters embraced by canonical written literature. Chapter 5 of this dissertation presents some of the major points of the current conversation related to the acceptance of mediatized literature and of the oral tradition into the category of literature and to the complex socio-economic and literary implications of the dissemination of literature through mass media.
Dissertation (Ph.D.)--University of South Florida, 2005.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic dissertation) in PDF format.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 289 pages.
Includes vita.
Adviser: Phillip Sipiora, Ph.D.
Oral literature.
Mediatized literature.
Book clubs.
Literary aesthetics.
0 690
Dissertations, Academic
x English
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.


The Power of the Spoken Word: Literature in the American Mass Media of the 1990s by Codrina Cozma A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of English College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Phillip Sipiora, Ph.D. Richard Wilber, Ph.D. Victor Peppard, Ph.D. Silvio Gaggi, Ph.D. Joseph Moxley, Ph.D. Date of Approval: July 8, 2005 Keywords: oral literature, medi atized literature, film, book clubs radio, literary aesthetics Copyright 2005, Codrina Cozma


Dedication This dissertation has been made possible th rough the constant financial and emotional support of Ms. Vera E. Wood, who has been not only my sponsor throughout my doctoral studies, but has stood beside me as a wonderf ul friend and counselor since 1997 when we met in a small church in Kingston, NY. Ms. Wo ods presence in my life proves that God still performs miracles in the lives of those He loves. For all Ms. Woods love and generosity, this doctoral degree is hers as much as it is mine.


Acknowledgments I would like to extend my gratitude to all th e members of my dissertation committee, Dr. Phillip Sipiora, Dr. Joseph Moxley, Dr. Rich ard Wilber, Dr. Silvio Gaggi, and Dr. Victor Peppard, for their valuable guida nce and feedback at various st ages of my research. I am also indebted to the USF English Department for supporting my endeavors to grow as a scholar during my doctoral studies here. My thanks also go to my parents, Georgia and Constantin, who have made trem endous sacrifices to support my education. Their love and encouragements have given me the strength to pursue high aims. And so has the support of all my friends to whom I am deeply grateful: to John M. Weeks, for his affection; to Lyda Paulk, Virginia Martin, Linda Simmons, R honda Yearwood, and Davida Richardson for lightening up my heart; to Sue Kelly, Annie Barbas, George Bennett, Janet Booth, Dena Gaylor, Mandy Zeitlin, Tammy Mitchell, Roxana Jobson, and the Kings for their faith; to Dzinyo Amekudzi for being my brother and past or; to Chris Rogers and Marian Ghilea for their true friendship.


Table of Contents Abstract ii Introduction: Traditional Orality a nd Broadcast Media 1 Chapter One: An Overview of the Oral Literatu re of Ethnic Groups in th e United States 30 1.1. The Native American Oral Tradition 30 1.2. The African-American Oral Tradition 39 1.3. The Hispanic-American Oral History 52 1.4. The Asian-American Oral Traditions 55 Chapter Two: Literature in Film, A Postmodern Spectacle 58 2.1. Orality, the Subject of Film 58 2.2. Authorship 64 2.3. The Audience of Oral Literary Products 73 2.4. Narrative and Language in the Came ra Oral Discourse 79 Chapter Three: Film Adaptations and the Rites of Oral Litera ture 97 3.1. Plot 98 3.2. Character Treatment 108 3.3. The Cultural Substance of Adaptations 120 3.3.1. Socio-Political Aspects 120 3.3.2. Eroticism 137 3.3.3. Psychological Issues 143 Chapter Four: The Postmodern Orality Func tions of Television and Radio 151 4.1. Television: An Oral Enactment in th e Twentieth-Century Global Village 151 4.2. The Televisions Didactic Role: Approaches to Literature-Based Teaching 154 4.3. Book Clubs: From Sewing Bees to the Oprah-Factor 164 4.4. Radio Waves and the Tribal Voices of Postmodern Literature 179 Chapter Five: The Mediatized Literature of the Nineties, Art and Dollars 193 Conclusions 241 Works Cited 243 Endnotes 274 About the Author End page i


The Power of the Spoken Word: Literature in the American Mass Media of the 1990s Codrina Cozma ABSTRACT The 1990s saw a climax of literature re presentations in what Ong called the secondary orality, particularly in film, television, and radio; for instance, the film industry produced a number of adaptations of novels that had been accepted into the American literary canon, while television and radio marketed lite rature through book clubs and literary shows. All these literary produ ctions mediated through film, radio, and television are referred to in this study as mediatized literature The argument of this dissertation is that 1990s U.S. mediatized literature constitutes a post-modern re-enactment of the traditional or al literature that ini tially emerged on U.S. territory with pre-literate populations. In s upport of this thesis, ch apter 1 presents the features of the oral traditions of four ethnic groups, while su bsequent chapters feature an application of these characteristic s, or variations thereof, to literary discourses from film, television, and radio. There is a structural co rrelation between the oral tradition of the four ethnic groups presented in chapter 1 -Na tive-American, African-American, Hispanic, and Asian -and some of the movie adaptations di scussed in chapters 2 and 3 that are based on fiction representing the same ethnic groups ( Beloved for the African-American mediatized literature, The Mambo Kings for the Hispanic one, etc.). ii


While analyzing the features common to both th e oral tradition and the mediatized literature, this study makes use of four variables (authors hip, audience, literary pr oduct, and literary aesthetics) and of a complex crit ical apparatus that includes theo ries of the linguistic sign, the Bakhtinian dialogic system, the Jungian concep t of the collective unc onsciousness, Bolters concept of remediation, etc. Throughout this dissertation, I will argue that, in spite of the Ongian condescension vis--vis oral cultural messages as inferior to the written ones, and contrary to Postmanian media apprehensions and Franzenian inertia to ward mediatized literature, both oral and mediatized literary messages can be classified as literature, although they may not always follow traditional aesthetic parameters embraced by canonical written literature. Chapter 5 of this dissertation presents so me of the major points of the current conversation related to the acceptance of mediatized literature and of th e oral tradition into the category of literature and to the complex socio-economic and lite rary implications of the dissemination of literature through mass media. iii


Introduction Traditional Orality and Broadcast Media After an unprecedented expansion of frontiers, whether they be geographical, scientific, or cultural, the end of the twentieth -century witnessed a resurgence of the concept of village, namely that of a global village. The term has often been used in conjunction with notions of international trade and banking, moneta ry systems, cross-cultu ral studies, the need for multi-lingual translators versus the intern ationalizing of English, and perhaps mostly important, in relation with th e reality of a compact media network that facilitates a paramount communication system across nations and continents. The global village notion emerged at the end of an era of building urban centers imbued with a Babel-type of individualistic divisions of pushing the Western frontier fu rther than California and Alaska into the cosmic space, at the end of an era that saw the anxieties and repressions of Freud and the militantism of Martin Luther King. Mankind, exhausted by the competition-dominated city, yearned for a return to a close-knit comm unity, but for the post-modern society, this type of community could not be but global, a global village. Stories have been told in this global village, stories meant to dishevel the chronic loneliness of postmodern individuals and to cr eate the illusion, at least, of a compact community, stories that sometim es manipulated the masses to serve the goals of the global village leaders, stories that defended the communal traditions and values and that kept culture alive. As expected in a village, even a globa l one, a significant part of these stories were told, re-told, and marketed via oral means. In Giovanni Boccaccios Decameron, a group of 1


people escape the 1348 Black Death epidemic by ta king refuge in the Italian countryside and telling stories. Chaucers pilgrims to Ca nterbury spend their j ourney through life telling stories in The Canterbury Tales Generations of women gathered in sewing circles and quilting bees to invent and rei nvent stories since Co lonial times up to Modernity. But at the peak of the twentieth-century civilization, five hundred years after Gu tenbergs invention of the printing press, orality comes back, not to replace Gutenbergs legacy, but certainly to play a decisive role in the dissemination of cu lture and art. As Ruth Finnegan asserts, The idea that the use of writing automatically deals a death blow to oral literary forms has nothing to support it (Oral Poetry 160). Walter J. Ong makes a clear dis tinction between what he calls primary orality the traditional orality of non-literate communities, and secondary orality the modern technological culture built ar ound oral media such as telephone radio, and television (11). The 1990s saw a climax of literature re presentations in what Ong called the secondary orality, particularly in film, television, and radi o; for instance, the film industry produced a number of adaptations of novels that had been accepted into the American literary canon, while television and radio marketed literature through book clubs and literary shows. In this study, I will call all these liter ary productions mediated thro ugh film, radio, and television, mediatized literature The argument of this dissertation is that medi atized literature in the United States in the 1990s constitutes a post-modern re-enactment of the traditional or al literature that initially emerged on U.S. territory with pre-lite rate populations. To prove this, I will present the features of the oral traditions of four ethnic groups in chapter 1, and I will apply these features, or variations thereof, to literary discourses featured in film (chapters 2 and 3) and 2


television and radio (chapter 4). There is a structural correl ation between the oral tradition of the four ethnic groups presented in chap ter 1 -Native-American, African-American, Hispanic, and Asian -and some of the movie adap tations discussed in chapters 2 and 3 that are based on fiction represen ting the same ethnic groups ( Beloved for the African-American mediatized literature, The Mambo Kings for the Hispanic one, etc.). I will discuss the features that are common to both the oral tradition and the mediatized literature based on four variables: authorship, audience, literary product, and aesthetic implications. To summarize these shar ed characteristics, I would like to briefly mention here that both types of literature (oral and mediatized) involve multiple authors who are deeply involved with community standards; target mass audiences; share common inherent features of the literary product simplified (linear) and subjective narrative patterns, subjective mu ltiple narrators, characters that fit social conventions, recurrent tropes such as the talking book, similar components of the linguistic sign, and an a ffirmation of dialect and bilingualism; display production similarities -they are both performative, enhance dramatic effects, make use of multimedia, and place special emphasis on the setting; exhibit transmission affinities, with a complex play on immediacy and manipulation; feature similar social functions: sacral, ritualistic, didactic, political, and of cultural preservation and affirmation; and lastly, the oral and mediatized litera ry traditions exerci se a strong impact on written literature 3


These common characteristics of th e oral and mediatized literatu re will be analyzed through the lenses of a complex critical apparatus that includes theories of the linguistic sign, text, and speech-act, the Bakhtinian dialogic syst em, the Jungian concept of the collective unconsciousness, Bolters concept of remediation and others, all of which will be presented in this introduction. Chapter 2 will link film adap tations of the 1990s to the or al tradition in terms of authorship, audience, narrative, and language, whereas chapter 3 will discuss the connection between screen fiction and the or al literature based on elements of plot, character, and sociopolitical functions. Issues of cultural leadership (author ship), social functions, and transmission modes will resurge in Chapter 4, in which I will present literature mediated through television and radio litera ry shows, not only as a didac tic enterprise, but also as a phenomenon that has a significant economic impact on the literature ma rketing industry. Throughout this dissertation, I will argue that, in spite of the Ongian condescension vis--vis oral cultural messages as inferior to the written ones, and contrary to Postmanian media apprehensions and Franzenian inertia to ward mediatized literature, both oral and mediatized literary messages can be classified as literature, although they may not always follow traditional aesthetic parameters embraced by canonical written literature. In chapter 5 of my dissertation, I will present some of the major points of the curr ent conversation related to the acceptance of mediatized literature and of the oral tradition into the category of literature, and I will discuss the complex soci o-economic and literary implications of the dissemination of literature through mass media. While existing scholarship acknwlodges the impact of the oral tradition on written literature (Brown, Krupat, etc.) and discusses the technical an d aesthetic translations of 4


fiction into film discourse (McLuhan, Seger, Chatman, Tibbetts, etc.), my study attempts to demonstrate that there is a connection between the oral pre-literate tradition and the postliterate mediatized literature. The orality base of the two traditions has been recognized briefly in terms of their transmission vehicl e (Ong, McLuhan), but not in relation to the content and structure of literary products as I am proposing in this dissertation. Furthermore, the prior scholarly conversation on this topic ha s signaled sporadically affinities between the oral tradition and one of the mass media at a time (for instance, McLuhan links radio to tribal rituals, and Diawara talks a bout the link orality-film in African productions), but this dissertation constitutes the first compact study to incorporate oral tradition features with literature mediated through three mass media (film, television, and radio), operating with tools of critical theori es and with applications on literary texts. The 1990s marked the end of a literary century that was powerfully impacted by the camera, and in which literature became visibly policitized and oriented toward mass audiences more than ever before. In this co ntext, my showing that mediatized literature shares, with impunity, common characteristics with the oral literature, signals a phase in the cultural evolution of mankind in which literature aligns itself to the c oncept of global village (and thus to an inherent resurgence of orality) and cannot shun anymore its interconnectedness with sophisticated oral m eans such as film, television, and radio. Mediatized literature, as a twentieth-century form of oral tradition, represents its community in terms of politics, finances social moraes, education, but can and will, undoubtedfully, coexist with printed literature. Th erefore, as my study establishes, it is important to accept the mediatized literature as a complement of printed literature (and not as a threat to its existence or value) and as a development that carries cu ltural potential. If written literature evolved 5


from the oral tradition, I am looking forward to what mediatized literature might engender in the twenty-first centu ry. From an Ongian perspective, such antic ipation sounds futile. While highlighting the supremacy of literate over oral cultures, Ong seems to hold in low esteem the value of orality: Oral cultures indeed produce powerful and beautiful verbal performances of high artistic and human worth, which are no l onger even possible once writing has taken possession of the psyche. Nevertheless, without writing, human consciousness cannot achieve its fuller potentials, ca nnot produce other beautiful and powerful creations. In this sense, orality needs to produce and is destined to produce writing (14-15). However, in the 1990s, the media that Ong would classify as secondary orality comes full circle to meet and recreate a new kind of primary orality. Writing stems out of secondary orality productions (for example, novelizations of movies), reve rsing Ongs pre-conceived sequence of orality yielding to writing. Beautiful verbal performances/creations also emerge during postmodernism as movie adaptations of quality Nobel-Prize writings, such as Beloved Susan Berry Brill de Ramrez also challenges Ongs theories: It is crucial, she says, that we do not interpret the oral ity of American Indian literatu res solely in terms of a linear chronological narrative that posits orality as a prior, simpler form that then evolves into a more recent, more developed, and higher form of literature. That was the sort of error made by scholars such as Walter J. Ong ( Orality ) and Albert B. Lord ( Singer ), who privileged the written form by virtue of the textual primacy of our timesa primacy that Ong and Lord very helpfully discuss, but which they do not then use to critique their own preconceptions (2-3). 6


Contrary to Ongs position that emphasizes the primacy of writing versus orality, Fahamisha P. Brown shows that with the AfricanAmerican literary tradi tion, it is the orality that still impacts the written productions, and not vice-versa: Negotiating the space between the written page and the oral performance, the African American poet enga ges the written language in oral terms. Through the use of superallusive mascons and performance modes drawn from vernacular culture, the poet achieves a kind of written orality. Writing in the presence of an implicit community/congreg ation, the poet writes responses to both oral and written cultural calls; the call-and-response structures are written into the poems themselves. In its lan guage practice and in its performative nature, African American poetry and its making extend vernacular cultural practice. The poetry performs the word. (26) F. P. Brown further expounds on the judgments of value that scholars and critics shed on orality and written literature. O rality is not more authentic beca use it comes first. In fact, we cannot say that orality is more authentic than literacy, writes Br own. But neither can we say that writingand its t echnology, printis of greater intellectual value because it is an organized system of reco rding language. [. .] Yet m odern electronic methods of recording the spoken word also lend permanence to language and literature. The complicated relationship between orality and the written/record ed word must be teased out to clarify the nature of orality itself (27). Brown resolves the oral-written ambivalence by postulating that in fact, African-American cultural productions ha ve an intrinsic dichotomous texture and are prone to both written and oral expressions, henc e the term she coins to identify it as orature (28). 7


Writing is a process of objectifying the cultural message, both physically by limiting it to the surface on which the le tters are carved or printed, and content-wise, since its transmission becomes less vulnerable to arbitr ary variations and thus more reliable and objective. Orality, on the other hand, remains a subjective event, as Ong calls it, prone to the subjectivity of its transmitters and performers An oral culture has no texts, says Ong in 1982 (33). But ten years earlier, Fi sh had gone even further to deny the very existence of text for written productions alike: The objectivity of the text is an illusion, postulated Fish in 1972. To the other pole, Bakhtin, along the lines of Saussurian significations and signs, does not seem to be afraid to admit the possibility of defining text even as an utterance with specific components natural (l inguistic, philological ) and technical (pronunciation), which is the boldest objectification of oral text attempted by Structur alist critics (The Problem of the Text 104-105). Following Saussures theori es, Bakhtin defines the text as any coherent complex of signs, but what reinfo rces the reality of th e oral cultural text is his definition of text as the unmediated real ity (reality of thought and experience) (The Problem of the Text 103). The problematics of text, central to post-structuralis m, evolves from the Saussurian differential relations to what Krupa t defines as a category that encompasses all systems of signification, properly understood, in the world as we ll as on the page, spoken as well as written (Post-Structuralism 115), a definition based on Derridas theories: Whether in written or in spoken disc ourse, no element can function as a sign without relating to another element which itself is not simply present. This linkage means that each elementphoneme or graphemeis constituted with reference to the trace in it of ot her elements of the sequence or system. This linkage, this weaving, is the text, which is produced only through the 8


transformation of another text. Nothi ng, either in the elements or in the system, is anywhere simply present or absent. There are only, everywhere, differences and traces of traces. (qtd. in Culler 99) But, as Bakhtin argues, the very natu re of the word requires that it be heard always seeks responsive understandin g, and does not stop at immediate understanding but presses on further and further (indefinitely), for an unde rstanding which, as he observes, is always dialogic to some degree (The Problem of th e Text 127, 111). If Bakhtin implies the aural organ (the ears) as indispensable in the oral process of language pr oduction, Derrida, in his 1981 essay, Economimesis, makes references to the human articulation organ (the mouth) as he invokes Kants inferences that the highest form of expression is the spoken, that it says what it expresses, and that it passes through the mouth, a mouth that is self-affecting, since it takes nothing from the outside and takes pleasure in what it puts out (17). In addition to the anatomical mechanisms and structures involved in the oral production of language, certain li nguistic approaches also dwe ll on more abstract notions designed to dissect the constitution of the pr imary unit of language, the linguistic sign. Ferdinand de Saussure, for example, defines the linguistic sign as a combination of a concept and a sound pattern (67). However, he warns that this contact between an abstract concept and a material sound gives rise to a form, not a substance (111). In 1946, Ludwig Wittgenstein poses a new problem to defining the components of the linguistic sign. Referring to the disgust produced by the uttera nce of an invented word like Esperanto, he muses that the word is cold, lacking in asso ciations, and yet it play s at being language. A system of purely written signs, concludes Wittgenstein, would not disgust us so much (52e). Hence, the possibility of presuming that an emotional element also adds to the 9


structure of the Saussurian sign as an almost chemical ingredient that welds the senderreceiver connection during any li nguistic act. In fact, Moraz goes so far as to blatantly admit that signs belonging to the aesthetic universe are, however, directly charged with emotion (29). To the components of con cept (mental image), sound, and emotion, Derrida attaches another mechanical cons tituent of the linguist ic sign, that of the shape of the written letter(s) as he postulates that there is no lingui stic sign before writing (14). Extrapolating from these definitions of the linguistic si gn, we can move toward Jay David Bolters daunting contention that all media are at one le vel a play of signs, which is a lesson we take from poststructuralist literary theory (19). If all media are a play of signs, then it becomes evident that the linguistic sign transpir es into film, television and radio, even as these media operate with mechanical means diff erent from the mere process of uttering or writing. Film and television produce linguistic si gns with each image captured in a frame (the conceptual component mentioned by Saus sure) but, sometimes, when these media use written text along with images, the mechanical si de of the linguistic si gn Derrida talks about is also present, such as it is the case with titles in movies th at indicate the location and time of action. Radio does the same with every wave vibration perceived as what Saussure calls a material sound. Moreover, variations of tone pitch and volume as well as voice inflections on air carry the emotional load of the linguistic sign that Wittgenstein and Moraz mention. Now that I have shown that broadcast medi a operate with linguistic signs (or rather with predominantly the oral component of linguistic signs) as much as oral traditions do, the next step is to explore the cr iteria that would place complex systems of oral linguistic signs into the category of literature. I will construct a validation of the oral tradition as literature 10


based on its linguistic richness, its perv asiveness into canon literature, and its social/performative functions. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Sa ussure appears to be more aware of the multifaceted cultural and linguistic interdependen ces and of the distinctions between writing and a literary phase of orality than Ong is at the end of the same centu ry. Linguistic unity may disintegrate, writes Saussure, when a spoken language undergoes the influence of a literary language. That happens without fail whenever a comm unity reaches a certain level of civilization. By literary language is here to be understood not only the language of literature but also in a more general sense ev ery variety of cultivated language, whether official or not, which is at th e service of the entire community (193-4). It is important to note that unlike Ong, when explaining linguistic evolution, Saussure acknowledges the value of oral civilized cultures while clarifying the difference between ve rnacular and literary language: The Greeks had their koin or common language, based on Attic and Ionic, with local dialects cont inuing alongside it. Even in ancient Babylon it is thought to be demonstrable that there was an official language as well as regional dialects. Does a general language of this ki nd necessarily presuppose writing? The Homeric poems appear to prove the contrary: for although they emerged at a period when there was littl e or no writing, their langua ge is conventional and exhibits all the characteristic s of a literary language. (194). It is therefore the language that should de termine the quality of discourse, not the medium (oral or written) that carries it. W e are struggling with language, said Ludwig 11


Wittgenstein in 1931. We are engaged in a struggl e with language (11e). But scholars also engage in debates over what they should call particular manifestations of language. On the one hand, Ong, for instance, challenges the term oral literature as a clumsy scholarly oxymoron since literature implies writing originating in the Latin literatura from litera letter of the alphabet (11). Thinking of oral tradition or a heritage of oral performance, genres and styles as oral liter ature is rather like thinking of horses as automobiles without wheels, writes Ong (12). On the other hand, Arnold Krupat analyzes the signification of the term literature in the context of the ambivalence between the Euramerican men of letters who produced a culture of letters (literature), which justifies Ongs argument, and the Native American children of nature who perpet uated an oral culture without letters ( Voice 97). On the same line, when Tzvetan Todorov 1 supports Valrys theory that literature is, and can be nothing other than, a kind of extensi on and application of certain properties of Language (125), he leaves open endless aven ues of defining literat ure, including through acts of oral language. In fact, Todorovs defines a literary work as a verbal work of art (125). Language, whether in oral or written form, bears an inherent aesthetic significance. Given the infinite possibilities of words co mbinations and the individual and ethnic variations of linguistic productions, it becomes obvious that language arises from mans need to express himself, to objectify himself, as Mikhail Bakhtin affirms. As a linguist and aesthetician, Bakhtin contends th at the essence of any form of language is somehow reduced to the spiritual creativity of the individuum (The Problem of Speech 67). Ralph Waldo Emerson in The Poet best expresses the ances tral creative potential of language when he says that Language is fossil poetry (qtd. in Brown, Fahamisha 7). Fahamisha Brown goes 12


further to argue that poetry is oral in its origins, originally composed to be sung or chanted to musical accompaniment (7). For Walt Whitman, the initiator of American Romanticism, the definition of poet and American was weaved on the texture of or ality; in his Song of Myself, his numerous references to tongues, songs, chant and to himself as a singer and bard, stand as evidence of his acknowledgement of orality as a source of his geni us (Portelli 129). The value of orally transmitted culture has been ac knowledged in recent scholarly works, such as Susan Berry Brill de Ramrezs 1999 monograph, Contemporary American Indian Literatures & the Oral Tradition in which the author clearly asserts that storytelling is foundational to [. .] all litera tures (1); Gretchen Bataille, who remarks that contemporary writers, although writing in English and in western genresthe novel and the poemderive much of their power from the oral literary tradition (17) ; and Rodney Simard, a Cherokee, who points out that oral literature still is the basis for all literatures, and it is no less distinguished because of its orality (247). One consideration, which will further suppor t the argument of this study, is that the more oral elements a literary work comprise s, the more prone it becomes to film or stage adaptations and to radio readings (For illustrations, see th e comparisons between novels and their screen adaptation in chap ters 2 and 3.) Imagist poetry, fo r instance, indicates on the one hand a conceptual borrowing from oral traditions, as Andrew Wiget suggests that the Imagist poets of the twenties were quick to embrace what they viewed as the poetically compressed and fundamentally metaphorical natu re of American Indi an oral literature (Native American 13), while on the other hand, the snapshot quality of the Imagist poems stands under the impact of cinematic brevity and collage. 13


Oral practices and techniques have obviously penetrated classic lite rature. Gayl Jones confirms the indebtedness of written literature to orality when she asserts that imaginative literature [. .] deliberately derives its themes, language, design, and vision from oral literature (2). By the time he sat down to write Typee, writes Kevin J. Hayes about Melville, he had rehear sed the story of his adventures orally so many times that it hardly seems unusual that the written version frequently gives the impression of an oral tale (53). Melvilles sea voyages offered him ample opportuni ties to audit and practice storytelling as well as numerous versions of ballads, sea shan ties (working songs for sailors), and whaling songs. Richard Tobias Greene me ntions such experiences in a letter to Melville: My mind often reverts to the many pleasant moonlight watc hes we passed together on the deck of the Acushnet as we whiled away th e hours with yarn and song till eight bells (qtd. in Hayes 13). Insertions of these contacts with oral folklore abound in Melvilles writings from Tommos performance of a stanza from The Bavarian Broomseller in Typee, to Julia s crew singing windlass songs in Omoo, White Jackets interest in the Negro Singers Own Song Book and from the French song that changes into a funeral dirge when Hunilla becomes widowed in Norfolk Isle and the Chol a Widow (a sketch of The Encantadas) to the Natucket Song in Moby Dick. Melvilles gusto to incor porate oral literature samples into his prose allowed him to diversify his narrative voices, but also revealed his deep appreciation for folklore. Kevin J. Hayes thi nks that linking a work of oral literature [Nantucket Song] to the literary classics [Bacon, Montaigne, Milton, Pope, Rabelais, Shakespeare] in Moby Dick was not accidental, but a wa y of stressing the importance of the sailors voice, and thus a recognition of the value of collective, anonymous literary productions often transmitted orally such as it is the case with sa ilors folklore (20). 14


Furthermore, Hayes detects elements of the typi cal oral tall tale in White Jackets discourse, such as the reinforcement of the identity of a folk group but also the initiation of outsiders (51). Marc Chnetier sees ramificat ions of the oral literature into the end-of-the-century American literature. Of the American oral trad ition, he says, and particularly of the tall tale, from the incredible stories that weav e their popular canvas with exaggerations and larger-than-life inventions, the bragging of Davy Crockett and Sut Lovingood, to the testimony of Mark Twain, contemporary writer s have retained more than the thematic distancing from the real (248). In Larry Browns post-modern novel, Dirty Work Braiden, the black Vietnam survivor who spends his last days on a hospital bed, deprived of both arms and legs, takes trips in his mind that catapul t him back to a prehistoric time, about three hundred years ago, and allow him to assume anot her identity: If Id liv ed in Africa and had me a son and was a king in my own country (1 ). The initiation dialogue he makes up with his presumed son echoes incantatory rhythms and places him in a cultural system which equates the first hunting success with sexual coming of age and respectively hunting failure with castration: You listen to me now. When I was your age I went out and killed me a lion. [. .] You gonna have to stick you one before you ever get you any of these maidens. [. .] Well what if I dont? [. .] They gonna take you out yonder and put you in that little kraal and make a woman out of you. (2-3) 15


Brown intermingles pieces of Brai dens projections of tribal life with his recollections of his hunting time with his father and his coming of age when he had to fight a bully to defend his familys honor. Braiden resorts to mind trip s not only to escape hi s unbearable condition, but also to construct a future with a son and a community where there are no racial differences and he is respected. Well yall come on over about dark, then, he tells the people of his tribe. Well build us up a big fire and do some dancing around it and all. My son gonna kill him his first lion in a few days and we gonna have a few manhood rites for him (56). It is precisely the enactment of such rites and implicitly the social functions of oral texts that qualify them as literature according to some of the existing scholarship. To the question How can that which is unwritten, that is without le tters, be called literature? (Wiget, Native American 3), Simon J. Ortiz, in his Woven Stone offers an answer, or rather a definition of oral traditi on that includes social functions: The oral tradition of Native American people is based upon spoken language, but it is more than that. Oral tradition is inclusive; it is the actions, behavior, relationships, practices throughout the whole social, economic, and spiritual life process of people. In this respect, the oral tradition is the consciousness of the people. (7) Paula Gunn Allen takes the social implications of the oral tradition to a higher level when she associates the presence of ar chetypes with the concept of literature: Literature reflects the deepest meani ngs of a community. It does this by carrying forward archetypes through the agency of familiar symbols arranged within a meaningful structure. It is the sequence in which the archetypes 16


occur which allows the depth we customar ily associate with literature, just as it is the accretion of meaning created by this structuring which gives a sense of wholeness and immedi acy to the work (565). Along the same lines, it is interesting to note that Ong acknowledges th e social and sacral functions of the oral productions and asserts that based on the dynamics of all sound, and especially oral utterance, which comes from inside living organisms, the oral communities consider words to have magical potency (32). The arguments Ong uses to support this point all stem from religious tr aditions: the power conferred to Adam in the garden of Eden to name the animals (Genesis 2:20), the very act of Divine creation that set things into existence through the utterance of commands (G enesis, chapter 1), the incarnation of God through His Son, the Word (John 1:1, etc.). Th e sacral load of language in a mythical context surges in Native American legends w ith Wesucechak, a mythical figure in oral Cree tradition, who has the ability to turn into va rious animals and humans, whose fate is to endlessly wander, and who functions on a paradi gm that seems to exclude memory. In the summer of 1977, during his travels through the Si piwesk Lake region of Manitoba, Howard Norman hears an original version of a Wesucech ak story from his guide, John Rains, a fortyseven-year-old Cree man: This is about Wesuc echack. He was out thieving things. He was thieving words this time. Hed been doing this for a long time, since long ago. People have to work hard to get the words back (403). Does this make Wesucechak a prototype of the Anglo colonizer or of the Indian who turned wh ite and denied his linguistic heritage? Closely linked to this story there are others, like Wesucechak Learns About Double-Shout Lake, in which Wesucechak forces on someone a linguistic amnesia, makes that person forget an animals name (Norman 404), or Wesucechak Steals Who-Crawls-Through-Dusk, in 17


which he can make a person stutter, or c onfuse and frustrate a speaker with obnoxious interruptions, or make a person mute (Norman 405). To place these legends into the appropriate literary and historical context, it is useful to consider Ernst Cassirers contentions: The original bond between the lingui stic and the mytho-religious consciousness is primarily expressed in the fact that all verbal structures appear as also mythical entities, endo wed with certain mythical powers, that the Word, in fact, becomes a sort of primary force, in which all being and doing originate. (44) The trauma of losing the words of the oral tradition dialects to the language of the colonizers will be purged through the orality of the mediatized literature, especially movie adaptations, that foster, in the 1990s, a revival of old dialects and promote bilingualism (see chapter 2). Charles Moraz brings this discussion of the power of the spoken word into the realm of twentieth-century political power games: Mathematical, l iterary, poetic, or aesthetic invention is situated in a wide r framework: the entire universe of action. When the President of the United States or the President of France wi shes to launch a new policy, he uses words. Men of action like men of the business world be gin with words (31). At the other pole, Alessandro Portelli, although appr eciative of the impact of orality on classic American literature, explains that oral traditions in North America belonged mainly to Native Americans and other minorities who did not ha ve literacy readily av ailable; the Founding Fathers, however, came to the New World alr eady literate, and built this nation on written texts: the Scriptures, the Mayf lower Compact, and later the Declaration of Independence and 18


the Constitution (27-29). In fact, Paula G unn Allen proposes that the credibility and recognition associated with written works (as opposed to oral ones) is due to the fact that the Western civilization, built on the Judeo-Christ ian religion, holds in high esteem the Written Word, the Bible, who happens to be one of the first manuscripts that found their way in print, an argument that seems rather far-fetched sinc e it generalizes the preeminence of written over oral texts to the whole Western culture (569). Aside from assessments of the primacy of u tterances, actions, or written words, there remains the contention that language will alwa ys trigger action. Fahamisha Patricia Brown points out that in the sense of a speech act, the word itself has power. The word makes action possible, even necessary (16). In 1937, Wittgenstein postulated that the origin and the primitive form of the language game is a re action; only from this can more complicated forms develop (31e). In the same context, quoting from Goethes Faust Part I, he defined language as a natural product of action: Language I want to say is a refinement, in the beginning was the deed (31e). Or it is precisely the deed that both the oral tradition and the screen adaptations of the 1990s emphasize. Action often ensues as an effect of oral cultural texts th rough an emotional manipulation of the audience. To understand the connection between the oral tradition and the mediatized literature of the nineties, it is useful to consider the speech-act theory, promulgated by J. L. Austin, John R. Searle, and H. P. Grice, a system that classifies the speech acts into three main categories: locutionary acts which produce an utterance; illocutionary acts that establish an interactive setti ng between speaker and listener; and perlocutionary acts intended to produce certain effects in the hearer, such as fear, courage, etc. (Ong 170). As far as locutionary acts go, th ere is evidence that they exist in the oral 19


tradition in the form of unintelligible utterances that have, nonetheless, encoded meanings. While assuring that ritual uttera nces perform a function of rea ffirmation of social cohesion, Hayakawa explains that such or al expressions may be made up of words that have symbolic significance or of meaningle ss syllables or noises, whic h, nonetheless, are understood by the members of the group who produces and perpetuates them (83). Illocutionary and perlocutionary acts engage the audiences emot ions and their involvement with the setting both in theatrical and broadcasting performances as much as they do in the oral tradition. In this context, I cannot but agree with the structuralist discourse which presumes that the circulation of a work of a particular kind is su stained because the work reflects the interests of the audience which sanctions the circul ation (Wiget Native American 9). In the oral tradition, the deed or action refers not only to the effects of the text on the community, but also to the very process of enacting the message, of performing it. Since oral productions involve more media than the written onesthey are a combination of choreography, music, images, objec ts, text--, I can affirm that orality is more complex than the written tradition, but it is also struct urally and methodologically closer to our contemporary radio, television, and movie productions since it involves extensive use of multimedia. As Sam D. Gill suggests in his 1982 monograph, Native American Religions: An Introduction all stories have performative signi ficance (qtd. in Morrison, Kenneth 125). Dance and song, for instance, b ecome meaningful te xt (Morrison, Kenneth 127). But in a study conducted by Alan P. Merriam among the Flathead Indians in 1967, of the 226 songs he recorded during one field session, songs had texts of non-translatable nonsense 20


syllables (32). In this case, it is the ritualistic and not the connotative function of language that these cultural discourses emphasize. Ritualistic performances were not limited to oral cultures in Colonial America, but took place, in often disguised fo rms of manifestations, also w ithin the Puritan communities. Portellis argument that the American Founding Fathers stressed the primacy of the written text develops not only on the religious and the political significance of texts such as the Bible and the Declaration of Indepe ndence, but also on the histor ical records of the Maypole incident, a defining Puritan reject ion of theater or performance as pagan, idolatrous practices. However, Anthony Kubiak launches the theory of interiorized theaters of American Puritanism (53), and he suggests that through their diaries, the Puritans constructed a system of self-surveillance, and thus enacted a theater of the mind (29). Moreover, with a rigorous system of self-observation and se lf-correction, Kubiak demonstrates, the Puritans staged an interiorized surveillance and later enacted that script in the exteriorized performances of salvation, making visible and vi sual what had been seemingl y hidden, creating an excess (in sanctimonious behavior, possession by the Spirit, etc.) or surplus value through theater (55). Even Johns Winthrops address in which he warned the Pilgrims that the eyes of all people are upon us (qtd. in Kubiak 37) indicates an engagement in a global performance, an engagement that has grown to super-power propor tions for the United States in the era of the post-modern global village. Kubiak, similarl y to Moraz, translates the active power of Colonial utterances and performances into a tw entieth-century socio-political catalyst. It is not hard to imagine the Puritan penchant for observation and orch estration eventually mutating in other arenas of Am erican society into an obsession for the spectacle, writes Kubiak (49). 21


It would be interesting to link Kubiaks theory of the Puritanical theater as a condition of consciousness (32) and the unconscious as mi s-en-scne (43) to Jungs concept of the collective unconscious. If w ords are the only material of the unconscious 2 (Lacan 187) and the literary invention is a process controlled by the unconscious 3 (Moraz 23), a sudden illumination that takes place as a result of brai n activity (Moraz 26), then I can conclude that the imagination, as re sidence of both the consciousness and the unconsciousness, should be credited for the birth of oral performative productions. Scott N. Momaday correlates the identity-preserving func tion of oral productions with the tantamount creative force of imagination when he asserts that We are what we imagine. Our very existence consists in our imagination of ourselves Our best destiny is to imagine, at least, completely, who and what, and that we are. The greatest tragedy that can befall us is to go unimagined (103). Going back to the consciousness and unconsciousness as elements of the imagination, and inherently of oral literary productions, it is noteworthy to remark that while Freud limited the concept of unconscious to denoting the state of repr essed or forgotten contents of an individual, Jung took the concept of the unconscious to a larger scale, that of the individual as repository of a collective unconscious made up of archetypes (such as the shadow, the anima, and the wise old man) and materialized in myths, fairytales, and other folkloric productions (Jung Arc hetypes 3-5). Jung explains the birth of collective (and mainly oral) stories as a processing of th e outer natural phenomena by the unconscious psyche of any representative of a given community (Archetypes 6). Here is how Jung sees the hereditary transmission of such a collectiv e psyche: In so far as no man is born totally new, writes Jung, but continually repeats th e stage of development last reached by the 22


species, he contains unconsciously, as an a priori datum, the entire psychic structure developed both upwards and downwards by his ances tors in the course of the ages. That is what gives the unconscious its char acteristic historical aspect, but it is at the same time the sine qua non for shaping the future (Conscious 279-80). Thus, it be comes clear that the psyche contains all the images that have ever given rise to myths and that inner drama always precedes oral performances (Archetypes 7). Since Jung maintains that it is always necessary to integrate the unconscious into consciousness through what he calls the individuation process, I can extrapolate to assert that a process of individuation always takes place in the performance and transmission of oral culture. What came from a remote mythical unconscious source, through what Jung calls the heredity of the psyche (Concept 42), becomes part of the conscious ness of the performer who individuates or appropriates the cultural text and then transmits it to the community thus perpetuating its collective individuation into th e consciousness of the members of his/her audience. What most New Critics would have obviously rejected in Jungs theories of the authorial unconscious is the philosophers co ntention that the aut onomy of the unconscious therefore begins where emotions are gene rated (Conscious 278). An autonomous unconscious that is fueled by emotional vehicles to create art seems to be what modernists and post-modernists alike have been, unsuccessfully, attempting to do aw ay with. But if I hold true the Jungian statement that the unconscious produces dreams, visions, fantasies, emotions, grotesque ideas (Conscious 283), th en it is easy to recogn ize all these products of the unconscious in the folkloric heritage and even in the Modernists fascination with the grotesque and in the post-modern magical realism. Moreover, the twentieth-century writers neurotic experiences, materialized in their me diatized (or not) works, come to confirm 23


Freuds theory that once people try to suppress the unconscious, as the modern artists have striven to strip their creations of emotion whic h is, as shown above, a key ingredient of the unconscious, this unconscious, which is life, will explode or implode in neurosis (Conscious 288). An extensive analysis of 1990s representative fiction works mediated through film will elaborate in Chapter 3, especia lly in the section Psychological Issues, on this connection between the repression of the unconscious and intense post -traumatic effects. In the context of memory selectiven ess and of the means through which the unconscious deals with trauma, it is debatable to what extent the oral productions are homeostatic, as Ong argues. Homeostasis represents, according to the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, a relatively stable state of equilibrium or a tendency toward such a state between the different but interdependent elements or groups of elements of an organism, population, or group (555). Ong conte nds that this homeostatic feature builds on the oral societies preferen ce to live very much in a present which keeps itself in equilibrium [. .] by sloughing off memories which no longer have present relevance (46). As it will be shown in chapter 3, oral traditions that spilled into post-modern ethnic fiction still feature retellings of traumatic events that happened in the course of history, sometimes as part of a tendency to recrea te the past, which indicates, cont rary to homeostasis, a focus, indeed very unpragmatic, on the past, and a st rong drive to escape the present (see the characters in Shermans Alexies novel The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven ). With the advent of mass media, which closes th e circle of orality in the history of cultural development, the consciousness functions as the interiorized reflection of the current standards of technical media (Kit tler 61). For instance, tape or electronic text become the memory/consciousness from which new productions (movies, TV and radio shows) grow. 24


Oral literature emerged at the confluence of traditi onal forms and innovations and remained a blender of social, cultural, and pol itical values. If consciousness is power, as Judith Fetterley remarks (995), then oral liter ature, a container of collective consciousness, irradiates a power of cultural survival and enrichment. Native Americans told stories to empower survival, writes K. Morrison (128) Changes in the choreography and the commercialization of Indian dances stand as evidence of the strong Indian cultural vein which struggles to preserve its identity flowi ng through an ocean of socio-cultural colonial pressures. As Alan Merriam notes, the Flat head Indians acknowledged the fact that many marriage and war rituals and dances ceased to serve communal purposes for twentiethcentury Native Americans, but to keep these traditions alive as part of their cultural identity, they allowed choreographic and ethnographic innovations and additions to these traditions so that they can market them for a mainly wh ite audience (156). While asserting that the Flathead Indians remain so in spite of the hi storical changes, Merria m points out that their music serves solid identity functions: to relive the past, to relieve ps ychological tension, and to reinforce the social inte gration of the group (158). Reenacting the psycho-social patrimony of the community constitutes another major function of oral productions. Toelken points ou t that a large part of the live meaning of folklore (as opposed to its theoretical for exam ple, its structural dimensions) lies in the specific circumstances in which a folk expressi on or event actually takes place (33). He identifies several contexts which may comb ine in the creation a nd (re)production of a folkloric piece: the immediate human context of performance, the social context (ethnic, religious, familial), the cultural-psychological context (linguistic codes and traditional 25


assumptions), the physical context (geographical location), and the time context, the occasion on which the folk event takes place (36). The roles of oral literature entail not only the preservation, but also the reaffirmation of a developing historical and cultural identity. Written history thinks at the world; myth provides a way of experiencing, and thus re creating the world and the history (Morrison, Kenneth 126). Native American spiritual l eaders, such as the Iroquois Hiawathawho persuaded his people to abolish the law of revenge and invent ed a healing ritual for the grieving familiesand Handsome Lake, who delivered a message of hope for the growingly dysfunctional Iroquois families forced to adapt to an American lifestyle, replaced the old traditions and produced a new cultural text (M orrison, Kenneth 126). The literature of the 1990s and inherently the movies it inspired will take over all th ese social functions of oral tradition. Chapter 3 will elaborate on the socio-political, psychologica l and erotic rituals enacted in several representative screen adap tations produced in the 1990s in the United States, while chapter 4 will re-define hosts of li terary shows as cultural leaders (prescribers and preservers of literature). One last theoretical frame would be inst rumental in understandi ng the characteristics of oral culture and their similarity to twentie th-century literary medi a productions, and that would be the Bakhtinian system of dialogis m, heteroglossia, polyphony, carnivalization, and hybridization. Although tailored for the novelistic discourse, these concepts perfectly fit oral literature as much as camera-mediated and radi o-broadcast literary discourse. The Russian critic places particular emphasis on what he ca lls the internal dial ogization, which, he holds as capable of becom[ing] such a crucial force for creating form only where individual differences and contradictions are enriched by social heteroglo ssia (Discourse 284). 26


Bakhtins dialogic discourse concept, which involves the language of the Other, illustrates processes of cultural dialogue or a clash present in both the oral tradition and the mediaconstructed fiction of the 1990s. Arnold Krupat points out that Indian autobiographies are quite literally dialogic in that they foster cross-cultural infl uences--Indian oral authors and white writers and audiences intermingle their cultural systems (133). Moreover, in oral literature, the author/performer represents the incarnation of what I may call the collective consciousness, and implicitly both a reservoir and catalyst of an ethnic heteroglossia as he emerges as a link between generations, and engages in a creative dialogu e with past, present, and future audiences. With the flourishing of ethnic literature in the 1990s in the United States and with the opening of the profession of writing to prof essionals from other fields (medicine, law), an increasing number of di verse voices have enga ged in a cultural and political dialogue (see Chapter 2 for an in-depth analysis of authorial voices involved in a heteroglossic literary discourse). Heteroglossia (raznorecie in Russian, literally meaning t he word of another) refers to the variation of meaning of the same word or linguistic unit based on social or historical contexts and implies that the meaning of la nguage is socially determined. Literary languageboth spoken and written, remarks Bakhti n, is itself stratified and heteroglot in its aspect as an expressive system, that is in the forms that carry its meaning (Discourse 288). While discussing heteroglossia in the cont ext of the novel, Bakh tin exemplifies it with the incorporation into the literary work of verbal-ideological belief systems, socioideological belief systems, various types of characters speech predicated on individual belief and social systems, and incorporated genres, both artistic (inserted short stories, lyrical songs, poems, dramatic scenes, etc.) a nd extra-artistic (everyda y, rhetorical, scholarly, 27


religious genres and others) (Discourse 311, 315, 316, 320). Krupat notes that For Bakhtin, human language is, as he calls it, heteroglossic and polyvocal, the speech of each individual enabled and circumscribed not so much by language as a system (hence Bakhtins difference from Saussurian structural linguistics and its fascination with langue ), as by the actual speech of other in dividuals (135-36). Deriving from a pre-existing heteroglossic context, the quality of polyphony reflects the extent to which the community sanctions certain voices to participate in the sociopolitical or religious discourse. Polyphony may be restricted by social roles in oral societies, in which certain rituals are as signed to select members, and by ethical, moral, or legal standards in the United States at the end of the twentieth centu ry. For instance, for personal security or political correctness reasons, the Vietnamese-American writ er Le Ly Hayslip and later director Oliver Stone rende r the story of her life within parameters that would not be liable to accusations from either Vietnamese or American governments. What happens in this case, as much as in other U.S. ethnic literat ure pieces of the 1990s constitutes largely a process that Bakhtin calls hybr idization, namely a mixture of two social languages within the limits of a single utterance, an encounter, within the arena of an utterance, between two different linguistic consciousnesses, separa ted from one another by an epoch, by social differentiation or by some other factor (Disc ourse 358). Active in twentieth-century reenactments of oral traditions (suc h as Sherman Alexies stories in The Lone Ranger), hybridization implies in literat ure not only a merger of tw o languages but also of two ethnicities. The daughters generation in Amy Tans The Joy Luck Club Lieutenant Dunbar in Michael Blakes Dances With Wolves and a whole other host of characters display features of cultural hybr idization. 28


Carnivalization, another Bakhtinian concep t, implies a mixing of voices and parody, and traces its roots back to pre-Christian Greece and Rome and then to the Middle Ages Lenten celebrations as a way of endorsing Dionysian manifestations (Kaufmann 13). While in the oral tradition, carnivalizat ion occurs with the trope of th e trickster and other mythical characters who assume human features, in the mediatized literature of the 1990s, characters often disclose various masks of their traumas or forbidden desires in several in progressive, repetitious, often circular and unchronological phases (see chapter 3, the section Psychological Issues). As a vehicle of cultural expr essivity and expression (F. P. Brown 28), the literature of oral societies is what is worthy of sufficient repetition (Krupat 39). But repetition with oral texts always involves a proc ess of recreation. James Rupp ert observes that the multiple encoding that exists in oral transmission is almost im possible to duplicate (107). Duplication, impossible to achieve in oral literature, is also unfeas ible in broadcast media. In both cases, there is a translat ion from one medium to anot her during the performance-memory to voice in oral tradition, and print to screen or radio waves in broadcasting and film--a process hinted at by Marshall McLuhan who remarks that the content of any medium is always another medium. The content of writing is speech, just as the written word is the content of print, and print is the content of the telegraph (23-24). In 1999, Bolter calls such a representation of one medium in another remediation (45), a term that implies a means of repeating or recreati ng the medium into another, bu t also a process of correction, revising and eventually betterment. Remediation, or this process of translation of the text from one medium to another, is also respons ible for differences in the presentation and approaches of the oral and re spectively mediated literature. 29


Chapter One An Overview of the Oral Literature of Ethnic Groups in the United States 1. 1. The Native American Oral Tradition Although North American tribes had a hist ory of making pictographic accounts of rituals and important events, and the Maya of Mesoamerica preserved their sacred literature in books, most Native American tribes on todays U.S. territory transmitted their literature orally (LaVonne 145). It is inte resting to note that multimedia use was an established fact among the Delawares, for instance, particularly in the Wallamolum chronicle. As Alexander Vaschenko notes, the Wallamolum tradition is preserved in two media, consisting of 183 pictographs, originally painted in red on wooden sticks [. .], each accompanies by a verse in the Delaware language which textualiz ed the traditional interpretation of the pictograph (92). This co mbination of text and gr aphics present with the Wallamolum tradition constitutes a striking anticipation of the same multimedia usage with end-of-the-century movie adaptations and television literary shows. In terms of production, as Wiget emphasi zes in his studies, Native Americans produced oral literature in various forms: pe rformance, ceremonial rituals, poetry, song, dances, stories of creation, myths sometimes ex tended to epic proportions, genealogies and migration records, recitations verbatim incantations with didact ic role, parables (metasocial commentary), elders conferences (oratory and political speeches) 4 While the performative aspects of such oral producti ons will be re-enacted in the mediatized literature, the 1990 30


literature in mass media will also play on the di dactics, and political rhetorics mentioned by Wiget. Some of the conventional narrative structur es that Wiget identifies for the Native American oral literatu re can be easily recognized throughout other ethnic oral traditions in the United States: verbal framing (opening and clos ing formulas), songs, initial particles that mark sections breaks, vocalization (changes in p itch, tone, etc.), special vocabulary (that suits specific characters or genres), repetition, and formulaic expre ssions (Native American 12). Berry also indicates that most Native Amer ican oral productions feature a linear chronological narrativ e (Berry 2). In terms of genres, a great number of Nativ e American autobiographies were either written by literate Native Americans or dictat ed, the so-called as-told-to autobiographies, like that of Black Hawk. However, authorsh ip became collective when the writer and the translator pitched in, such as it was the cas e with Black Hawks autobiography, written by John Patterson, a newspaper edito r who heard the story thro ugh the translator Antoine LeClair (Wiget Chapter 3: The Beginnings) Surprisingly, the number of as-told-to Native American autobiographies peaked in th e 1930s (Wiget Chapter 3: The Beginnings), a time when other oral media (television, ra dio, film) were also gaining momentum. Poetry, as much as autobiographies and sermons or speeches, found oral expression means even when writing was an available tool for Native American artists. For instance, at the end of the nineteenth century, the poet E. Pauline Johnson (Tekahionwake) born in Canada as the daughter of the chief of the Mohawk nation toured Canada, England, and the United States, reading her poetry. Aimed for oral performance, her writings display melodramatic narrative features and abound in dialogues and rhythmic action (Wiget 31


Chapter 3: The Beginnings). Lyrical prose, such as Beloved will translate into a movie adaptation, in the 1990s, that will gain performa tive strength, in the way of Johnsons poetry performances, but will also swing on the mel odramatic to appeal to a wider category of viewers. In addition to the genres elaborated above it is worth mentioning a motif in Native American oral tradition that closely relates to the Jungian theories pr esented earlier in the Introduction of this study, namely the figure of the trickster in Native American oral tradition, also translated into coyote in the Anglo imagination, and which assumes a variety of masks and personae, trespassi ng the human/animal boundaries, evolving or regressing between fool and hero, and negotia ting change and survival (Babcock 99-100). The tricksters shape-shifting abilities inspired Jung to compare it to the tradition of the European tradition of the carnival in the medieval Church an d to other European literary heroes like Tom Thumb, Stupid Hans, Hanswurst, or Spirit Mercurius, a character created by the Grimm brothers (On the Psychology 25 5). What is mostly notable in Jungs analysis of the trickster is this characters uni versality that claims its collective identity and perpetuation in the Jungian context of the archetypes of the collective unconscious: The trickster is a collective shadow figure, a summation of all the inferior traits of character in individuals. An d since the individual shadow is never absent as a component of personality, th e collective figure can construct itself out of it continually. Not always, of course, as a my thological figure, but, in consequence of the increasing repres sion and neglect of the original mythologems, as a corresponding proj ection on other social groups and nations. (On the Psychology 270) 32


The social and linguistic versatility of the tric kster may very well be applied to characters that negotiate across multilingual and multicultura l environments in movie adaptations such as Heaven and Earth or The Joy Luck Club that will be discussed in chapter 3, but it also becomes a trope highly attributable to the hosts of literary radio and television shows (see chapter 4). Oral literature was not only produced through repeated performa nce variants by the whole Native American community, but it was al so a shared and therefore common property of all its members. Authorship rights (or copyright!) became an issue only when certain songs, articulating personal sources of spirit po wer acquired in dreams, could be sold and bought as personal property (Wiget Native Amer ican 13). While also assuming authorship of the oral literature, the commun ity reserved the right to regula te the selection of performers based on gender, age, social status and to establ ish the criteria of credibility and veracity and the means of creating and sustaining audience rapport (Wiget Native American 14). As shown in chapters 2 and 4, the performance of literature in mass media will also be entrusted to multiple authors (directors, actors, show s hosts) whose competence is socially and financially validated. As with other ethnic oral traditions, socio-political goals characterize the Native American oral productions. The texts are not evaluated based on their aesthetic quality, but on their efficiency in enacting their social ro le. For example, the Flathead Indians do not conceptualize their music in such a way as to allow for technical discussions of formal structure (Merriam 41). However, the presence of a coda in the last phrase of some songs indicates that such songs were borrowed, which signals evidence of the communitys relations with other tribes (Mer riam 41). On the same line, Joseph Bruchac notes that many 33


oral traditions of Native Americasuch as th e Iroquois story of the founding of the Great League of Peaceare deeply political. [. .] American Indian writers maintain that traditional respect for the power of the word and the political role of the artist (315). In the 1990s, most writers exercise th eir political role when their fi ction entails struggles of civil rights (Paul Matthiessen, Toni Morrison), but the directors wh o adapt for the screen highly political novels during this decade maintain a neut ral tone, so the orality of the cinema often presents a diluted political message (see chapte r 3, the section Socio-Political Aspects). Colonial tensions constitute one of the major political issues that develop within the oral and written Native American literature. Under colonization pressure, the Native American artists either exacerbate their identity preservation driv es into a complete rejection of the white culture or, on the contrary, fall into a denial of thei r ethnic affiliation. To illustrate the first category, it is useful to take a look at representations of the whites in Native American oral tradition. According to Jarold Ramsey, the imaging of whites in traditional stories is [. .] full of a sense of Anglo othe rness (139). The repres entation of the white in oral Native American stories ranges from the pr ototype of the long-lost brother (139) to villains and fools (141). Attempts to trace back common genealogies, and thus affirm a natural brotherhood with the Other White, surfaced in myths such as the one related by Sara Winnemucca: So the light girl and boy disappear ed, and their parents saw them no moreAnd by and by, the dark children grew into a large nation, and we believe it is the one we belong to, and that the nation that sprang from the white children will some time send someone to meet us and heal all the old trouble. (6-7) 34


On the other hand, aversion toward the ma lice of the whites reflects in reversed Genesis mythssuch as it was the version of a Northern Paiute, who held that Eden was made for the Indians, but a white man in the form of a rattlesnake got into the apple tree and has kept Indians out of Paradise ever sin ce (Ramsey 141)and in the failure to find any ways of artistic expression in the language of the colonizers. As Andrew Wiget observes, some poets, as early as the end of the ninet eenth century, like the Creek poet Alex Posey, must certainly have experienced a tension deriving from the attempt to accommodate native conceptions to an alien language and verse forms (Chapter 3: The Beginnings). Posey went so far as to assert that the Indian talk s in poetrybut in attempting to write in English he is handicapped (qtd. in Connelley 62). In some cases, bilingualism seemed to be a colonial tension reliever. As ear ly as the beginning of the nine teenth century, the first native and bilingual newspaper, Phoenix, founded and edited by Elias Boudinot, a Cherokee, featured elements of Native Amer ican traditions and literature while abiding by a nineteenthcentury tradition of Native American non-fic tion writings such as political protests, autobiographies, and ethno-biograp hies (Wiget Chapter 3: The Beginnings). The fact that Phoenix emerged as a bilingual publication indicates that Boudi not envisioned the Indian identity as linked to th e culture and language of the Anglo colonizers, or at least that he intended to initiate a cr oss-cultural dialogue. Another colonial phenomenon was that Nativ e American writers who were literate like William Apes, a Pequot nineteenth-century autobiography author, alienated themselves from their native culture through the very education th at enabled them to represent it in writing (Wiget, Chapter 3: The Beginnings). For oral abor iginal cultures colonized by European nations, creating a wr itten literature in the langu age of the colonizers became 35


inevitable. However, Joseph Bruchac asserts th e singular distinctiveness of Native American literature as one of the world literatures writ ten in English, but carry ing its own separate identity, as much as it is the case with Native Indian literatures in ot her colonizing languages (Spanish, Portuguese) which did not de nt their cultural identity (322). Since the dramatic immediacy of Native American discourse remains rooted in a consciousness very different from that of the West (Krupat Voice 98), and because of the ethnic individuality that Native American productions maintained even when they appeared in English, Native American li terature or compilations thereof were for a long time appreciated for their anthropological value, but not as an important part of American literature (Bruchac 312). Arnold Krupats monograph, The Voice in the Margin is one of the most succinct and informative overviews of the ways in which the WASP populations of America perceived Native American oral manifestations: The first invader-settlers of America responded to th e verbal productions of Native orality as a satanic or bestial gibberish that, unmarked in letters nor bound in books, could never be thought to constitute a littera-ture. John Elliot translated the Bible into Algonquian la nguage in the sevent eenth century, but the Puritans did not inscribe the wick ed or animal noise of Native song or story. The scientist-revolutionaries of the eighteenth century were more interested in Indian cultural activity than were their Puritan forbears and made efforts to describe, catalogue, and subdue its various manifestationsjust as they did with other natural phenomena like lightning or steam pressure. [. .] In the Romantic nineteenth century, littera-ture came to mean not simply the written culture generally but a selection form it of imaginative and expressive 36


utterancein writing, to be sure, but also in the speech and song of common men and the folk who might themselv es be unable to write. Nature became the keyword of culture, and ora l literature, something other than a contradiction in terms. Once these id eas crossed the ocean to the American east, it was but a short step to hear Na tive expression as naturally poetic and as constituting a literature in need of no more than textualization and formal civilizedsupplementation. (99-100) Although the Native Americans remained unt il the end of the tw entieth-century a muted group, 5 and their shrinking frontier continued for centuries to be assessed by the dominant social group as a region marked by a double otherness, an embodiment of blankness,and a subculture (Cunningham 42-44), efforts to preserve the orality of the Native American languages have increased during the second half of the twentieth century with bilingual school programs a nd with native-language radio stations that exist in many parts of North America now, from the lands of the Dene in Canada to the Mohawk along the St. Lawrence River (Bruchac 323) Moreover, some of the Na tive American literature is now being published in bilingual volumes like The South Corner of Time an anthology published in 1980 by the University of Arizona as part of the Sun Tracks series (Bruchac 323). The selection of Native American fiction pr oduced and adapted for the screen in the 1990s, and which will be discussed in the follo wing two chapters, will carry the seeds of these racial tensions as they are indicative of the manner in which cultural differences are resolved or exacerbated in the postmodern so ciety. The colonial paradigms of America shifted from the nineteenth-cen tury Jeffersonian humanitarians who insisted that Christian 37


teachers, doctors, and ministers should pe rsuade the Indians into acculturation (Wiget, Chapter 3: The Beginnings) to the twen tieth-century emergence of printed Native American fiction (racial issues, cultural di splacement) and publica tions (newspapers, magazines, journals). What is more importa nt, in the twentieth century, Native American writings have made their way into the academ e both in the form of tribal literature anthologies and of scholarship (Bruchac 321), pe rhaps as a ripple effect of the globalization trends that have pushed for more cultural ope nness, inclusion, and pr ide in diversity. A number of screen adaptations of ethnic fiction discussed in the following chapter revive the native dialects (see Beloved The Joy Luck Club etc.) and carry on the bilingualism trends presented above. 38


1. 2. The African-American Oral Tradition Fahamisha Brown postulates that the New World peoples of African descent, in the manner of their African forbears, developed a mode of creative verbal expression that was primarily oral, a reality that emerged primarily because in the pre-Civil War United States it was illegal for African slaves to become literate (7). It is a fact that the African slaves created cultural productions on the American c ontinent, using, initiall y, their pidgin language in their songs, poetry, and dances, long before 1774 (Katz viii). 6 The African tonal languages seem to be the orig inators of the speech rhythm s, voice inflections and tonal patterns that abound in oral African -American productions (Smitherman, Black Language 39). Another aspect of linguistic versatility in oral productions is a technique called playing the dozens, a ritualized kind of verbal game th at involves talking disparagingly about someones mother and also involving other rela tives and forefathers, whose objective is to better your opposition with more caustic humorous insults [through] a competitive test of linguistic ingenuity and verbal fluency in wh ich the winner, determined by the audiences responses, becomes a culture hero (Smitherman Black Talk 24). Although remnants of African work and li nguistic patterns, social manners, and religious concepts persist in African-American oral traditions, Harold Courlander underlines the existence of other British, French and Spanish influences, but maintains that in fact, the end product represents an origin al blend that emerged as a re sult of cultural, linguistic, and 39


historical circumstances in the New World ( 255-56). In some instances, African-American work songs like this late ni neteenth-century plantation song, De old bee make de honeycomb, De young bee make de honey, De niggers make de cotton an corn An de white folks gits de money, evolved from old English folk songs, such as this one: The Lord made the bees, The bees made the honey, The Lord made men And man made money. (Courlander 383). In other cases, work songs were inspired by the orally transmitted storie s of black heroes who escaped from state farms or road gangs or who were subjected to inhuman work conditions on ships, plantations or railroad construction s ites. A maintained rhythm characterizes some songs, like Dont You Hear My Hammer Ringing I says Im ringing in the bottom, (x2)/I says Im ringing for the ca ptain,/I says Im ringing for the sergeant, etc. while other songs like Lost John evoke classic prison camp escapes in a colorful narrative form: One day, one day/I were walking along/And I heard a little voice/Didnt see no one./It was old Lost John./He said he was long gone/Like a tu rkey through the corn/With his long clothes on (Courlander 406-407). The work tale Old Boss and George is representative for the African-American storytelling traditions as it c ontains elements of oral conti nuity (I got anot her one to tell you, starts the narrator) a nd creates archetypes of name less slaves who distinguish 40


themselves through physical strength and work sk ills, but remain inarticulate when it comes to judgmental choices: Dont recall if George was before Jo hn or after John, Old Boss had so many [. .] When he was tryin, well, man, you never saw nothin like it. Cotton bolls moved through the air so fast folk s thought it was snowin [. .] this trying to make up my mind is too much for me. (Courlander 422-23) Such issues related to racial preconceptions that identified the black slaves as less than human and suited exclusively for work in the se rvice of the white masters will resurge in the movie adaptation of Beloved discussed in chapter 3. Similarly to the Native American myth of a shared origin with the whites, The Origin of the Races, According to Uncle Remu s, an oral African-American tale, humorously explains the emergence of the whites and mulattos from the initial black one: [. .] dey wuz a time wen all de wite fo lks uz black [. .]. But atter wile de news come dat dere wuz a pon er water somers in de naberhood, wich ef deyd git inter deyd be wash off nice en wite, en den one un um, he fine de place en make er splunge inter de pon, en come out wite ez a town gal. En den, bless grashus! wen de fokes seed it, dey make a break fer de pon, en dem wat wuz de soopless, dey got in fu en dey come out wite; [. .] dey got in nex, en dey come out me rlatters. (Courlander 497-8) The primacy of the black race surfaces also in the technique of the toast, defined by Smitherman in Black Language as a narrative folk tale, complete with rhymed lines and poetic imagerygutsy and sexual [. .] a tribute to the hero, who is usually a fearless defiant Black manwhat Black folk approvingly call a bad niggah [. .]. Told in epic fashion, the 41


movement of the Toast proceeds episodical ly with the overriding theme being the omnipotence of Black folk as symbolized in the lone figure of the Black hero (25). Morrisons and implicitly Demmes message propose another type of racial blending foreshadowed in the oral tradition: Denver, as a representative of the first post-Civil War black generation will become part of a new soci al order in which blacks and whites can share education and career opport unities, and she is ready to show (as she states in her conversation with Paul D) that she has the potentia l to compete with the white race. The Talking Book, which Henry L. Gates Jr. calls t he ur-trope of African-American oral traditions (xxv), appeared for the firs t time in James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaws 1770 slave narrative entitled A Narrative of the Most Remarkable Particulars in the Life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, An Af rican Prince, As Related by Himself Born indeed as the son of a tribal chief in Africa, Gronniosaw went from his native prominent status to a state of bewildering and humilia ting slavery, followed by a rise in social status that came with his education, proficiency in English a nd Dutch, liberation from slavery, and marriage to an English lady (Gates 139). The account of his first exposure to the printed word emphasizes the orality of his native culture, but also racial prejudices that will afflict both master and slave in the institution of black slavery and thus will create a literacy racial divide: [My master] used to read prayers in p ublic to the ships crew every Sabbath day; and when I first saw him read, I wa s never so surprised in my life, as when I saw the book talk to my master, for I thought it did, as I observed him to look upon it, and move his lips. I wished it would do so with me. As soon as my master had done reading, I follow ed him to the place where he put the 42


book, being mightily delighted with it, and when nobody saw me, I opened it, and put my ear down close upon it, in gr eat hopes that it would say something to me; but I was very sorry, and grea tly disappointed, when I found that it would not speak. This thought immediatel y presented itself to me, that every body and every thing despised me because I was black. (qtd. in Gates 136) The trickster element abounds in Gullah st ories, authored by African-Americans in Georgia and South Carolina, such as Buh Ra bbit and Buh Wolf Go Hunting and Playing Dead in the Road. In Buh Deer and Buh Sn ail Have a Race, the trickster proves the preeminence of the power of the mind (wisdom) over physical strength: Buh Deah been a-boas dat he de fastes runnah een de worl. Buh Snail say, Buh Deah, I tink I run a race wid you. Dey all laugh at Buh Snail, but he say he want to try to beat Buh Deah, so dey pinted de day fo de race. Buh Deah come to de place weh dey gwine staart, but he not see Buh Snail. But Buh Snail, he deh, an he crawl up easy -like undah Buh Deah tail. Finly Buh Deah say, Well, I wondah weh is dat Snail. I guess he don wan a-run no race. Buh Snail speak up an say, Im hyuh, let de race staart. So Buh Deah went sailin off down de road, an soon he come to de finish place. Big crowd deh. Buh Deah say, Hab anybody seen dat Snail? Dey all laugh an say dey ain shum [see him] So Buh Deah staart to set down, an Buh Snail cry out, Man git up off-a me. I been hyuh long befo you. So dey give de race to Buh Snail. (qtd. in Courlander 297) Unlike the Native American cultures in whic h a matriarchal structure was not always rejected, most of the African-Ame rican traditions record a patria rchal social hierarchy, which 43


is oftentimes supported through Biblical refere nces and which transpires throughout sermons, a dominant genre of oral and written African-American culture. However, a lyrical, rhythmic sermon, Behold the Rib, reprodu ced in Courlanders anthology, A Treasury of Afro-American Folklore positions the woman on partnership terms with the man as part of the grandiose Divine creation. 7 This sermon engages the audience through repetitions of interjections like hah! ah hah! recurrences of the refrain Behold de Rib! pauses that enhance the dramatic oratory, and visual images created by accumulation of short action-driven sentences. The tonalities in this orally transmitted sermon find their echo in Baby Suggs sermons in the clearing, except that T oni Morrisons charact er preaches in Beloved another type of partnership, a unity among freed but still oppressed ex-slaves. Some black sermons, especially the ones in prose like The Poo r-Rich and the RichPoor also part of Courlanders anthology, ma intain a call/response traditionally AfricanAmerican pattern, but become white in their or ganized structure that numbers their evidence points and clearly delineates the introduction, body of text, and c onclusion, but also in their adoption of Standard English as a vehicle of transmission. 8 The adherents to a Black Aesthetic embraced an art for peoples sake principle, and regarded the poet as a performer, a role on which Donald B. Gibs on elaborates: The poet in his reading or performance assumes a role not unlike that of the black preacher, and the audience becomes its congregation (12). Poets like Amiri Baraka, Haki Madhu buti, Nikki Giovanni, and Sonia Sanchez who made a career out of performing their writings, best illustrate the role of the poet as exhorter, interpreter of th ings, namer and definer (Gibson 12). In assessing the oral history of African-A merican culture, connections can always be made between the verbal phases of African my th and ritualistic texts and the twentieth44


century orality of the African-American writi ngs. If the folk character aroused strong feelings of aversion during the pre-Harlem Renai ssance, his dialect remained an attraction as James Weldon Johnsons narra tor explains in his 1912 The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man : The unkempt appearance, the shambling, sl ouching gait and loud ta lk and laughter of these people aroused in me a feeling of almo st repulsion. Only one thing about them awoke a feeling of interest: that was thei r dialect (56). It is important to note in this context that for the turn-of-the-century fiction produced by black writers, it was presumed that the majority of the readership was white (Jones 99). Marxist social-justice proletaria n heroes, which in the 1930s populated the writings of modernist writers like James T. Farrell, Erskine Caldwell, and John Steinbeck, initiated a revival of appr eciation for the traditi onal black and Native American cultures in America (Jones 29). This celebration of the ethnic heritage amplified with the African American write rs contact with the Beats in early 1950s and grew into a vivacious literary affirmation of identity wi thin the American culture based on European models of revolt against the old aristocratic orde r, which propos, held to a literary tradition of condescension toward the peas ant classes often portr ayed in literature as folk comedians (Jones 30, 32). As Gayl Jones notes, attempts to work elements of folklore into literary productions generated new genres in African American poetr y, such as Sterling Browns lyrical-dramatic poem Uncle Joe (33), and reinforced them e, character, composition, and dramatic movement in Ralph Ellisons short st ory Flying Home (99). Zora Neal Hurston breaks a long tradition of black writers whos e characters speak St andard English. She perpetuates minstrel humor and engages her narrat ive in what Gates calls a play of voices intermingled with free indirect discourse (xxv). In her widely acclaimed novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hurston renders Janies thoughts in third-person narrative and 45


paraphrases dialogues, using Af rican-American dialect. More over, as Jones notes, Hurston also brings oratory from the African American folk sermon into Janies and the narratives vocabulary, amplifying and ornamenting the folk voice and interior re velation (137). In passages such as the following one which rend ers Joe Starks first conversation with Janie, Hurstons combination of indire ct dialogue and narration pulsates with the rhythms of fresh dialect: Joe Starks was the name, yeah Joe Starks from in an through Georgy. Been working for white folks all his life. Saved up some moneyround three hundred dollars, yes indeed, right here in his pocket. Kept hearin bout them buildin a new state down heah in Floridy and sort of wanted to come. But he was makin money where he was. But when he heard all about em makin a town all outa colored folks, he knowed dat was de place he wanted to be. He had always wanted to be a big voice but de white folks had all do sayso where he come from and every where else, exceptin dis place dat colored folks was buildin theirselves. Dat wa s right too. De man dat built things oughta boss it. Let colored folks build th ings too if dey wants to crow over somethin. He was glad he had his money all saved up. He meant to git dere whilst de town wuz yet a baby. He mean t to buy in big. It had always been his wish and desire to be a big voice and he had to liv e nearly thirty years to find a chance. Where was Janie s papa and mama? (35-36) In fact, African-American di alect had been used before in poetry, starting with Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906), who, according to James Weldon Johnson, was the first to use [dialect] as a medium for the true inte rpretation of Negro char acter and psychology 46


(Preface First 35). Johnson praises the origin ality of other African-American poets like Langston Hughes and Sterling Brown, whose lan guage is not the dialect of the comic minstrel tradition, but the common, racy, livi ng, authentic speech of the Negro in certain phases of real life (Preface Revised 4). To many scholars, James Baldwins use of dialectal and oratorical vernacular, a technique he shares with white Southern writ ers, appears as unusual. James R. Bennett belongs to this category of sc holars who have not yet assimila ted the mixture of black and white orality in American literature: Although Southern writing can be as laconic as other American colloquial prose, writes Bennett in his Prose Style it also indulges in that public oratory we habitually associate with the Southe rn politician, and which we often hear in the prose of Thomas Wolfe and William Faulkner, of Robert Penn Warren and William Styron, and even, ironically, of James Baldwin [ . ] the oratorical mode shares the characteristics of the colloquial (174). What actually makes Benn etts comments worthwhile for my argument is that he acknowledges the link between oral tr aditions and the producti on of great literature by both white and black accomplished writers who da re to intermingle literary discourse with exclamations, repetitions, uncertain backi ngs and fillings, accumulation of synonyms, and rhetorical emphases [which] all originate in the extemporaneousness of speech, the spontaneous jetting of language that maintains its equilibrium by constant movement forward (Bennett 174). Toni Morrison describes her connections with the freshness and vigor of language and her appreciation of oral traditions in a 1981 interview with Mel Watkins for The New York Times Book Review : 47


And sometimes when the language is right I begin to react to the characters who say certain thingsWhen the la nguage fits and its graceful and powerful and like Ive always remembered black peoples language to be, I am ecstatic. It always seemed to me that black peoples grace has been what they do with language. In Lorrain, Ohi o, when I was a child, I went to school with and heard stories of Mexicans, It alians and Greeks, and I listened. I remember their language and a lot of it was marvelous. But when I think of things my mother or father or aunts us ed to say, it seems the most absolutely striking thing in the world. Thats what I try to get into my fiction. (qtd. in Jones 170) Morrison feeds a vigorous vein of orality in her fiction with the integration of nursery rhymes in The Bluest Eyes the legend of the flying African in Song of Solomon and multiple narrator and spectator techniques in Beloved Of these, the narrator -spectator patterns woven among Sethe, Denver, and Beloved can be traced b ack to the plays and fiction of the African (Ghanaian) writer Efua Sutherland, who in her Anansegoro, for instance, attributes to the same character the functions of narrator, spectator, and on-stage audien ce (Brown, Lloyd 80). Moreover, in Demmes adaptation of Morrisons Beloved the orality will be enhanced with the use of the original patois dialect, which is only mentioned, but not quoted in the novel (see chapter 2). So in this se nse, the mediatized literature revives dialect in a bilingual context (Demme uses English subtitles for that specific scene) more intensely than the fiction authors. As with Native American oral traditions some of the African-American orally transmitted productions deal with the healing of the soul and ot hers with the healing of the 48


body. In a tale collected by Harold Courlande r, the legendary raconteur Richard Creeks explains the difference between conjuring and doctoring, the former being an ingenious (if not fraudulent) way of fooling the patient into recovery, while the la tter proceeds out of a mixture of superstitions and scientific observation. Creeks doctoring acknowledges the power of a black chicken, cut in half with the feathers still on to draw the poison out of a snake bite as well as the power of the moon not only to raise the tides, but also to pull out the fence posts (Courlander 533). Similar pseudo-sc ientific practices will be taken over by Morrisons characters in Beloved when Paul D finds his way to the North by following the tree flowers as recommended by a Cherokee (1 12), and when Baby Suggs doctors Sethe after her escape with th e new-born Denver (93). Signifying, one of the major features of Af rican-American literary tradition clearly stems from oral practices. Kochman defi nes signifying as provocation, goading and taunting (257). Gates judges Hurstons Their Eyes as a paradigmatic Signifyin(g) text because of its representations, through several subtexts or embedded narratives presen ted as the characters discourse, of traditional black rhetorical games or ritual s. It is the texts imitation of these examples of traditionally black rhetorical rituals and modes of storytelling that allows us to think of it as a speakerly text. For in a speakerly text certain rhetorical structures seem to exist primarily as representations of oral narration, rather than as integral aspect s of plot or character development. (193-94) 49


One of the most relevant examples thereof ar e the stories and jokes the people of the town gather to tell on the porch on Saturday nights such as the dialogues of two alleged suitors, Jim and Dave who dispute their love for Daisy: Dave: Well all right, less prove dis th ing right now. Well prove right now who love dis gal de best. How much time is you willin tuh make fuh Daisy? Jim: Twenty yeahs! Dave: See? Ah told yuh dat nigger didn t love yuh. Me, Ahll beg de Judge tuh hang me, and wouldnt take nothin less than life. (83) None of the involved characte rs are fully developed in th e novel, but their weekend entertainment evokes the language and the spir it of the African-American community with all the ritualistic significations attached to such an event. In his study of African-American literature, The Signifying Monkey Gates proposes the following formula for Standard English: signification = signified = concept signifier sound-image while for the African-American vernacular, he derives a new equation: Signification = rhetorical figures (48). signifier Based on Gates equations, the Western Saussurian paradigm of signification derives meaning from the two clear-cut components of the linguistic sign, whereas in the AfricanAmerican oral tradition, meaning emerges fr om multi-layered rhetorical figures and a signifier, which is most likely aural (since pictographic expre ssion is not as frequent in African-American oral communities as it was with the Native Americans). The orality of 50


signification and its richness of meaning reveal not only the ve rsatility of African-American dialect, but also its adaptability to media, i.e. film re-telling 51


1. 3. The Hispanic-American Oral History Within oral communities, history was limited to recording feats of individual heroes and singular events. Emerging hi storical scholarship shifted th e focus toward the diachronic identity of select groups and minorities. Current oral history follows both tendencies, but the emphasis still falls on the individual as a repr esentative of his community and culture of origin. As Devra Anne Weber observes, the Hispan ic oral histories feed on memory and dialogues and are shaped to a gr eat extent by the interaction between teller a nd interviewer (175). The account of a simple Mexican woma n, Mrs. Rosaura Valdez, about the Mexican revolution focuses not on the opposing ideologi es, but on hunger, fear, and death (Weber 177), as much as Le Ly Hayslips account of the Vietnam war dealt primarily with the devastation of families and only laterally with politics. Valdezs story of the 1933 cotton strike impersonates a collective voice while also rendering the vibrations and the inflections in the voices of the hungry, of the desp erate, and of the rebels. As she pitches and lowers her voice to recount the words of other characters, Valdez assumes roles and acts out her story as if performing an one-actor dram a. Valdezs account also carries collective values and attitudes, such as the antagonism against the Anglo colonizers and the multiple internal factions and differences between the strikers (so similar to the platform of the American Indian Movement). The conscience of the conquered that tr anspires through this story reverberates with acts of oppression a nd symbols of revolt; the Corcoran camp at the 52


1933 cotton strikes becomes another Wounded Knee. As Weber observes, in this particular case, this individual story-teller leaves out essential historical data in her attempt to present clear-cut moral dichotomies of cruel bosses and oppressed workers, which makes her a limited and inaccurate source. Doa Teodora, the old Mexican woman wh om Raquel Rubio-Goldsmith interviews never kept a diary, but she opens up in an in terview as a valuable repository of stories and family genealogies (161). Rubio-Goldsmith makes the point that with a sheer lack of census reports, church records, directories, and other such statistic al information, oral accounts of Mexican matriarchs make the history, even if only an oral one, of a conquered nation who comes back to colonize its colonize rs (162). Thus, memorization and the modern means of tape-recorded interviews remain the major vehicles of orally transmitted Hispanic literature/history. In the context of the traditio nally male-oriented Hispanic societies and of the Anglo-Saxon dominance as part of the colonial intera ctions at work, the oral traditions of the Latin Americans on United States territory encapsulate particular so cio-linguistic features such as machismo and bilingualism. As Rubio-Goldsmith contends, Mexicanas have lived in worlds of two (sometimes three) language s. Our Spanish vocabulary has increased with new technology and different relationships. At times the lexicon has implied political and collective assertion, at times it has been the vehicle to a ssert individual ex istence (171). If nothing else, such oral reports do render a kind of history, an individualized one, filtered through the cultural, economic, and inte llectual perspective of the individual storyteller. But they also se t the tone for performative historias, a term that means both history and story in Spanish. Weber acknowledges that ora l traditions are often also an art form, drama and literature (179). At the end of the twentieth-century, hispanic telenovelas (soap53


operas) and screen adaptations of Hispanic fiction produced in the United States (i.e. Oscar Hijueloss novel and its movie adaptation The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love ) re-enact the voluptuous rhythms and the upbeat pace of the oral telling of stories while maintaining the sense of tragedy, honor, revenge, and quixotic idealism so characteristic of the Latin American culture. 54


1. 4. The Asian-American Oral Traditions Chinese-American oral traditions foll ow patterns similar to Afroand Native American storytelling. In Mary Slowiks word s, A story is told and remembered only in relation to the immediate demands of life. A story is a moral tale intended to teach a lesson not only with ethical content, but with practical content about family and livelihood crucial to physical and cultural survival (250). Moreover, orality can assume e xpiatory functions and even comes to replace textual material mean ing with locus signification. Maxine Hong Kingstons China Men, very much in the spirit of Amy Tans The Joy Luck Club (discussed in chapters 2 and 3) poses issues of failed emigration and immigration. In Kingstons story On Fathers, the China men in Hawaii plow a huge hole in the ground and yell into it their confessions of sin with Polynesian women in an attempt to communicate with their wives in China. It is their belief that the green shoots springing from their confessional ground will tell and retell their stories to future genera tions. One of the charac ters in the story, Bak Goong, explains this act: Tha t wasnt a customWe made it up. We can make up customs because were the founding ancestors of this place (117-118). At that specific location, the generations will meet again and again and re-ena ct and re-live the story. With an eye on the Oriental karmic cycles, Slowik interprets this transmission of oral liter ature as a process in which the ancestral spirits come very close, the generations again overlap, the ancestral home is created and renewed (259). The Asia n traditional family kneels at a shrine and worships their ancestors, whom they elevat e to the rank of gods, and whose spirits are believed to accompany and guide the living members of the family. 55


The inherently oral character of the cultu ral discourse becomes evident in Maxine Hong Kingstons story On Discovery, in which, as Mary Slowik notes, the author strives to find the ground where oral and written traditi ons meet, where pre-lite rate and post-literate stories can question and ultimately free each othe r (247). The narrative voice in Kingstons China Men speaks with the authority of myth, histor icism, and scholarship (Slowik 247). As Slowik notes, theres an acknowledged ag reement between narrator and audience. Everyone accepts without questi on the story to be told. The heroes and victims are unchanging in an unchangeable world. Their lives are fated as the story drives them unerringly to their pre-conceived ends (247). Kingston makes her stories the possession and invention of the audience, makes them audi ence-generated tales, and thus opens the post-modern storys dilemmas to the pre-mode rn methods of storyt elling (Slowik 248). Jarold Ramseys postulations thoroughly apply to the histrionic character of Asian oral traditions: the pre-literate audience understands story as theater, and as oral performances that encourage reacting in daily life (Ramsey xv ii-xxxiii). As with any oral texts, the narrator plays the ro le of a supreme plagiarist w ho disappears immediately after the performance and thus entrusts the text back to its public authorship. The re-telling of the story does not displace the narrator, nor does it assert the primacy of text or its multiple layers of meaning (Slowik 249). 56


* * As demonstrated in this chapter, oralit y does not necessarily label a culture as inferior, nor have oral dissemination patterns al ways proved inefficient. If in the pre-writing times, primary orality was the only means to pe rpetuate cultural identity, the twentieth century sees an affluence of oral forms interm ingled in literary writ ings, and in the 1990s, secondary orality mediated through television, fi lm, and radio will produce a dramatic revival of the taste for reading and for culture assimilation in the post-printing era of a literate global village. After establishing the main features of oral traditional literature both in general terms and diachronically with a review of oral traditi ons of ethnic groups (AfricanAmerican, Native American, Hispanic, and Asia n), the task lies ahead in the following chapters to apply this theoretical background to literary broadcast pr oductions of the 1990s and to answer in the last chap ter, a question initially posed by Wiget about oral literature, How can that which is unwritten, that is with out letters, be called literature? (Native American 3), in other words, How can that which is broadcast be called literature? 57


Chapter Two Literature in Film: A Postmodern Spectacle 2. 1. Orality, the Subject of Film Literature, starting with the Modernist writ ings, has made a mission of reflecting not only the oral tradition rites, but also the ever-increasing influenc e of the camera. I got some popcorn, Nancy tells her audience in Faulkners short story That Evening Sun (304). The image of the white masters children gather ed around Nancy, their black nanny, expecting popcorn and a story, is the nineteenth-century co unterpart of twentiethcentury spoiled brats swapping in the VCR their Lion King video while inadvertently dropping popcorn all over the sofa. It is an anticipation of laid b ack teenagers buying overpriced popcorn at the concession stand of the movie theater in their small town USA where nothing happens, and precisely because nothing extraordinary happens in their world, they are ambling toward a dark room where they slouch on a seat and wait for the big screen (which has replaced Nancy) to tell them about a time and a place where the action is. And perhaps Tennessee Williams was right when he voiced through his character, Tom, in The Glass Menagerie, a major psycho-social anxiety of th e Modernity: People go to the movies instead of moving! Hollywood characters are supposed to have al l the adventures for everybody in America, while everybody in America sits in a dark room and watches them have them! (1055) 58


Tell us a story, Caddy says. Can you tell us a story? (Faul kner 302). And Nancy tells the children a story, Nanc y, the repository of centuries of African orality and American hybridization, Nancy, the archetypal black storyte ller, sets in motion a complex performance that can easily compete with that of twen tieth-century Hollywoodian Oscar-winners: She told a story. She talked like her eyes looked, like her eyes watching us and her voice talking to us did not belong to her. Like she was living somewhere else, waiting somewhere else. She was outside the cabin. Her voice was inside and the shape of her, the Nancy that could stoop under a barbed wired fence with a bundle of cl othes balanced on her head as though without weight, like a balloon, wa s there. (Faulkner 302) In his extensive anthology of black fo lklore, Harold Courlander ponders: In the American rural south the role of the storytel ler of distinction slow ly gave ground in this century to radio, television, a nd other mass media of communication (501). Courlander is right, but although storytelling changed media, much of the twentie th-century audience shares the same ageless boredom and curiosity implied in Faulkners story and in Tennessee Williamss play. The thirst for new grat ifying sensations and new epistemological experiences becomes part of the drama of the twentieth-century entertainment consumer who more often than not fails to find pleasure ev en in the variety and the glamour of Hollywood productions, as Nathaniel West writes in his novel, The Day of the Locust: Nothing happens. They dont know what to do with their time. [. .] Their boredom becomes more and more terrible. [. .] Every day of their lives they read the newspapers and went to the movies. Both fed them on lynchings, 59


murder, sex crimes, explosions, wrec ks, love nests, fires, miracles, revolutions, wars. This daily diet made sophisticates of them. [. .] Nothing can ever be violent en ough to make taut their slack minds and bodies. (192-3) Thus, in a century marked by the emergence of television, radio, and escalating Hollywoodian film art, the masses turn to the or ality of mass media and absorb its stories, not necessarily out of a sense of cultural identity and not to perpetuate the su rvival of their tribe, as the oral communities did in the past, but out of despair, in a frantic attempt to acquire personal fulfillment, chasing a chimerical happiness and in a perpetual search for the meaning of their existence. Most of twentieth-century fiction characters realize the futility of their spiritual quest through the Hollywoodian culture, bu t, although debunking the reality and the fake fulfillment in cinema, they experience abortive attempts to make their own story, to write the script of their life, as Tom Wingfield does in Tennessee Williamss play The Glass Menagerie when he shares with Jim OConnor his decision to divorce a life of watching movies for a life of personal fulfillment: But Im not patient. I dont want to wait until then. Im tired of the movies and I am about to move! (1055) Oprah Winfrey herself felt the tremendous impact of the movies when as a child she went through a phase of measuring her self-image by the racial beauty standards set by someone like the white childstar, Shirley Temple: I used to sleep with a clothespin on my nose, and two cotton balls, confesses Oprah about her endeavors to beco me like her idol actress. And I couldnt breathe and all I would do is wake up with tw o clothespin prints on the side of my nose, trying to get it to turn up. I wanted Shirley Te mple curls; thats what I prayed for all the time (Adler 3). Theres a yearning in Oprahs words that reminds of Pecola Breedloves 60


prayers for blue eyes and of the fascination her mother, Pauline, had with the hairdo of actress Jean Harlow in Toni Morrisons novel, The Bluest Eye (123). Spoken or written, the words that make up human cultural discourse maintain a magic quality. If Ong reminds us that oral socie ties held the words as having magical potency (32), Neil Postman has it that the electronic technology, which is also involved in filmmaking, has its magic as well. As Neil Post man acknowledges, the end of the twentieth century saw a shift from the magic of writi ng to the magic of elec tronics (13), but the magic stays nevertheless and continues to tri gger action and work tr ansformations in the audiences as much as the oral traditional performances did. In 1951, in his book berlieferung und Persnlichkeit Gottfried Henssen stressed the effect of human personality and background in the development of popular tradition. Toward the end of his career Henssen began to employ sound film to capture the magic of stor ytelling sessions and to highlight the interaction between tale-tellers and thei r audiences. With all the nuances of word, sight, sound, and gesture portra yed in simultaneous response and interaction, folktales could at last be captured in their full dimension and richness. This was the true Mrchenbiologie envisioned by Henssen and his fellow workers. In the Wossidlo Festschrift [. .], Henssen went so far as to say, Nicht die Erforschung des Erzhlgut es an sich, sondern die Erforschung des Volkscharakters durch das Erzhlgut ist das Endziel Not the study of folk narrative per se, but the study of folk character through folk narrative that is the goal 9 (Hand ix). 61


Henssens experiment shows film technology at work when it comes to enhancing the performative qualities of highly oral folktales, but also as a medium that facilitates the scholarly endeavors to analyze th e characters of such stories; thus, film plays not only a role of re-enacting orality, but also of re-teaching it. Similar findings appear in Manthia Diawar as article, Oral Li terature and African Film, which reproduces the views of several African film-makers who participated at the Ninth Ouagadougou Film Festival held in Fesp aco in 1985. Diawara asserts that oral literature in native dialects a nd African theatre represent a better source for films than African literatures written in the languages of the colonizers, and mostly important that orality becomes the subject of the film while film itself emerges as oral literature (200201). However, in this process, the presence of the film-maker as auteur takes precedence over the narrator of the litera ry text, and the off-screen narrator who performs voiceovers replaces the griot or the stor yteller (201-2). Another phenome non that Diawara points to is the film-makers mission of creating contemporary forms and contents out of oral literature (205). In this context, Diawar a explains that the director uses the functions from oral literature to enunciate a new narrative posing the conditions of resistance to traditional order and the creation of a new one (206). In other words, the narrator of the oral story is interested in restoring the status quo where there is chaos, while the film-maker rejects the existing order and proposes an alte rnative system (Diawara 208). The interdependence and similarities of media employed in film, and also in primitive oral productions, for that matter, becomes en lightened by Bruce Morrissettes observations. Almost in the same fashion as automatic writing, the film was considered to be the cinematography of thought, even of the unc onscious, writes Morri ssette, treading on 62


Jungian paths that explain the collective and thus unconsciousness-grounded oral literature. Poetry is metaphoric; the film is, or can be, metaphoric, co ntinues Morrisse tte, only to conclude that therefore film was poetry, and the aesthetic res ponse to it was substantially the same as that evoked by verbal poetry, t hough perhaps more immediate or intense, since the verbal path was short-circuited, as in the pure poetic state recognized by the surrealists in dreams (13). On the same line, Leland Poague argues that films and literature share the same medium, namely neither language or celluloid, but rather the stream of human consciousness, the human imagination whic h includes the artists recollection (both conscious and unconscious) (89). Timothy Corrigan supports the thesis of this study, namely that film emerged and developed as an extension of oral dissemination of stories, when he writes that Griffiths transition from one-reel shorts to narratives of ninety to one hundred minutes came from the desire to tell stories ( Film 21). And if the desire to tell st ories is as old as mankind, and as ancient as oral traditions, no wonder that Andr Bazin argues that the concept of cinema existed fully armed in the minds of people of Greece and of the Renaissance times (17). 63


2. 2. Authorship The participation of the uncons cious and of the consciousness in the process of oral production complicates the defini tion of authorship (largely viewed as collective), among which are copyright rules, style, and the content of oral cultur al messages. Referring to the property laws of songs as cultura l oral texts with the Flathead Indians, Merriam Alan verifies that personal songs obtained from a guardian spirit are individually owned and clearly fall into the category of intangible goods. Transferability of owne rship to another individual is questionable today, although such transfer seems clearly to have been practiced in the past (30). It is the sacral function of such spirit-inspired songs th at conditions their individual ownership. Discussing sacred oral texts, Jung mentions the multiple roles played by the medicine man as authorial voice of primitive soci eties. He is, like the anima, an immortal daemon that pierces the chaotic darkness of brute life with the light of meaning, writes Jung. He is the enlightener, the master and teacher (Archetypes 37). Social songs, on the other hand, such as those meant for War Dances are not individually owned but are rather the property of anyone who wishes to use th em. Merriam remarks that there is evidence that such songs were actually indi vidually owned in the past (30). Along the same lines, for established twentie th-century fiction writers, the text of their novels constitutes sacred property in our society, and th e authors benefit from certain 64


copyright rights comparable to those ascribed to the spiritual leaders in oral societies. However, when such novels are remediated into film, the reality is that the authorship of the new cinema text becomes collective. A m ovie represents a product produced through the convergent efforts of a multitude of participants in the same way that an oral text at a certain point in time constitutes the essence of all its prev ious performers, authors, and transmitters. Extrapolating on the French clich Le style cest lhomme, Wittgenstein contributes an addition to it, changing it to Le style c est lhomme mme, and explains that this second correct version opens up quite a different perspective. It says that a mans style is a picture of him (78e). In the light of Wittgensteins 1948 remark, it would be interesting to pose some rhetoric questions about the mate rializations of style(s) in 1990s movie adaptations: To what extent the movie pict ures mirror anymore a picture of the novelists style, or of him for that matter? Or do they hold up a picture of the directors style only? A perfect coordination between the writer and the director often becomes impossible if nothing else because of generational diffe rences or due to the death of the writer at the time the movie is produced 10 The authors involved in the production of a screen adaptation face, more often than not, decision-making processes that will eventua lly lead to the alteration of the original fiction piece. The diffe rence between author and auteur is so great that one wonders whether or not it is better to consider them ap art rather than together, exclaims Deborah Carmell in her Introduction to Adaptations. In the case of adaptations, she argues that the author plays less than second fiddle to the auteur ; the literary text is far from sacred (26). The literary text will obviously be tampered with in the process of a screen adaptation. Nowadays, we do not expect film adaptations to accurately and entirely follow the original 65


novel. The film industry realized the impossi bility of accurate adaptations when Erich Von Stroheim, hired by MGM in the mid-1920s, transcribed Frank Norriss McTeague into a 10hour super-expensive production that not only was a financial flop, but also failed to earn any artistic credits (Tibbetts Introduc tion xvi). Wise also justifies a directors curtailing of the original literary work as follows: the noveli st can provide such density of detail and a multiplicity of episode that is quite impossible for the filmmaker to include it all. You have to condense and boil things down (vii). As for the authors secondary role in the script mentioned by Carmell, that is not always the case. In some instances, as Tibbett s shows, once the rights are sold, the artist has relinquished control and has no le gitimate basis for complaint (Introduction xviii). In other cases, the writer of the fiction on which the movi e is based becomes part of the scriptwriting team. For instance, the fact that the director of The Joy Luck Club adaptation, Wayne Wang, shares an Asian ancestry (he was born in Hong Kong) and that Amy Tan was allowed to contribute to the screenplay t ogether with Ronald Bass made all the difference in preserving an authentic authorial discourse in the movie. For other adapta tions, the input of the director (and/or scriptwriters) produces a better narrative than the original fiction work. Dances with Wolves remains one of the few postmodern adaptations that not only displays a higher artistic quality than Blakes at times clumsy narrative, but also illustrates that th e talent of a director (Costner) combined with the drive of a writer (B lake is allowed in this case to author the script) can result in the production of a classic. Yet other times, the scriptwriters strive to preserve as much as possible of the dramatic content of the novel as it was the case of Beloved The overwhelming value of a Pulitzer-winning manuscript compelled the three scriptwriters of the movie Be loved, Akosua Busia, Richard LaGravenese, and Adam Brooks, 66


to maintain most of the script for the movie Beloved within the boundaries of Morrisons dialogues and descriptions. As much as the community leaders in the oral societies who had control of over the production and the transmission of cultural text s (literature), the au thors of fiction and fiction-based movies in the 1990s are strongly involved in the life of the community. The directors seem to abide even more than the writers by community standards, which enhances their similarity to oral literature authors. An important part of the literature of the 1990s, especially the novels that carry a significant sociopolitical message, was authored by writers who had a career in the field they tackle in their fiction. Mich ael Crichton, a doctor, uses his genetics background to present the possibility of a potential bio-engineerin g catastrophic development in Jurassic Park, whereas John Grishams novel The Firm clearly evinces the authors background as former defense attorney. Himself a participant in the Vietnam war as an Air Guard pilot and an experienced writer, Ja y Wurts shows his closeness to the horror of this war in When Heaven and Earth Changed Places James Hayslip, on the other hand, a child at the time he experienced war, impart s his American matter-offactness to the narrative of the sequel, Child of War Although the authorial voice of Le Ly Hayslip evolves from a struggling victim in When Heaven and Earth Changed Places to an independent woman in its sequel Child of War, Woman of Peace Oliver Stone maintains a coherent, unchanged, tender-strong and compassionate narrative voi ce for Le Ly throughout his movie. Le Ly Hayslip never monopolized the auth orial function since she resort ed to co-authors for both of her novels, but in Stones adaptation, she re mains a first-person narrative voice manipulated by Stones input both as a dire ctor and screenplay writer. 67


For Paul Matthiessen, th e task of writing In the Spirit of Crazy Horse involved a humongous amount of research spread over several ye ars, but also the risk of legal or lethal repercussions from either the governmental author ities or the AIM leaders. This is why the author covers his bases from all sides: on the one hand, he repeatedly st ates his support of the Indians, but on the other hand, he presents the other sides pe rspective as objectively as possible. His novel offers fair representati on for both the FBI abuses and wrongdoings, as much as Wilsons, and the AIM s vulnerabilities: the sheer fa cts that AIM had weapons and that some of its members led disorganized lives and were potentially in touch with the Communists. Nor does Matthiessen leave out any subvers ive statements or details that show the Indians rebellion against the governmen t of the U.S. Because of the way his book presents the facts within the acc ess to documents he could get, the reader is offered fair chances to side with either party. After the publication of his book, Matthiessen was sued by the FBI Special Agent David Price and by the Dakota governor, William Janklow. Judge Murphy, and respectively Judge Kean, favored the author, arguing that his right to express his biased opinion in favor of the Indians is protected by the First Amendment, and that whatever he wrote against the FBI and the gove rnment could not be proved to have been done with actual malice, as established by the precedent in the NY Times vs. Sullivan trial. Perhaps with this experience in mind, when Michael Apted adapted Matthiessens book, nine years after its 1983 publication, he avoide d any contentious political content 11 One of the most complex authorial pattern s in a 1990s novel can be found in Robert James Wallers novel, The Bridges of Madison County In The Beginning section of the book, Waller describes his experience of meeti ng Francescas children and of hearing the story from them: 68


[. .] As they talk, I begin to see th e images. First you must have the images, then come the words. And I begin to hear the words, begin to see them on pages of writing. ( viii ) Aside from affirming the precedence of oral ity and images (cinematic media) over the written word in the birth of a story, Wa llers statement acknowle dges the children as storytellers, and thus as au thors of the story before him. Although Waller assumes an authorial function throughout the pu lp of the book, at the end, in the documents he attaches to the novel after his own storytelling comes to a halt, he yields the authorial/narrative voices to Robert Kincaid with his attached essay entitled Falling from Dimension Z , to Francesca by inserting the letter she wrote to her children in A Letter from Francesca , and ultimately to Nighthawk Cummings with whom Waller carrie d on an interview transcribed in the last appendix to the novel, Postscript: The T acoma Nighthawk. The narrative will be sustained through the talking book trope in the movie as readi ngs from Francescas journal and letter, by her children, initia te and carry on th e storytelling. By the same token, Ellroy, in L.A. Confidential, diminishes his authorial role to that of an investigator that only pl aces his findings on the table for the reader since crucial events, like the suicide of P. Exley, Dieterling, and Inez, as well as Loews resignation, are pasted in as extracts of newspaper articles. Thus, the public voices of mass information means (newspapers in this case) become in Ellroys novel, and similarly in its movie adaptation, the collective authorial voice. The issue of authorship becomes so much more complex in movies than in fiction, since all the persons involved in their production--actors, director scriptwriter, and the rest of the crew--form an authorial body, a replica of the collective au thor in the oral tradition 12 69


Oftentimes, the authorship will be implied in a movie through narrative devices, whether they be voiceovers or camera discourse. In Oliver Stones Heaven and Earth, for instance, the protagonist, Le Ly, of ten intervenes to voiceover 13 the story, suggesting that the film is told by the writer of the book, as well 14 Another consideration in disc ussing film authorship is th at both film and the oral tradition operate on subjective narratorial patt erns. Grard Gennette best explains the narrator/author roles as desc ribed in Book 3 of Platos Republic : Plato contrasts two narrative modes, according to whether the poet himself is the speaker and does not even attempt to suggest to us that anyone but himself is speaking (t his is what Plato calls pure narrative [ diegesis ]), or whether, on the other hand, the poet delivers a speech as if he were someone else (as if he were such-and-such a char acter), if we are dealing with spoken words (this is what Plato properly calls imitation, or mimesis ). (162) Although some scholarship, Gennette and Chat mans works included, identifies narrative with diegesis and drama with mimesis (Chatman 110), no clear-cut distinctions exists between the two genres and authorial approaches What is clear is that simply putting a camera in front of a scene [. .] changes the mo st realistic situation into a kind of theatrical setting (Corrigan Short Guide 47). In the case of Heaven and Earth, the voiceover remains under the mimesis category, since the actual narration in the m ovie does not belong to Mrs. Hayslip, but to Hiep Thi Le, the actress who interprets Le Lys role, or in Chatmans terms, the presenter or the show-er. 15 Of course, the cinematic narrator is not to be identified with the voice-over narrator (Chatman 134), but ne ither can I accept the c oncept of impersonal agent as cinematic narrator (Chatman 137). 70


The only impersonal (but persons-operated) agent in cinematic narration is the camera. The use of focalization in movies as a counterpart of literary point of view, as Chatman suggests (139), becomes problematic because of potential confusions with the technical processes of camera discourse. In movies, the technical term point of view usually refers to camera movements that entail pan shots, crane shots, shot/reverse shots, crane shots, tracking shots, and to camera a ngle (low, high, tilted), while focus determines the closeness of camera to the object being filmed, hence close-ups, medium shots, long shots, 3/4s, and the camera tr eatment of the object as in shallow focus or rack focus However, Corrigan explains the term point of view in film also from a narratorial perspective as the perspective from which the st ory is being shown or to ld, a perspective that he deems objective since it represents a co mposite of various characters voices (Short Guide 43). Thus, if I combine the two definitions, I can conclude that the camera discourse is indeed dictated by directing choices that include not only technical fo calization, but also a certain focus on the construction of characters The fact that the director makes such decisions together with his crew does not n ecessarily make them objective, but rather inclusive at the most. Several voices in current scholarship have come to ag ree in the conversation on the objectivity of film discourse. Sege r points out that The narrator in the novel tells us about a subjective experience, but the f ilm, through its visuals, shows us an objective experience (25). And along the same lines, James Monaco explains that the complexity of authorial voices in a film production contributes to the objective sl ant of the camera discourse: [. .] novels are told by the author. We see and hear only what he wants us to see and hear. Films are, in a sense, told by their authors too, but we see and 71


hear a great deal more than a director necessarily intends. . More important, whatever the novelist descri bes is filtered through his language, his prejudices, and his point of view. With films we have a certain amount of freedom to choose, to select one detail or another. (29-30) Nothing could be more imprecise. In art, no thing is objective, rega rdless of how much the Modernists yearned for th e objective correlative. 16 A subjectivism encouraged by impersonal techniques such as indis criminate sympathy or compassion and indiscriminate irony can in Wayne C. Boot hs opinion, ruin a novel (83-86). Based on Booths criteria, a la rge number of acclaimed literary works are not subjective in the sentimentalist manner. But an art work is su bjective through the mere f act that it emerges as the product of one or more subjects, or subjective individuals called au thors or auteurs who bring to the act of creation th eir own conscious and the collec tive unconscious. The camera is far from ever being objective if we can only think of all the cam era manipulations that have become possible with todays technol ogy. The camera shows us exactly what the directors subjective inte ntions want us to see. The fact that viewers have more freedom to focus on one detail or another, as Monaco st resses, does not prove in the least that camera discourse is objective, but rather that film has the capability to present more simultaneous texts than fiction (movement, language, color, et c.) in a frame as opposed to a book page. 72


2. 3. The Audience of Oral Literary Products In terms of the audiences involvement w ith the production of linguistic signs, it is important to note that the simultaneous presence of the speaker and hearer at the moment of the creation, transmission, and reception of th e oral cultural message challenges traditional parameters of the reader-respons e theory, which implies the ab sence of the direct contact between author and reader at the moment of transmission and reception of a literary text. However, oral tradition texts, as much as film, television, and radio, prompt immediate, intense reactions from the audience although these hearer/viewer responses may be shallower and shorter-lived than those of a reader. Oral tradition car riers and performers always manifest concern with appealing to their au diences. Andrew Wiget observes that in performative terms, then, the representational a im of verbal art is to create a sense of verisimilitude appropriate to the nature of the communication which engrosses the audience sufficiently to preclude serious que stions of credibility that thr eaten to destroy the frame of the communication (Native American 8). W ithin American Indian traditions of oral storytelling, explains Susan Berry Brill de Ra mrez, there is a power that actually transforms the listener through her or his enga gement with the story (6). According to Wiget, the insertion and constant repetition of reportatives (they sa id, he said, etc.) constitute one of the means of enhancing the cr edibility of the narrator. By the same token, 73


film, television and radio develop the appeal of their linguistic signs through sophisticated contexts of computerized graphic manipulati ons and sound special effects (combinations of music, voice, and diegetic/nondiegetic sounds). In the context of the social impact of oral utterances as opposed to written text, writing, declares Jacques Derri da, in the common sense is the dead letter, it is the carrier of death because it signifies the absence of the speaker (Derrida qtd. in Spivak, xl) 17 Twentieth-century audiences display a necessity for the presence of the speaker very similar to that of the oral populations. Given th e long work hours and the humongous number of available entertainments options among which the twentieth-century audiences have to negotiate their time, more and more people prefer oral, abbrev iated literary products. Ong provides an evident premise for my argum ent: Today primary oral culture in the strict sense hardly exists, he writes in the 1980s. And he continue s, Still, to varying degrees many cultures and subcultures, even in a high-technol ogy ambiance, preserve much of the mind-set of primary oral ity (11). Marshall McLuhan ha d already signaled one of the features of such a mind-set in his seminal study Understanding Media : Man the foodgatherer reappears incongruously as informati on-gatherer, writes McLuhan. In this role, the electronic man is no less a nomad than his Paleolithic ancestor s (248). Although we may agree that the American literature c onsumer in the 1990s trades and assimilates information with a metaphoric hunger and necess ity similar to that of his food-gathering ancestors, it is important to discuss the transmission modes through which literary discourse circulates. Ultimately, both fiction and f ilm aim at stimulating the audiences perceptions of 74


ideas, events, and people. In his 1897 preface to Nigger of the Narcissus Joseph Conrad expresses an artistic creed too bold for his time when arts agenda was geared toward exclusively pleasing its audience : My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make yo u feelit is, before all, to make you see (83). In 1913, Griffith makes a strikingly simila r profession: The task Im trying to achieve is above all to make you see (Jacobs 119). W ith fiction, readers mentally construct a complex of images and situations, whereas watching a movie offers the images ready for consumption. Whether reading a novel or wa tching a movie, the audience does have to process images. In the case of written literature the readers create for themselves mental images with the help of the information provide d in the printed medium. In the case of mediated literature (film), the viewers process visual images already created by the producers/actors. However, a well-done movie, as much as oral performances, will always stimulate the mental vision of its viewers. Chatman argue s that the viewer or consumer of cinema reconstructs the films narrative (along with other features) from the set of cues encoded in the film (127). George Bluestone points out th at the film medium presents a disadvantage in rendering states of mind, inner thoughts, and the like, as opposed to the fictions descriptions versatility. The film, by arranging external signs for our visual perception, or by presenting us with dialogue, can lead us to infer thought, writes Blue stone. But it cannot show us thought directly. It can show us characters thinking, feeling, and speaking, but it cannot show us their though ts and feelings. A film is not thought, it is perceived ( Novels 48). An educated consumer would react to a complex text, regardless of the media that transmits it. With Seymour Chatmans co mprehensive definition of text that includes 75


any communication that temporally controls its reception by the audience (7), I can extrapolate to affirm that music, mis-en-scn e, acting, framing, and all the other elements that compose what Aristotle called opsis (spectacle) are all texts. As Chatman shows, texts can be written, drawn, mimed, acted, sung, dance d, painted on canvas, projected as shadows on movie screens, illuminated by pixils on tele vision sets (38). Along these lines, I can also argue that the films multi-textual capabilities mirror the complexity of the multi-media and multi-textual oral performances. To place orality concepts of consciousness and mental activity into the context of the cinema consumption, it is useful to consider Henri Bergsons rationalization of the processes of the intellect: [. .] preoccupied before everythi ng with the necessities of action, the intellect, like the senses, is limited to taking, at intervals, views that are instantaneous and by that very fact im mobile of the becoming of matter. Consciousness, being in its turn formed on the intellect, sees clearly of the inner life what is already made, and on ly feels confusedly the making. Thus, we pluck out of duration those moments that interest us, and that we have gathered along its course. These alon e we retain. And we are right in so doing, while action only is in question. (297) Further, Bergson equalizes the mental perc eption of reality with the cinematographic mechanism of fragmented intake: Instead of attaching ours elves to the inner becoming of things, we place ourselves outside them in order to re compose their becoming artificially. We take snapshots, as it were, of the pass ing reality, we have only to string them 76


on a becoming, abstract, uniform and invisi ble, situated at the back of the apparatus of knowledge, in order to imitate what there is that is characteristic in this becoming itself. Perception, intellection, language so proceed in general. Whether we would think becomi ng, or express it, or even perceive it, we hardly do anything else than set goi ng a kind of cinematograph inside us. We may therefore sum up what we have been saying in the conclusion that the mechanism of our ordinary knowledge is of a cinematographical kind (332) The Bergsonian theories persuade us to view cinema not as a twentieth-century technological advancement, but as an extensi on of the human psycho-mental system, a reality or a mode of perceiving reality as old as mankind, as old as orality, and implicitly as polyphonic as orality. In terms of polyphony and heteroglossia, cinema, as much as fiction, entails a potential of infinite significations, but also the capability of fostering illusory constructs. The polysemantic nature of the text and the illusion-making of the reader are opposed factors, observes W. Iser. If the illusion were complete, the polysemantic nature would vanish; if the polysemantic nature were all-powerful, the illusion would be totally destroyed (962). Further, Laura Mulvey analyz es the illusion function of cinema as a result of the physical separation betw een the viewer and the scree n, as the extreme contrast between the darkness in the aud itorium (which also isolates the spectators from one another) and the brilliance of the shifting patterns of light and shade on the screen helps to promote the illusion of voyeuristic separation (9). Ne vertheless, psychologicall y, the viewer has the illusion of looking in on a private world (Mulvey 7). With oral tradition, the audience experienced a live performance within reasonable physical proximity, but because of tribal 77


taboos, the staging did not always offer the audi ence the privilege of peeking into the privacy of the characters. (For more on this subject, see the Eroticis m section of chapter 3). Thus, it is a combination of magic (ill usion) and polysemy that makes cinema unexhaustable, as much as fiction is, according to John Barth. I agree with Borges, writes Barth in 1980, that literature can never be e xhausted, if only because no single literary text can ever be exhaustedits meaning residing as it does in its transactions with individual readers over time, space, and language (The Literature of Replenishment 71). The meaning, whether it be the Saussurian signifi ed or the African-Ame rican signifying oral technique, only requires a more complex a nd more rapid decodification when remediated through cinema. 78


2. 4. Narrative and Language in the Camera Oral Discourse As shown in the Introduction of this study, th e oral traditions st rongly impacted the written literature. The oral cinema trad ition plays a similar role on Modern and Contemporary American literature. And as with the oral trad ition, the influence of cinema orality on canonical literature remains controversial. If Charlie Chaplin anticipat ed that the radio, television, and cinema would be responsible for the dissolution of empires (qtd. in Danchin 1), Laurent Danchin announced in 1975 that it would be the death of true literature, not of poli tical empires, that would occur with the coronation of cinema as une osmo se entre le texte et limage dont tous les crateurs, peintres ou crivain s, vont sentir le contrecoup (6-7) an osmosis between the text and the image whose counteraction will be felt by all the artists, painters or writers. In 1934, Erwin Panofsky made a statemen t that still rings true today: If all the serious lyrical poets, composer s, painters and sculptors were forced by law to stop their activities, a rather small fraction of the general public would become aware of the fact and a still smaller fraction would seriously regret it. If the same thing were to happen with the movies, the social consequences would be catastrophic. (234) 79


As an art form, shows Timothy Corrigan in his Short Guide to Writing About Film the movies involve literature, the pictorial and plastic arts, music, dance, theater, and even architecture (17). If we consider movies a qu intessence of all the other arts, as Corrigan implies, then, indeed their bann ing or extinction would be ca tastrophic as Panofsky said, not only because of their immense public success, bu t also because it would stunt the cinematic expression of all the other arts. The Modernists were the generation that witnessed unprecedented developments in photography and film and the first to become preoccupied with imitating camera functions in their writing. In their 1999 Introduction to Novels into Film Tibbetts and Welsh recognize that the modern novel actually anticipated many effects and storytelling techniques, like temporal, causal, and spatia l directions, that we are all too accustomedsometimes erroneouslyto regard as esse ntially cinematic (xv). Alfred Kazin observes this phenomenon with Scott F. Fitzgerald, whose books, he says, were prose movies, a product of the writers obsession with Hollywood (Native 320). Again, in Dos Passoss USA, two of the four levels of American e xperience, are directly linked to the obsessive presence of the camerathe Camera Eye, and the Newsreel (Kazin Native 353). In Kazins words, for Dos Passos there is nothing else, save the integrity of the camera eye that must see this truth and report it, the integrity and the sanctity of the individual locked up in the machine world of modern society ( Native 358). Kazin explains even the realism and the journalistic drives of the Modern ists in terms of camera imita tion. The real significance of the literary use of the camera, says Kazin, i s that many serious writers were so affected by its useor symbolismthat they seemed intere sted only in photographing the country on the run, in giving to the accumulated weight of a thousand different deta ils and impressions of 80


the national texture the solid test imony of their education. [. .] What the fascination of the camera represented [. .] was a kind of sick pride in its fiercely objective realism. The camera did not fake or gloss over; it told the truth of the times; it was at once so aggressive and uncertain that it highlighted an awakene d, ironic, militant, yet fundamentally baffled self-consciousness. Most importa nt, the camera reproduced endless fractions of reality. [. .] Was not that discontinuity, that havoc of pictorial sensations, just the truth of what the documentary mind saw before it in the thirties? ( Native 495-96) Tennessee Williamss production notes to his play The Glass Mena gerie resonate with the same photographic concern for the truth as part of an expressionisti c plastic theater that he pushes forth (395). It becomes obvious from Williamss play that photography infiltrates in theater with the presence of a screen device on which were proj ected magic-lantern slides bearing images or titles throughout each scene (395). Graphics also become part of literature with Ezra Pounds Cantos in which he inserts drawings of a sign (in Canto XXII) that reads NO MEMBER OF THE MILITARY OF WHATEVER RANK IS PERMITTED WITHIN THE WALLS OF THIS CLUB (103), a triangle in Canto XXXIV with the inscription CITY OF ARRARAT FOUNDED BY 81


MORDECAI NOAH (171), [a cross in the margin], (210), a simplistic drawing of a mountain in Canto XLII (214), and pictographic Japanese and Chinese characters all through out his poems. Moreover, Pound expands toward an audio dimension of poetry when he intercalates musical lines in his Canto LXXV (470-71) Even Faulkner risked losing a fight with his editor when he asked that the ink of The Sound and the Fury be printed in several different colors on the page (Chnetier 178). In fact, Faulkner as well as Nathaniel We st and F. Scott Fitzgerald were among the modernist writers who did their share of scriptwriting at Holly wood. Idealists like F. Scott Fitzgerald, voiced an acid criticism of the de humanization and deaesthetization of the movies industry. One of Fitzgeralds letter to Alice Richardson on July 29, 1940, breathes sheer repulsion toward the movie colony: Isnt Hollywood a dumpin the human sense of the word? A hideous town, pointed up by the insulting gardens of its rich, full of the human spirit at a new low of debasement? (qtd. in Tibbetts Appendix A 483) On the other hand, Faulkners realization that a movie picture is by its nature a collaboration; and any collaboration is compromi se pleads for a reconciliation of modern writers with the cinema (qtd. in Tibbetts A ppendix A 481) while also evoking the collective authorship of the movies, which is an oral tr adition feature. Faulkners narrative techniques (dense fragmentation, multiple point-of-vie w, etc.) brought him closer to the camera discourse, and so did his 1994 participation as a scriptwriter in the adaptation of Hemingways novel To Have and Have Not Don DeLillo acknowledges that cinema continues to influence literature even to th e last decades of post-modernism: Movies in general may be the not-so-hidden influen ce on a lot of modern writing, although the 82


attraction has waned, I think. The strong image, the short ambiguous scene, the dream sense of some movies, the artificial ity, the arbitrary choices of some directors, the cutting and editing. The power of images (qtd. in LeClair 84-5). The impact of the movie-making techniques lay heavy even on post-modern theater, in which the design of space, the passage of time, the rhythms of speech and movement: these invisibles of theater, once meant to disappear when stories or characters are compelling enough, instead emerge from the background to tell their own stories. It is as if were being reeducated in the technique of seeing, mastering lessons we skipped over long ago because we mistakenly thought they woul d diminish the rapture of spectatorship, observes Marc Robinson in his Introduction to an excellent anthology of post-modern drama (12). Helene Keyssar could not be more right wh en she asserts her c onviction that many of the limits as well as the possibilities of modern drama are rooted in ancient conceptions of drama and theatre (91). For one, the polyphony of the postmodern narratives, and implicitly of camera discourses, replicates alternate vi sions in some ancient Greek tragedies, which according to Jean-Pierre Vernant 18 function by presenting a dichotomy [ddoublement] of the chorus and the protagonists, the two types of language, th e play between the community which officially represents the City as a ma gistracy, and a professional actor who is the incarnation of a hero from another age [. .]. Such a duplicity of voices and perspectives is present in the Greek tragedies, as Vernant further argues, both to call the City into question within a well-defined context, and also [. .] to call into question a certain image of man, and I would even say to indicate a change in man (284). For the American postmodern culture, ambivalence and a constant clash of the hero with the City translates in racial and linguistic tensions. In fact, as Timothy Corrigan explains film and literature merge on the grounds of 83


the nineteenth-century demands for realism a nd a class-oriented fascination with spectacle ( Film 16), a fascination as old as the ancient Greece. Although Aristotle certainly did not speak of movies, but of dramatic works, his words obviously match perfectly the Hollywoodian parameters: And superior tragedy is, because it has al l the epic elements . with music and scenic effects as important accessor ies; and these produce the most vivid pictures . Moreover, the art attains its end within narrower limits; for the concentrated effect is more pleasurabl e than one which is spread over a long time and so diluted. ( Poetics XXVI:4-5, in Bate 38) In the American cinema adaptations of the 1990s, music and scenic effects combined with epic elements have reached a climax of sophistication, and so has the concentration of the narrative into a short time, as Aristotle reco mmends for superior tragedies. However, unlike the ancient Greek histri onic events, the epic quality of the selected cinematic productions under discussion here wi dely relies on the fiction wo rks from which their script stems. Bordwells definition of narrative as a chain of events in cause-effect relationship occurring in time and space fits both fiction and film (69). One of the potential sources of complexity in Hollywood filmsas indeed in any type of filmmakingis the mediums ability to move about freely in time and space, writes Kristin Thompson (17). Nevertheless, followers of Bluestone 19 still insist that films only function on one tense, the present of action, while fiction operates with fluid trans positions of characters and reader into past, present, and future. Supporters of present as th e only tense of the movies argue that viewers watch the movies actions (whether they be ch ronological or past/futur e flashbacks) only in 84


the present. By the same token, I can say that a novel is only read in the present, as well 20 even if it certainly takes more hours to read a novel than to watch a movie. Therefore, present is indeed the tense of perception for bot h filmed and printed stor ies, but the lines of the plot in both cases may travel back and fort h in time. In terms of space, the orality of both fiction and cinema has strayed away from th e immediacy (read epheme ral character) of the tribal spectacles or of the traditional theatrical performances. Printed fi ction stages its stories on the pages of a book, whereas movies use a visible frame space and an implied off-screen, nondiegetic background. But for both media, th ere is also the performative space of the readers/viewers mind and psyche, a system com posed of their consciousness that perceives, filters, and assimilates the stories, and of what Jung would call their collective unconscious, their heritage of values and beliefs that makes for their tribal affiliations. The selection of novels and th eir screen adaptations that make the subject of this study represent a wide range of ethnicities and literary styl es, from Native American to Asian, and from autobiographical (Hayslip) to Western (Blake) and futuristic (Crichton), which entails complex perception interdependencies when it comes to the viewers perceptions. The oral cinematic versions offer sometimes another story altogether, such as it is the case with Paul Matthiessens In The Spirit of Crazy Horse which becomes Thunderheart or enhance the orality of the nove ls through redesigni ng the narrative, accentuating the performative elements, or assumi ng social roles. Since a movie is made up of narrative elements--the story--and stylistic features--technical production--(Bordwell 49), cinema language implies elements of mis-en-s cne and camera and editing manipulations, as well as linguistic signs, whether they be written or spoken, whic h clearly points to the cinema similarities to oral tradition productions. 85


The usage of written text within the cinema tic discourse ranges from titles that frame the time and location ( Mambo Kings, Thunderheart ) to elaborate legends that provide political background and epilogues that announce the current status and achievements of the protagonist ( Heaven and Earth). Clearly superior to Child of War from the standpoint of linguistic and rhetoric sophistication, Hayslips first novel When Heaven and Earth Changed Places dictates the profound lyrical tones that abound in Stones cinematic discourse. Stone takes over the linearity of the sequels plot, but takes great pains in weaving a pastoral Vietnamese landscape infused with chromatic plays of orange (dances by the fire, war explosions), blue (camera tilti ng to the sky as a cry for freedom) and green (high grass in which Le Ly works and plays as a child, sym bolizing innocence, but also strong juices of life, her inner strength to surv ive and make a difference in th e world); this iconic scheme fully renders the poeti cal inflections of When Heaven and Earth Changed Places The linguistic issues seem to have been solved in a clumsy way by Stone. In her novels, Hayslip clearly uses English, but sh e sometimes inserts Vietnamese words and phrases, which she explains, in order to render concepts that are diffi cult to express or nonexistent in English or in the American cu ltural codes. Stone makes the Vietnamese characters use English throughout the movie, but situational differe nces turn out as a linguistic bluff. For instance, the Vietnamese talking to Vietnamese speak correct English, but with an accent; when Vietnamese interact with Americans during the war (Le Ly with American GIs, her father to her sisters American boyfriend), the former speak broken English and use gestures to complement their low English proficiency. It becomes hilarious to see the same characters who were speaking fl uent English in previ ous scenes lose their English abilities when talking to Americans, bu t this is a manner of indicating a lack of 86


communication between the two nations. The onl y scene in which Vietnamese is spoken and English subtitles are used is Le Lys negotia tion with her friend over Steve, who was looking for a clean Vietnamese lover, perhaps a way of saying that in terms of soulmating and commitment (Steve would be Le Lys only love and husband in the movie), a translation is necessary, although a translation can never be co mplete or fully accurate. However, the presence of both languages spoken in the movi e version, more than disparate Vietnamese words and phrases in the novels, testifies for oral features of pride in the dialect and a trend of bilingualism. In The Joy Luck Club adaptations, Wayne Wang translat es the highly lyrical narrative voices from Amy Tans novel through image ma nipulations combined with voiceovers and musical beds. For instance, the movie opens wi th Junes voiceover te lling the story of the swan feather while the feather image on the sc reen dissolves into sketches of clouds of sorrow and American shores to match the line s about immigration. Th e storytelling in the movie does not flow from dialogues as it do es in the novel, but from the individual consciousness streams of the narrators. In Wayne Wang s production, the characters mentally pull themselves from the crowd at the mah jong party and reminisce their past. Thus Wangs camera discourse assumes features of inner orality while Amy Tans written story always presupposes the presence a nd performance of the narrator. Since both the novel and the movie The Joy Luck Club operate with multiple layers of narration, the story or rather the stories told by both media challenge the audiences concentration abilities in following a comple x interweaving of generational events across time and across American and Chinese traditions To the lyrically loaded narration in the novel correspond expressionistic movie frames of a pastoral rural China that opens through 87


the memories of Lindo or through Junes voice overs about her mothers having to abandon her baby daughters during the war. The Chinese locations are assorted with a dim light to depict the farmers poverty, oriental music beds, and vivid ora nge and red chromatic patterns for wealthy Chinese environments such as th e house of Lindos in-l aws or the luxurious parties that Ying-Ying and her first husband attended. The lu sh camera decriptions of settings in this adapta tion indicate a preoccupa tion with setting as strong as the one employed in oral productions, in which elaborate depictions of settings became part of staging the story. Linguistically, the authenticity of Chinese dialogues prevails in the movie where Chinese is spoken throughout the scenes that take place in China and English subtitles are used. In the novel, to the contrary, to main tain a high level of accessibility for American readers and to avoid overburdeni ng the narration with translati ons, the writer only inserts sporadic Chinese words or phrases or simply si gnals that a character tells a story in Chinese while the storytelling is laid out in Englis h. Accent operates as another element of authenticity in the story told in the movie: the mothers speak English with a Chinese accent while the daughters have an obvious American accent and display a charming mixture of predominantly American gestures and Chinese politeness. Thus, racial blending assumes throughout this film, another form of oral expression. If Sherman Alexie employs shifting point-of-views in his stories bound together under the title The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, throughout which Victor, James, and a third-person narrator take tu rns at storytelling, the movie based on this collection of stories, Smoke Signals reduces narrative voiceovers to Thomass 4th of July fire event in which Arnold had saved his life and to the voice of the DJ, which reminds us that although the action takes place in the 1970s and 1990s, on the Coeur DAlene Indian 88


Reservation it is always Indian time and the Indian weatherman remains concerned with reporting the shapes of the clouds ( Smoke Signals). In fact, Thomas remains a storyteller in the movie as much as Thomas-Builds-the-Fire is in Alexies s hort stories. Although Thomass rather appears in the movie as a ne rd who wears suits and glasses, his Indian accent combined with his affected tone and social ineptness seem to portray him as a version of the disabled James in the story Jesus Chri sts Half Brother, an orphan child who had not been able to talk and walk until the age of five. In Eyres adap tation, it is interesting to see a 1998 stage of Native American orality, mostly sustained by Thom ass stories. One of the most relevant moments in the movie is the scen e in which Thomas and Victor are walking to the bus station and are caught from behind by a car driven backwards by an old Indian lady. When the two boys ask for a ride, the younger woma n in the car asks for a story in return, reminding him that we are Indians, we have to barter ( Smoke Signals ). The same young woman later labels Thomass story about Victors father participation in an anti-Vietnam war demonstration as a fine example of the oral tradition ( Smoke Signals ). Michael Blake writes an Indian Western, called Dances With Wolves with a postmodern economy of words, and even with a twentieth-century vocabulary. As the omniscient third-person narrator, the writer shocks the readers by expressing Lieutenant Dunbars thoughts through words like superficial, psychotic , lethal, adrenaline, subconscious, celebrity, etc. Director Kevi n Costner avoids such linguistic misfits, but he still keeps a 1990s perspectiv e when he makes costume and make-up choices: the Indian kids who steal Dunbars horse seem cool a nd nonchalant like some twentieth-century reservation boys (almost as impersonations of Victor and Thomas from Sherman Alexies novel) and the hairstyle of Stands-with-a-Fis t (interpreted by Mary McDonnell) resembles 89


the audacity of a rock star rather than the wildness of an Indian-raised Irish woman. The directors choices show a type of orality deep ly subservient to its audience and the need for an immediate, direct, and audiovisual appeal to the twentiet h-century viewers, which again, constitutes a preoccupation of th e oral tradition authors. As for the brevity of the narrative in Blake s novel, it suffices to mention that one of his subchapters runs for two lines and contai ns only one sentence They crammed as much as they could into the half-carved-in supply house and stacked the rest in Cargills former quarters (19)--, a sentence meant to translat e into a couple of frames showing Dunbar and his guide moving around the supplies in the movie. As much as the oral tradition, film takes greater pains in showing visually the elements of action, instead of only inferring them as prose may sometimes choose to do. Along the same lines, the landscape frames and their lush tones of red, orange, blue, and green in Co stners screen adaptation fully compensate for the descriptive scarcity of the novel. If Bl akes writing is fragmentally postmodern, the chromatic structure makes Costners a classi c, impressionistic masterpiece, while also enhancing the importance of the setting, a remnan t of the oral tradition. Paul Matthiessens novel In the Spirit of Crazy Horse may fall under at least two genres: reportage and traveling j ournal. The author employs a j ournalistic type of narrative, a mixture of interviews, observations collected during his trips on the re servations, and court transcripts; he offers a time frame for each chap ter and a motto from a past or current Indian chief; sometimes, he quotes from his own interv iews or from court records, and although he offers an extensive bibliography at the end of book, he does not mention his sources in the text. Matthiessens book deals with multiple characters, family tragedies, fraudulent activities at all levels (AIM, BI A, FBI), historical land claims, such as the invocation of the 90


1868 Treaty, but also with subversive AIM att itudes like the claim to sovereignty and the upside down American flag as a symbol of AIM. Thunderheart, based on this novel, and directed by Michael Apted, tells a different st ory of smaller proportions, with considerably less characters involved in a local conflict which remains resolved in the end. Apteds screen adaptation is a detective as well as law and order discourse intertwined with an aborted love story between FBI agent Levoi and ARM leader, Maggie, on the background of Levois reconversion to his Indian origins. If Matth iessens narrative rema ins objective, although slightly biased in favor of th e Native Americans, Apted follows a tradition of idealizing the Native American heroes throughout the movie a nd leaves the audience with a yearning to return to tribal (read oral) lifestyle in wh ich post-modern stressing schedules are replaced with a holy pipe spirituality that measures tim es in natural cycles (s ee the exchange of the Rollex watch with a pipe at th e end of the movie). Another journalistic novel produced in the 1990s is the love story Robert James Waller constructs in The Bridges of Madison County as a puzzle picture whose pieces represent the authors encounter with Francesca s children accounted fo r in the introduction and also in a chapter called A Letter From Francesca, Robert Kincaids essay, Falling from Dimension Z, the authors Postscript: The Tacoma Nighthawk about his meeting the black jazz musician, and Interview with Nighthawk Cummings, which renders the musicians memories of his talks with Kincaid. These collage techniques of the novel disappear in Eastwoods adaptati on, the latter preserving only the motif of the story being told, post-mortem, by Francesca to her children, through a letter and her journal. Thus, the journals become, after the oral tradition, the talking book, and the voiceovers defy death and bring the past into a bereft present. Surprisingly enough, Tibbetts assesses the movie 91


adaptation of Robert J. Wallers Bridges of Madison County as superior to the book. In the film, says Tibbetts, the stor y is effectively dramatized, clarified, and intensified, and stripped of the novels often foolish and emba rrassing dialogue. This adaptation is a very good demonstration of what Hollywood could achieve in treating the obscenely popular effusions of a third-rate wr iter (Introduction xvii). To the alternation of first person narrative by Eugenio Castillo (a narrator at the beginning and at the end of the novel) with thir d person narrative throu gh the perspective of Cesar Castillo in two Hotel Splendour episodes in the middle of the Hijueloss novel The Mambo Kings the movie opposes a linear chronologica l plot that eliminates Cesars and Eugenios flashbacks while enhancing some of the recurrent elements of the novel: the song Beautiful Mara of my Soul, the motivational book Forward America! by D. D. Vanderbilt, the image of Mara in a cinch-wa isted suit, [. .] rising out of the foamy tides of a Havana sea, a photographic detail in the novel which becomes a black-and-white mental image with Nestor in the movie (43). Linguistically, the scarce Spanish insertions in the novel sometimes leave room for entirely Spanish di alogues (especially at the beginning in the setting of Havana) in the movie. After their arrival in the St ates, the Hispanic characters speak predominantly English with a Cuban acce nt, although one or two lines in Spanish are sometimes interspersed. 21 As a version of the novel, the movie Beloved does not eclipse the power and the beauty of Morrisons language, nor does it triv ialize its poetry as Rich ard Blake argues in his 1998 review of the movie Beloved (25). Jonathan Demmes production involves Morrisons literature, but also invents anot her way of telling the story, one that is closer to the oral tradition since it enhances lyrical to nes and a melodramatic content. 92


Beloved, as Morrison told it, is not a story to pass on (275). No other artist could ever produce a perfect copy of this novel whet her it be in words, sounds, colors, plaster, marble, stone, or digital images. When a m ovie version of a novel of this caliber is produced, it is trivial to pose the question whet her or not the movie is worse or better than the novel. The two versions of the story sh ould not be regarded as two art discourses in competition, but as two equally precious gems in the patrimony of American culture. The story of Margaret Garner, a run-away slave moth er who resorts to killing her children when confronted with the threat of returning to slavery, was origin ally transmitted orally, then taken over by various newspapers until it found its way on the pages of a newspaper that Morrison happened to come across. As Yvonne Atkinson states, Stories in the oral traditi on are not owned; they are stories without beginnings or endingsMorrison does not own the story of Beloved ; she is simply one teller of a tale that has been told and will be retold. The storytellers in Beloved do not own their stories, but tell th eir versions of the tales in their own way. The multiple tellings give a rich complexity to the individual stories and to the meaning of the overall story. (248-9) Following on Atkinson, it can be argued that the movie version of Beloved is simply another telling of the story not only of Margaret Garner but of the whole African race in America. It is a story not only of one haunted house, 124 Bl uestone Road in Cincinnati, Ohio, but of a present haunted by the traumas of the past. But at the same time, Morrisons Afrocentris m also impacts her writing style, which dwells heavily on elements of ritualistic orality such as call and response patterns, witness/testify, and signifyin. As she confesses in one of her interviews, a great part of her 93

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research for the novel Beloved was rooted in African oral culture ( Profile) In fact, if we consider Maggie Sales definiti on of the call/response technique, we can see why this is one of the novels features that lend s it so perfectly to a cinematic adaptation: Call and response patterns, developed in spirituals and play and work songs, are related to the group or communal nature of art, argues Sale. The se patterns both value improvisation and demand that new meanings be created for each particular moment (178). Jonathan Demmes production follows th e call/response patterns of the novel although it slightly modifies the scenes that evoke the past. Also, in the improvising spirit characteristic to the call/ response technique, the movie Beloved employs additional narrative tools in creating new versions of Morrisons text. For one thing, the movie accentuates the role of the character Beloved in calling or triggering memories about past events. Morrison indeed had Beloved call for the narrative about the hanging of Sethes mother and for Sethes story of the diamonds. The movie toys with the novels narrative text in both instances, clipping out for instance the wedding details that accompany the earrings story in the novel. But to add to the powerful hist orical voice of the scene of Sethes mother hanging, the movie creates an overlap of images in which the past horrifying scenes float over Sethes face while she is narrating the story. This technical device obviously enhances the effect of the story, but it al so translates into an identity message by keeping the present and the past images simultaneously together. It is a way of affirming the identity of exslaves as intrinsically made up of the horrors of the past. Two other scenes that are rather indirectly triggered by Beloved in the novel are clearly called fo rth exclusively by her in the movie. Paul Ds rememory of the collective traumas of the Reconstruction period appears in the novel as a third-person na rrative meant to photograph his inner stream of thoughts while 94

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he is contemplating on what might be the orig ins or the traumatic past of Beloved. The movie shifts the narrative to first person in a dialogue between Paul D and Beloved at the dinner table, but it is Beloved who calls (i.e. asks) and Paul D who responds. The story of Denvers birth, like many of the stories in th e novel, comes together in Morrisons text, jigsaw-like, from three passages scattered th rough the novel: one ensuing from Denvers thoughts as she is watching her mother pray on he r knees; the other from a call/response type of dialogue between Denver (cal ler) and Sethe (respondent); a nd a third, with Beloved as caller and Denver as respondent. The movie chooses the last one as an one-time complete story called by Beloved and told by Denver. Images of the run-away pregnant Sethe fade in from Denvers narration, and Denver voices over at times the past scenes of her mothers journey to freedom and her own journey to life. Again the simultaneity of images of past and Denvers voice suggests that the past also repres ents an intrinsic part of Denvers identity, as it is the case with Sethe. To remain on a call/response pattern, I woul d like to move now toward the need for action in oral productions and the role of the spoken word and of performance in triggering action. In postmodern history-making, the fictio nal and cinematic narratives suffer from an acute syndrome called speed obsession. Hence, the need for postmodern literature and cinema to share what Derrida calls the technique of bricolage (Sign 885). To match Grishams sustained narrative in The Firm, for instance, Sydney Pollacks 1993 adaptation starts off and then maintains a rapid rhythm thorough various techniques: collage of fast fragments of job interviews; car traveling ma tte; tracking frames of Mitch talking with Avery; and high suspense chase scenes that have Mitch now in a warehouse, breaking 95

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windows with his legs, hanging on ceiling pipes, hi s sweat dripping near the briefcase, then confronting the Moroldo family in a shot/reverse-shot brief dialogue. A crime noir fiction exemplar, James Ellroys L.A. Confidential incorporates elements of a detective story, intricate political and psycholog ical conflicts, and narrative traits attuned to a media-dominated literature. The te xt of the novel comprises extracts from articles published in Hush-Hush, L.A. Mirror-News, L.A. Times, L.A. Examiner but also weaves thoroughly into a journa listic style, with half-truths revealed progressively and complex intrigues. Articles such as the L.A. Mirror-News, March 19 excerpt on the Christmas police beatings scandal (75) and the Hush-Hush article on the district attorneys taste for long and leggy, zesty and chesty (92) reflect strong tendencies of yellow journalism in the 1950s. Pasting LAPD fitness reports on Bud, Jack, and others and starting paragraphs with time titles-6:10 PM (142) or locations correspond to the technique of using titles in movies and having voiceovers reading pa rts of official reports. When citing from major newspapers which pressure LAPD to re open the Night Owl case after the murder of the Englekling brothers, Ellroy only mentions the titles of the articles with the names of the newspaper and the dates only, a device very simila r to the newspaper reels sometimes used in movies to indicate time lapses. The novel also features multi ple instances of action-movie type of narrative: Jack survives miraculously a confrontation with the H-men in a rapid sequence of reality and comatose stat es similar to the television show Touched by an Angel (37); similar scenes of cop action show Jack Vincennes busting and chasing some robbers in a lunch house (297); leading words, such as cut to: followed by flashes of links to characters and actions introduce new levels of action. All these elements will appear in Curtis Hansons 1997 movie adapta tion, but their initial presence in Ellroys novel indicates 96

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a deep preoccupation of the postmodern writer to construct narrative in a manner that would be translatable to film and to bricolage fic tion elements in a highly performative, dramatic, and inherently orality-infused composition. Chapter Three Film Adaptations and the Rites of Oral Literature The formal structure of any work of art (o r object of imitation), according to Aristotle, comprised three parts: plot, character, and thoug ht (Griffith 63). As a token of appreciation for the classic wisdom, but also because they o ffer an efficient system of organizing research, I have included in this st udy comparative sections on the plot, character-treatment, and thought as socio-political content of the novels and their adaptations under discussion here. These three elements of analysis will also outline the connection between film and the oral tradition. A sophisticated dramatic genre, centuries away from the Greek theatrical performances, the film expands beyond the Aristo telian histrionic model, in that it builds unity or disunity through amalgamating the vi sions of the scriptwrit er, director, actors, cameramen, etc. However, this multiplicity of voices in the film discourse, its polyphony, as Bakhtin would call it, has its roots in the Aristo telian qualitative parts of the tragedy: plot, character, thought, di ction, song, and spectacle (Aristotle 46). 97

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3.1. Plot With the cinematic discourse, the concepts of story and plot assume new values, different from the traditional lite rary plot definition. When defining the elements of narrative for film, Timothy Corrigan distinguishes between the story comprising all events included or inferred in the performance, and the plot that refers to the arrangement of these events in a certain directorial order ( Short Guide 37). Bordwell presents us w ith a simpler structure, in which the story consists of presumed and inferre d events and explicitly presented events, and the plot represents explicitly presented ev ents plus added nondieg etic material (71). Not only are the unities of action, place, and time disregarded, but even the essential structural elements of peripeteia and anagnorisis (reversal of fortune and discovery) scatter cryptically in and out of the postmodern fiction discourse. Further, the Aristotelian distinct parts -beginning, middle, and end -evolved in to what the classics would call anomalous patterns of time shifts, reverse chronologies, mental incursions into the past and future, and circular, convergent, or diverg ent acts of me mory, all interspersed randomly through the plot thread. To Aristotle, such abnormal plot construction would have been indicative of mediocrity, as he contends in his Poetics: 98

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Of the simple plots and actions the episodic are the worst: and I mean by episodic a plot in which the episodes fo llow each other without regard for the laws of probability or necessity. Such plots are constructed by the inferior poets because of their own inadequacies, and by the good poets because of the actors. For since they are writing plays that are to be ente red in contests (and so stretch the plot beyond its capacity) th ey are frequently forced to distort the sequence of action. (49) To the postmodern audience, plot fragmentati on and convoluted episodes do fit the laws of necessity since they mirror an acute sense of dissolution and imbalance that has marked the end of the twentieth century. In our time, lite rary circles crown a writer like Toni Morrison, who excels in circular narrative patterns, with the highest recognition of artistic merit (the Nobel prize); nevertheless, the scriptwriters see themselves compelled by directing considerations to simplify the el aborate patterns of th e novel narrative, as it was the case with the movie Beloved Such plot simplifications parallel the linearity of oral productions. Jonatham Demmes Beloved represents a version of Morrisons novel, another kind of literature, as Clyde Taylor would call it. Bo th the novel (in a meande ring narrative) and the movie (in more of a linear chronology interr upted by flashbacks) grow out of incessant resurgences of the past that question the identity of relatively recently freed, but not yet free people. Morrisons characters struggle with being captives of the pa st traumas and with grasping, now, in the present, the possibility of affirming their human identity and building a future for themselves. This constant interpla y of past and present is achieved, both in the novel and the movie, through several major ingr edients such as the all-encompassing theme of identity, bridge characters who share or trigger the rememo ry of past experiences, and 99

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narrative techniques of collate past events overlapping present emotions and actions. To some extent, the movie makes up fo r eliminating the interior monologue 22 by introducing another technique, which was not employed by Morrison in the novel: a collage of nightmarish flashbacks attributed to Sethe and Paul D on their first night together. A very timely and economic way to dramatize the traumatic effects of the past, this compensates, to a certain degree, the numerous repetitions of pa inful events present in Morrisons narrative. But it also adds to dramatic insertions th at called forth some reviewers of the movie Beloved like John C. Tibbetts, to argue that, the filmmakers unnecessarily complicate the already fractured storyline with an overindulgent use of slow-motion eff ects, sudden flashbacks, a barrage of persistently recurring image motifs (a bl aze of fire, slaves wearing crowns of iron, a body hanging from a tree, etc.), a succession of starkly contrasting mood changes, and numerous irritati ngly contrived special effects. Superimposed images come and go, colors flow and change. (77) The complex combination of past and present insertions in the movie does not in any way complicate the plot line of the novel. In fact, the movie produ cers made choices that reduce the novels circular narrative to a linear storyline. But most of the times, flashbacks and special effects act as drama enhancers. For instance, in the novel, Morrison places the comp lete infanticide scene in a narrative piece, which is a separate chapter, in the very middle of the novel, following the newspaper clipping revelation. In the movie, the same scene occurs after Stamp Paids confession, but the producers employ more than just narration: Sethes voice leads into Babby Suggs highly emotional sermons, then the images and sounds dissolve back into Se thes narration of the 100

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infanticide, only to be followed by another dissolve into the scene of the infanticide, and then back to Sethes talking to Paul D. Morri son moves the reader by creating word-images, Demme has more than that at his disposal. The histrionic transitions from scene to scene are achived through rapid fades in and out and fl ashbacks, and the dramatism is enhanced through voiceovers. Thus, while in the novel th e moment of Denvers stepping out of the house results after a mental dialogue between Denver and Baby Suggs, the movie leads in Baby Suggs voice while Denver is alone in her bedroom, and then shifts the camera toward the bed on which there is an immediate presence of Denvers loving and embracing grandmother. Even the final scene of the m ovie that ends in successive dissolves between Sethe and Paul D, Baby Suggs preaching, a nd back to the 124 Bluestone Road house, overlaps present and past as two vivid realit ies that grow on and out of each other, a technique that amplifies the sense of immediacy, also shared by the or al tradition. A similar time overlapping takes place in Amy Tans novel adaptation. Tan organizes her novel The Joy Luck Club into four major parts that open with an italicized (read internalized) scene relevant for the stories in that respective part. Each of the four parts contains in its turn four stories that cover the lives of four different ch aracters. The novel can be said to have a dramatic stru cture with four acts a nd with a histrionic list of characters at the beginningthe names of the mothers and of the daughters arranged on two columns. Except for the friendship that binds together the four Chinese immigrant mothers--Suyuan Woo, An-Mei Hsu, Lindo Jong, and Ying-Ying St. Clairethe sixteen vi gnettes that depict their lives in China and their daughters lives in Am erica could stand al one as independent stories. Wayne Wang, who directs the adapta tion of Amy Tans novel, chooses a stronger dramatic locus unit to bind the narrators toge ther, a mah jong party where all the mothers, 101

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except for Junes mother who is dead, and their daughters are present. It is from this party that the stories of all of them diverge through flashbacks in the movie. As in tribal performances, the director gathers all the perfor mers in front of the audience at one location. To conserve a sense of unity, but also to si mplify the circularity of recurrent separate plots in Tans novel, in which various stories come back at different times to the same characters, the director chooses to create linear threads of stor ies that cover a daughter and a mother at a time. For instance, the stories of Suyuan Woo and her daughter June, which appear fragmented in different parts of the nove l, come to life in one flashback track in the movie: June remembers the piano experiences in her childhood, from Junes conflict with her mother over the piano emerges another flashback to her mothers dragging along her baby daughters during the war. The stories take shap e in the movie as a linkage of daughters and mothers flashbacks interspersed with their di alogues at different times in America, and interrupted or linked by voiceove rs. At all times, there is a constant shift between the voiceovers and the flashbacks of the mother and daughter as they take turns in the storytelling. This technique clea rly re-enacts tribal traditions of multiple-storytellers. The same orality-based linearity occurs with the movie adaptations of Hayslips autobiographical novels. Jay Wurts, co-a uthor of Le Ly Hayslips first novel, When Heaven and Earth Changed Places displays considerably more s ophistication in constructing the plot on two parallel narrative tr acks: Le Lys growing up as a farmers child in a war-torn Vietnam and her departure for the States juxt aposing her 1986 return to Vietnam as an American citizen. For the sequel Child of War, Woman of Peace Hayslip choice of her son, James Hayslip, as the co-author did have an impact on the plot construction: it turned it into a linear factual account, which ofte ntimes slipped into melodramatism and didacticism, turning 102

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out to be more of a commercial inspiring st ory of success. Not su rprisingly, Oliver Stone chose the latter novels lin earity for his 1993 adaptation Heaven and Earth while compressing all the long list of male figures in Hayslips life into one husband, Major Steve Butler. Moving to the Native American fiction a nd film adaptations, it would be worth mentioning that in Smoke Signals director Chris Eyre does away with a plethora of characters and happenings from Sherman Alexie s short stories, but keeps instead a main track of narration built on the trip Victor and Th omas take to Phoenix, AZ, to grab the ashes of the formers father. The trip occasions flashbacks of snippets of childhood scenes tormented by domestic violence and drinki ng, but also playing ba sketball, watching a waterfall, etc. Dances with Wolves builds up on what Seger calls a three-act scenario, with act one that presents the beginning of Lieutenant Dunbars journey to set up the situation, act two that develops the situation and relationship through Dunbars friendship to the Indians, and act three, which shows consequences of decision s made in act two (S eger 83), an classical drama plot scheme that both the novel and the movie, with slight exceptions, follow. If Kevin Costner closely follows the plot thread of Michael Blakes novel, his adaptation of Dances with Wolves clearly features a faster rhythm th an Blakes narration and a clearer and more telling ending; the book leav es us with the foreboding of an immanent extinction of the Indians through the anticipated advancement of the white military forces, but Dunbar and his wife remain with the tribe. In the movie, th e couple starts off away from the tribe, on the background of images of a deserted Indian camp and of noises of approaching riding soldiers. The howling of another wolf insinuates that the call of the wild or the Indian spirit 103

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will find a way to survive even if only with th is white couple who manages to escape their white pursuers 23 To add to the Hollywoodian recipe, Costner operates with additional clues such as the Indian who finds Dunbars journal in the fight they ha ve at the river to rescue him from the soldiers; the fact that the Indian retu rns the journal to Dances with Wolves resolves an identity issue and implies at the same time that the soldiers will not have any written evidence of Dunbars presence at the fort and imp licitly of his treason, all being a thread that had remained open-ended in the novel. The enhancement of orality in the cinematic translations becomes evident in the distinct story that a screen adap tation presents in some cases. As in the oral tradition, a story re-told by another teller often becomes a comple tely new story. Paul Matthiessen, author of In the Spirit of Crazy Horse and John Fusco, the screenplay writer of Thunderheart the movie based on Matthiessens nove l, construct two different st ories. Although we can see some similarities in the struggle of AIM ( novel) and ARM (movie) organizations, in the corrupt local Indian police (led by Dick Wilson in the novel and by Milton in the movie), in the danger posed by the uranium exploitation (b oth in the novel and movie), and in the implication of some FBI agents into fraudulent activities (bot h in the novel and movie), the characters follow a distinct plot arrangement in Michael Apteds adaptation. In the movie, an FBI investigation initia lly launched for the death of an I ndian, Leo, involves two FBI agents, Ray Levoi and Frank Coutelle. Two FBI agents are indeed killed in this action, but this seems to have less significance than it has in the book. Rays research wi ll reveal that his FBI colleague, Coutelle, was implicated all the time in uranium operations that pose a serious threat to the lives of the Indians on the rese rvation, and moreover, appears to have paid Richard Hawk to kill Leo. Jimmy, the original FBI suspect, comes across as a dim prototype 104

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of Leonard Peltier, the Indian accused of aiding and abetting the killers of two FBI agents in Matthiessens book. Jimmy certainly does not appear to have Peltiers prestige as an AIM leader, nor does he have his diplomacy and sophistication. Although he rather seems to be a cunning man who manages to dodge arrest once--he tells the FBI agents to look for a key in a hole from which a badger emerges and bites them--, Jimmy impersonates the type of nonchalant Indian, ignorant about politics, and concerned exclusively wi th saving his skin. Apteds movie follows Hollywoodian patterns of debunking the bad guys in the end with Rays statement that Coutel le will face charges; it also plays on a revival of community strength and unity against evil as the Indians led by the old man Yellow Hawk climb the rocks and surround Coutelle and his people to save Levoi. Th e novel offers no resolution of the conflict in the end, except fo r the allegation that the killer of the two FBI agents has revealed his identity to the author, but for po litical reasons, he will ne ver be able to turn himself in to the authorities. Matthiessen implies that he probably killed the FBI agents in self-defense, but since that coul d not be proven in court, and since that will not lead to Peltiers acquittal or to the be tterment of AIM, the real culp rit will remain under a veil and with an X identity. The second half of Hijueloss novel, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love suffers from a dragging narrative of Cesars physical, professional, and moral degeneration after his brothers death. The rhetoric loses the initia l vitality and the events seem interminable, heavy with boredom, vanity, shallowness, empt iness like Cesars tormented existence. Perhaps for this reason, as well as to serve the Hollywoodian happy ending, Glimcher opts to eliminate this part completely, leaving Cesar in his prime with the potential of marrying his brothers widow with which he had built chemistr y all along (as much as in the novel). Thus, 105

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in the way of the oral tradition, the film plot perpetuates family values and portrays Cesar as a strong, model individual. In 1997, seven years after the public ation of James Ellroys novel L.A. Confidential director Curtis Hanson simplified this crime noi r piece into an action, la w-and-order movie. Curtis removes a major subplot of the novel, na mely the involvement of Preston Exley (Eds father) and of his friend and business partne r, Raymond Dieterling, in the 1934 Atherton children murder and mutilation case, a precedent, in the novel, of the Night Owl case. This screenplay choice does away with Eds conflic t between his professiona l ethics and family ties and with his remorse over th e suicidal of his father toge ther with Dieterling and their secretary Inez. Within the movies plot, Inez remains a feeble victim of a gang rape, and never gets involved with Ed, Bud, nor does she ever work at Preston Exleys business. As Seger observes, Material that is dependent on a great deal of backstory information can cause a number of translation problems (55). This is why it is the directors and screenwriters choice to sometimes eliminate altogether subplots or secondary characters when working on the adaptation of a branchy novel like L.A. Confidential or Le Ly Hayslips autobiographical novels. In terms of geographical c ontext and time frames, which are key factor in oral literature, movies operate with financial cons traints, but do possess the technical devices to mask location and time inconsistencies 24 For instance, the characters arrival and their departure from the Isla Nublada in Spielbergs adaptation of Jurassic Park, were filmed both at the beginning of production in Hawaii (Bordwell 25). If in oral lit erature and in ancient Greek drama, the setting of the plot was customarily limited to one location, the movie adaptations of the 1990s often ope rate with multiple sites, following the dynamics of travel 106

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and communication rendered in the fiction on which they are based. However, the concept of continuity in film homogenizes the vari ous sites (and sometimes temporal frames) around the crux of the story, thus creating a postmodern mobile unity of place and time. Going back to the example of Jurassic Park the locations announced in th e film using titles like Isla Nublar 120 miles West of Costa Rica, Dom inican Republic, Badlands, all represent operation sites related to Hammonds project. As far as the treatment of time is concerned, th e postmodern fiction and film depart from the often unrealistic concen trations of plot in a 24-hour frame in Green tragedies, but resemble oral literature in their use of si multaneous synchronic and diachronic perspectives as they usually strive to show the evolution of a character in a larger historical context (see Amy Tan, Oscar Hijuelos, etc.). What remains di fferent from the oral tradition in terms of postmodern fiction and film plot time is the preoccupation with the Bergsonian temporal dichotomy of chronological time and psychological (consciousness) time. If oral literature dwelled exclusively on chronological time (that when actions took place), postmodernity combines historical and psychological temporal ities, and in this process, current action (chronology) sometimes yields to inner time re-e nactments as it is the case in Morrisons Beloved a novel and a movie that abound in the re -memory of past traumas achieved through storytelling and flashbacks 25 107

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3. 2. Character Treatment The play of characters peitho (persuasion) and choruss kratos (power, dominance) so obvious in the Greek tragedy, as Vernant insi ghtfully remarks (275), assumes a new set of rules and tools in the Hollywoodian staging where, oftentimes, characters lose their obvious and traditional roles to serve the dramatic economy of the movie. As Gayl Jones observes, in films especially, unless they are comedian s or villains, even white Southerners do not speak like Southerners, perhaps because this w ould trigger too much laughter when the intent is dramatic (128). And there is always the reverse side of the co in: not only do literary characters become movie prot agonists in film adaptations, but they are sometimes constructed to oppose deceitful movie models. Gayl Jones offers a brief history of this phenomenon in African-American works: This depiction of dreaming selves in media metaphors is the standard movi e image ideal which other black writers have employed to complicate character, from Richard Wrights Native Son to Toni Morrisons The Bluest Eye to the poetic themes of Amiri Baraka, Michae l S. Harper, and others (152). And the list could go on and on with other c onsecrated titles: Steinbecks Of Mice and Men Nathaniel Wests The Day of the Locust Don DeLillos White Noise The narrativ e voice of the characters in these works ranges from displaying a certain awareness of the existence of the 108

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movie medium to straightforwar dly crying out against the van ity and destructive power of the Hollywood hypnosis. It is precisely this magical potency of the camera that confers a certain sacral function to screen adaptations. In her article, Bringing Home the Fact: Tradi tion and Continuity in the Imagination, Paula Gunn Allen explains th e texture of tragedy and comedy on a Biblical ethico-religious paradigm: One can trace this archetypal pattern fr om Genesis forward. The central motif of the Bible is the distance between God and Man; its primal thrust is reunification of the shattered, alienated psyche. Nor is the motif confined to the Bible. It is a basic premise of literary criticism: The tragedy is that imaginative construct which chronicles the separation of the hero from the source of his being; his flaw is preeminently that of perceiving himself as more than, or different from, his own being in its godly and/or human components. Th e comedy, on the other hand, is an imaginative construct that chronicles the reunification of the hero/heroine with society, God, and self. And what is th e story of the Fall and the Redemption, if not the tale of separation/ fragmentation and its obverse, reunification/integration? Deeply embe dded in the consciousness of Western peoples as these primal motifs are, th ere is an underlying motif implicit in these: an assumption of wholeness as essentially good, and of separation as essentially evil. (569) Allens paradigm reinforces the sacral, ritualistic functions of performance that existed not only within the Western Christian culture, but also as part of oral non-Christia n traditions. 109

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Characters in ancient Greek dramas aimed at making peace with the gods and with the community. The pride of belonging or bei ng reunited with ones racial and cultural community, as a way of resolving the dramatic conflict through an spir itual and/or religious evolution, pervaded Native American and African-American orality, as well. In Dances With Wolves for instance, Michael Blake takes over th is motif when presenting Lieutenant Dunbars celebrating his conversi on to the Indian tribe as a way of reunification with his natural self. Traditions and values may accumulate, a nd histories may be writtenbut none of these guarantees an individual se nse of home, remarks Robins on (18). There is an obvious similarity between the migration patterns of oral societies an d the Anglo-European westering that culminated with the post-modern heroes alienation and instabili ties. Late twentiethcentury heroes still move through life with a strong Aristotelian hamartia tragic flaw, but the character distinctions of either noble of base (Aristotle 43) have become infinitely more intricate. More often than not, there is an overlapping among the ro les of protagonists (positive, heroic figures), antagonists (the v illains), and what Sege r defines as catalyst characters, heroes who make decisions, add information, or create conflicts with the protagonists (123). If we were to consider only the crime th riller, a very popular genre in contemporary cinema (L.A. Confidential, The Firm, etc.), the three typical sorts of characters, lawbreakers, law enforcement, a nd by standers/victims (Bordwell 112), do not appear always as pure representatives of thei r clique; lawbreakers sometimes come across as sympathetic (see the three black young men unjustly shot in L.A. Confidential by Ed Exley) whereas the law enforcement characters might imper sonate asocial, nerdy heroes (Exley). 110

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And yet in other instances, the director produces a simplified version of the fiction heroes, which brings such characters closer to the oral tradition. In Jurassic Park Spielbergs Hammond appears as more human, mo re of a grandfather figure who wants to offer an unforgettable weekend at an original theme park to his grandchildren, a businessman enthusiastic about a ground-breaking idea, but al so a man who accepts in the end the error of his enterprise and works earnestly on resc uing the people involved. At no time does Hammond worry in the movie about what is goi ng to happen to his animals as the character does in the novel. To soften Hammonds feat ures, Spielberg leaves out several dialogues from the novel that demonize the character and justify Crichtons choice to have him killed by his own monstrous creations at the end. For instance, Hammonds whole plea against science in the service of medical progress and his resolute contention that From a business standpoint, that makes helping mankind a very risky business. Personally, I would never help mankind (200) does not exist in the movie. A radically modified character is also St ones protagonist in his adaptation of Hayslips novels. The viewers of Oliver Stones Heaven and Earth will perceive Le Ly as an angelic victim of the Vietnam war who takes up a mission of peace and healing, while those who have read Hayslips autobi ographical novels certainly rema in with the impression of a versatile woman who manages to negotiate between two cultures and emerges as a successful, well-off philanthropist. Oliver Stone cuts Hayslips long list of boyfriends and two husbands into one character, Major Steve, who combines the chemistry Hayslip had with Dan, but also Dans weapon brokerage inte ntions, Denniss hobby of collecting guns, and Cliffs stories about the atrociti es he had to commit during the war, and who eventually ends up committing suicide in his car as Dennis Hayslip did in Child of War Stone plays 111

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exclusively on victimizing Le Ly and her spirit ual growth and deliberately removes from the script details, present in the book, that c ould have shed doubts on the integrity of her character, such as her stu bbornness in adopting Vietnamese orphans which substantially contributed to the failure of her marriage to Dennis, her busin ess flair in administering the social welfare and respectively the life insu rance of her two deceased American husbands, her negotiation with cons and members of the high class to establish her charity foundation, etc. Hayslips victimization in the movie makes her into an oral traditi on type of character, who displays one dominant trait of character. In the case of The Joy Luck Club adaptation, the mis-en-scne plays a crucial role in the build-up of the characters. The director makes choices that at times outweigh the descriptive powers of Tans narr ation: an almost non-existent make-up and simple traditional costumes for poor Chinese characters such as Lindos mother as opposed to sophisticated hairdos, make-up, and fine clothes for well-todo Chinese (Ying-Ying and her first husband) and for the accomplished Chinese American daughters like Waverly and Rose. Given the vignette structure of the novel, the movie does not add any other details to the stories, although they seem more vivid in the movie as they come across through a triple discourse: narrative voiceovers, dialogues, and images. Ne vertheless, the movie builds the characters through snippets of scenes from various point s in time, as much as the novel does, but perhaps due to a clearly shorte r viewing time as opposed to a l onger time needed to complete the reading of the novel, it appe ars that the characterization m eans of the movie suffer from an inevitable cinematic shallowness. Howe ver, the film characte r-building techniques enhance the immediacy and reinforce the involv ement of the audience as it also ocurred in the oral tradition. The time the viewers spend with the characters in Wayne Wangs 112

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adaptation only incites their taste for the e xoticism of Chinese tr aditions, culture, and language, arouses sympathy for the generati onal and cultural clashes between Chinese mothers and American-born daughters, and feeds a Hollywoodian desire for classical balance within strong familial structures. At the end of the movie, the viewers might as well have a hard time remembering details from all the ch aracters lives (which mother or daughter did what), nor can they feel that they know e nough about all the characters. What the viewers are left with are a strong sens e of family values and immigr ation struggles and perhaps a feminist touch of confidence in the powe r of women to accomplish their dreams and overcome dire circumstances. In reading the novel, the empathy of the readers and their familiarity with the characters accumulate gradua lly but more substantially than in the movie in the circular workings of a narration that snowballs layers of pr ofound emotions, cultural coding, and a constant negotiation with a double ethnicity. From the prototypes of the noble savage and the bloodthirsty redskins encountered in Fenimore Coopers classic, The Last of the Mohicans the Native American characters have evolved into more realistic although still fate-str uck, heroes. Sherman Alexies short stories characters struggle with poverty, alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, professional failure, cancer (James who has a brain tumor), suicide (Samuel Builds-the-Fire), fighting, all of whic h are downplayed in the screen version, Smoke Signals Alexies screenplay focus remains on two characters only, two orphan teenagers, Thomas and Victor, who undertake a journey of matur ity, are faced with financial and familiar decisions, take responsibility fo r an accident they commit, an d find their identity, one in telling stories and the other one in making peace with his father and finding a voice to shout out in pain and maybe revolt against social inju stice (see the dramatic end of the movie in 113

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which Victor throws his fathers ashes into th e river and screams away his anguish). Thus the movie adaptation re-enacts patterns of ch aracter integration and initiation into ones cultural community. Primitivism, as a celebration of the natu re in the universe and in the human being, saturates both the novel and the movie Dances with Wolves In the novel, Lieutenant Dunbar appears as an Adamic figure or a marooned R obinson Crusoe at the Sedgewick fort, a man capable of communicating with animals and of feeling the pulse of nature, and one who certainly struggles with an emerging acculturatio n to the Indian customs and language to the point of being shamed of the white race and of the atrocities they commit against nature and against Indians (285). Costner emphasi zes Dunbars awe of nature following Blakes scenes of Dunbar working naked at the fort a nd choosing slow motion cl ose-ups to show the buffaloes killed by whites not because of hunger but in a reckless hunt. Further, to show the complete acculturation of Dances with Wolves to the Indian tribe, Co stner manipulates Indian dialogues and subtitles in two ways: when Dunbar is captu red and interrogated by the white soldiers at the fort, he replies in Indian dial ect, but there are no subtitles in English, which reinforces the lack of communi cation or rather his refusal to communicate with a race whose actions he disapproves of. To the contrary, the last part of the movie, after Dances with Wolves is rescued from the soldiers and back wi th the tribe and with his wife, he is engaged in dialogues exclusively in the In dian dialect, but this time, th e viewers have the privilege of English subtitles, perhaps because of the aphoris tic content of Indian teachings that come across in these final scenes. Ag ain, as in the oral tradition, the movie follows the heros acculturation into the tribal community. 114

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Another way of shaping Dunbars characte r in the movie is using him in narrative voiceovers. It is interesting to note that Dunbars voice starts to narrate only after his heroic feat in the battle in which he fights already wounded in the leg, as if only such an act of supreme sacrifice could have given him a voice and made him into a man, a reiteration of oral rites of initiation. If Oscar Hijueloss novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love exudes the rich aromas of lyrical poetry, Hispanic culture, mu sical rhythms, infused with Oedipal episodes and Greek tragedy traces, Arne Glimchers screen adaptation The Mambo Kings / Reyes del Mambo outweighs the fictional rhetoric with a sustained pace, glamorous, classical crisp images, and with characters that are equally tragic and intense as they appear in the book, but less vulgar and elevated to a complex and c ontradictory noblesse. As with the other adaptations discussed here, this simplification of character pa rallels the oral tradition. Cesars vulgarity and sexual dissipation are some of the debasing character traits, present in the novel, that Glimcher does away with in his Mambo Kings adaptation. Perhaps because he pondered that he would not have enough space and time to justify or redeem Cesar from too an acute moral nadir, th e Mambo Kings director overplays Cesars tumultuous passion dancing on a deep layer of humanity, brotherly love, and helplessness in the face of destiny. In the movie, we do not see Cesar devour[ing] everything hungrily, talking with his mouth full, and on not just on e occasion indelicately belching in the midst of a laugh that enlarged his eyebal ls and brought tears to his eyes : a man dedicated to himself, always taking more than his share: five pork ch ops, two plates of rice and beans, a plate of yuca all drowned in salt and lemon and garlic (86). Nor do we see him in any instance so downfallen after the death of his brother Nest or, that he takes a dirty handyman position, 115

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which strongly symbolizes his inner filth, and haunts his sick nightmares: When hed finally find the loose joint, dirty water would drip down on his face and often into his mouth (247). Since Glimcher features Cesar sleeping only w ith Lana Lake, the ci garette girl at the Palladium, and then in the company of some girls at a hotel in Hollywood, after which the end of the movie implies the redemption of Ne stor through Dolores, his brothers widow, Cesar does not appear, as it does in Hijueloss novel, a sex addict or desperado which engages in sexual activity with a new female ev ery night. Choosing to end the movie with Cesar and Dolores shortly after Nestors death, Glimcher eliminates Cesars struggles with old age decrepitude and his apol ogetic mental escapism into se x to avoid mortality on the night of his suicide at Hotel Splendour, as the novel has it: [. .] But always the sky grew dark and in the water hed smell blood, like the blood that sometimes appeared in his urine. And then he would look down the river and see that there were hundreds of naked women, bursting with youth and feminity, bodies damp and beau tiful in the sun: and some would hold their arms out to him imploringly and some would lie back on the ground with their legs spread wide and hed want them so bad, daydreaming about making love to one hundred women at a time, as if that would make him immortal. But then hed hear click-cl ock, click-clock, click-clock in the trees, and when he looked up he saw hanging from the branches skeletons everywhere, like wind chimes, hanging off every branch on every tree, the sounds theyd make frightening him. (373) The inborn, tragically huma n fear of death, the aw areness of the flightin ess of human life that makes Cesar tell his brother Ne stor whenever they passed a cemetery, in a jocular tone, 116

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Look, brother, there goes the future (155), remains ingrained, as a deep sadness, on the recurrent images of Cesars photographs with Nestor in th e photo booth, as images of humans who part of a natural cycle, an ideologica l slant characteristic of the oral tradition. The first generation of African American novelists that immediately followed the Civil War 26 displayed two major black character typologies when dealing with slaves narratives: the forgiving Christ figure and the violent warrior (Bryant 54). The warrior model offered a means of denying the animal condition of the ex-slaves and proving their human valor and ethics, but posed the danger of escalating the raci al tensions already heightened in the Reconstruction process. On the other hand, the forgiving Christ figure, while also enhancing the blacks human ability to absorb and practice Christianity, presented the risk of lack of self-affirmation, complete ab andonment to an inferior social status, and, in some ways, confirmed Uncle Tom stereot ypes. Morrison clearly departs from these tendencies of the black nove l. The characters in Beloved are neither forgiving (Sethe is ready to kill the Schoolteacher in her blurred percep tion of Mr. Bodwin), nor are Morrisons people Nat Turner figures. Instead, Morrison seems more preoccupied with the cultural and religious affiliation polarities tackled by nineteenth-century black writers who oscillated between honoring the African heritage and embracing and enriching Anglo-Saxon Christianity on American land. Christianity becomes the pride of liberated slaves (Baby Suggs), but it is not an eage r participation into the white system of values, as George Washington Williams, for instance, claimed in 1883 in The History of the Negro Race in America (273). Rather, more in the way of William T. Alexander, Morrison celebrates the African heritage of the American enslaved race and subtly suggest s that their genetic 117

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intelligence makes them competitive on the educational and professional fields dominated by the white Anglo-Saxons: The builders of the Pyramids and Obelisks sat at the feet of the Ethiopians to learn Architecture, Philosophy, Letters and Religion. From the Colored Race, Egypt obtained its civilization, and a vis it to the twenty-two Universities and Colleges in our land that are educa ting young colored men and women for the highest walks of life, will convince the most skeptical that in an educational sense there are no impossibilities in the way of their receiving the highest education, of which they are tr uly susceptible. (Alexander 15) Nineteenth-century Ethiopianism or the modern Afrocentrism is manifest in Beloved in the pride Sethe takes in the African dialect spoke n by her mother and further in Denver, who materializes Alexanders trust in the capability of the African Americans to excel in school. Nada Elia interprets Sethes adversity against the white schoolteacher in Beloved as mistrust of white schooling and on a larger scale as an African American feminist trend to denunciate White English as oppressive (4, 5). But for Denvers generation, education, provided by whites, of course, since they hold the monopoly of education in the country, is not oppressive or anti-racial, but it is a means to racial equality and self-affirmation. In the last Denver-Paul D scene, the movie maintain s most of the dialogue content rendered by the novel, and re-enacts the figure of the toast in te rms of affirming the potential of blacks in a white-dominated world. Denver expresses her joy at the fact that Miss Bodwin is teaching her book stuff for the purpose of going to colle ge. It is her confidence built on education that gives her the stature to reject Paul Ds opinion and claim I ha ve my own (Morrison 118

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267). Thus Denvers generation takes full advant age of white education as a way of building their identity, which given its cross-cultural versati lity, reincarnates the trope of the trickster. In the face of Denvers excitement about the future, Paul D abstains from saying Watch out. Watch out. Nothing in the worl d more dangerous than a white schoolteacher (Morrison 266). The education factor, as a ne w lease on the future, wins the battle against the past traumas. Morrisons optimism that pa st errors should not ta ke possession of the present (256) transpires in Mi ss Bodwins act of counterbala ncing the experiments of the white schoolteacher at Sweet Home. Thus, Morrisons Afrocentrism does not exclude Anglo-Saxon culture. It preaches mutual exchanges that honor both cultures and put forth the vision of a fulfilled future in which ex-slaves and their descendants will have found their identity and will have affirmed their value, and it pleads fo r a bi-racial community that honors both cultural heritages. The character Beloved, although instrument al in reviving the past, predominantly displays a child-like mind and psyche. Of a ll the characters, she who triggers others memories has the most fragmented and unartic ulated memories of past. Denvers final statement that Beloved was more than her reincarnated sister (M orrison 266) opens the possibility of reading Beloved as an archetype of the enslaved traumatized black race who voluntarily or involuntarily represses, rejects, and doe s away with memory baggage 27 119

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3. 3. The Cultural Substance of Adaptations 3.3.1. Socio-Political Aspects Acknowledging the collective aut horship of oral tradition, Sherman Alexie observes in his short story Family Portrait that often the stories contain pe ople who never existed before our collective imaginat ions created them (193). Wh en the collective imagination creates heroes, it is usually to fulfill pres ent social needs within the community, which illustrates but one of the social functions of orality. During the translation from the print medium to the camera medium, or rather duri ng what Bolter would call the remediation of fiction into film, the novels preserve their st atus of authoritative discourse in Bakhtinian terms: Authoritative discourse may organize ar ound itself great masses of other types of discourses (which interpret it, praise it, apply it in various ways), but the authoritative discourse itself does not merge with these (by means of, say, gradual transitions) [. .] Therefore, authoritative discourse permits no play with the context framing it, no play with its borders, no gradual and flexible 120

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transitions, no spontaneously creative styl izing variants on it. It enters our verbal consciousness as a compact and indivisible mass; one must either totally affirm it, or to tally reject it. (533) The authoritative word, according to Bakhtin, is religious, political, moral; the word of a father, of adults and of teachers (532), but it is also the word of novelists and film producers. At the end of a tumultuous twenti eth-century, American writers and directors appropriate the social functions of the Native American medicine man, of the Asian shaman, and of the African-American preacher from the oral traditions, and produce legal, political, and scientific discourse, far-fl ung from the exclusive preoccupa tion (of a nineteenth-century Henry James, for instance) for social mannerism of a select community and for mental and psychological developments of highly self-conscious characters. Very much in an Aristotelian fashion, postmodern writers exceed mimetic art, in that even if their plot stems from a real story (t hus imitating reality), thei r heroes, the cultural richness and the life philosophy that transp ires from their novels rise to universal significance. And so do their screen adapta tions, except that the movies universalism reaches out even further into global political and economical levels. I must admit that the mid-1990s have witnessed a dearth of real ly good American films, writes Thompson. Hollywood is making enormous amounts of money and expanding its hold on world markets following the breakup of the Soviet Un ion and the strong trend toward multiplexing in Europe and Asia. The growing urge on the part of the studio executives to make films that can appeal to virtually any person on the pl anet has apparently reduced some of the flexibility in the classical system. This bid for universal appe al is often cited as evidence of a post-classical approach (336). Thompson fu rther describes Hollywoodian post-classicism 121

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as a mixture of the breakdown of coherent plot development and character traits by the increasing dominance of spectac ular action and speci al effects on the one hand, and an assumed fragmentation of audiences (344). The cathartic function of the postmodern tr agic discourse, whether it be mediated through print or camera, often seeks to purge the audience of emotions far more complex than fear and pity. For pity is aroused by someone who undeserv edly falls into misfortune, avers Aristotle, and fear is evoked by our recogn izing that it is someone like ourselves who encounters this misfortune (50) Stories like Stones adaptation Heaven and Earth awake the viewers horror for the helple ss victims of war and incite the identification sympathies of immigrants. When we watch a film or a te levision broadcast, argue s Bolter, we become the changing point of view of the camera. [. .] This is not to say that our identity is fully determined by media, but rather that we empl oy media as vehicles for defining both personal and cultural identity. [. .] Wh en we watch the filmed adaptation of a novel, we bring to the film a notion of self appropriate to voiced prose. (231-232). So powerful has the dominion of the camera become, that it holds the authority to validate human identity. In her 1990 play Imperceptible Mu tabilities in the Third Kingdom Suzan Lori-Parks has some characters (the Saxons) repeatedly take their photographs to prove their existence (Robinson 16). The elem ent of Indians being photographed constitutes one cultural and economic detail that director Apted fails to take over from Matthiessens novel. From the tribal perspective, leader s who accepted to have their photograph taken-- which Crazy Horse, throughout his life, refuse d to dolet their sp irit be captured in a box and thus lost their aut hority and efficiency (Matthie ssen 8). On the other hand, photographic portraits of The Vanishing Re dman, often commodified on white markets, 122

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turn the Indians into victims of racial disp lay, creating an image of the Indian as an anthropological rarity. The same desacraliza tion of Indian culture happened, according to Matthiessen, with the use of Indians in Western movie features (18). Barthes offers a definition of photogra phy based on two terms he coins: the punctum a sting, speck, cut, little holeand also a cast of the dice [. .] that accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me) [. .] this element which rises from the scene, shoots out of it like an arrow, and pierces me (26, 27) and the studium which comprises all the historical, cultural message of an image (26) As much as oral traditions might argue against the cameras punctum (or the commercial function of the image), they will always share the studium content with the art of cinema si nce the intentions of both oral and cinematic traditions are geared toward social change. Indeed, as Keyssar points out, drama offers another possibility, that of presenting and urging the transformation of persons and our images of each other, but as she goes further to postulate, it is becoming other, not finding oneself, that is the crux of the drama (93). As Keyssar concludes, drama, especially in its contemporary, televised form, may lure us to see and shape others as identical to ourselves, but that is not what its best work is ever about. Postmodern drama, resonating with the militantism of the s, enable[s] us to acknowledge the otherness of others (Keyssar 106). Along these lines, stories like Crichtons Jurassic Park and James Ellroys L.A. Confidential warn against an imminent destruction of the city (in Aristotelian terms) either through unethical scientific endeavors or by i nner corruption and prolif eration of crime. These information assemblages turn the message of the fiction into social manifests in the 1990s. 28 There is no doubt that Literature is po litical, as Judy Fetterl ey remarks (991). But it is the ideological slant of cinematic narrator s (Chatman 154) that dictates the political 123

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color. And since the main id eology of producers is that of marketing their products with a minimum risk of being sued, their political co lor remains, more ofte n than not, neutral. Le Ly Hayslips story stems from a predom inantly oral culture in which education and literacy were scarce and often impeded by war conditions. At night, my family would sit around the fire and tell stories about the deadboth distant ancestors and people recently killed, recalls Hayslip in When Heaven and Earth Changed Places Such stories all followed a common pattern, like acts of a play or the rules of a poem (15). In a central scene, which director Oliver Stone also takes ove r in the movie, Le Lys father lays before her the mission of her life: Your job is to stay aliveto keep an eye on things and keep the village safe. To find a husband and have babies and tell the story of what youve seen to your children and anyone else wholl listen (3 2). Thus, the movie perpetuates an enactment of the community values that used to be transmitted orally to the next generation as Hayslip records it in her novels. If Le Ly Hayslip comes across as a di plomat in depicting the Communist and American influences in preand post-war Vietna m, Oliver Stone patently shuns any political innuendos that would imply favoritism toward a ny of the two sides. His diluted version of Hayslips story paints an inte nsely desolate, melodramatic, and at times bucolic image of Vietnam, in which the population wallows in po verty, helpless, a victim of political conflicts they certainly do not understand. The mo re sophisticated films become, observes Chatman, the less often do characters or voiceover narrators explicitly argue a films thesis (57). But neither do Hollywood studios intend to provide e xplicit and formal argumentation since it would be detrimental to their profits (Chatman 58). The producers preoccupation with social issues combined with a reluctance to present a clear-cut message 124

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often results in productions that sacrifice principles for the sake of pleasing as large an audience as possible. 29 Stone is true to Hayslips explan ation of the Republi cans failure to appeal to the masses (since they were Catholic s like the oppressive Fr ench), something he renders through Le Lys voiceover, and to the Viet Congs propaganda that relied heavily on the farmers interest in preserving their trad itions and land. Nevert heless, the director intentionally leaves out details of bribing the Vietnamese officials both when Le Ly immigrated to the States and when she came b ack to Vietnam to visit. In fact, Stone minimizes the details of her visit to Vietna m without mentioning Hayslips long red tape experiences and media exposure before her trip, the logistics of her hu manitarian projects, and especially her political perceptions and views. The Hollywood tycoons were not wrong in acting on the assumption that movies gave the American immigrant a means of self-fulfillment without delay, wrote McLuhan in 1964 (254). In the 1990s, the cinematic discours e ceases to depict such an idealism. The immigrants (Le Ly Hayslip, the four mothers and daughters in Amy Tans Joy Luck Club ) do attain financial prosperity in America, but that happens often to the detriment of their spiritual development, and this is what these movie adaptations show. Stone catches some of Le Lys bewilderment at the American magic technology and consumerist society ( Child of War 32) as he briefly has her struggle with the sinks garbage disposal and renders with fidelity to the novel the Uncle Ben rice episode. While the racially loaded scene in which Le Ly is scorned by her husbands family over dinner (it is Eds family in Hayslips Child of War) stays with Stones version, the director never reveals he r sometimes outright rejection or misunderstanding of American culture. So me things never find any room in Stones movie such as Le Lys mental revolt voiced as Sex, guns, and Christ! Was that all 125

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Americans cared about? or her thoughts following a violent r eaction to her press declarations before her post-war trip to Vietnam, as she writes that the Vietnam veterans had admitted they knew next to nothing about the pe ople, land, and culture they had gone so far to destroy ( Child of War 226). Throughout the two novels, but especially in Child of War Hayslip repeatedly professes her political neutrality. I didnt care about poli tics. I didnt know anything about communism or democracy and never had. I felt sorry for everyone who had been harmed by the war, on either si de, writes Hayslip ( Child 220). And again, she makes it clear that she intends her mission to remain exclusively human itarian and devoid of any political tint when she confronts an FBI agent after her first 1986 trip to Vietnam: I just want you to know that I will not spy for anybody, okay? Not for the Vietnamese, not for the American government, not for anybody. You see, Im thinking about doing humanitarian work for my peoplenot for the Communist government, but for the people, like the Red Cross ( Child 248). In a realistic world, it is obvious that one can never be po litically neutral. What Oliver Stone picks up from Child of War is Hayslips universalistic attitude that constructs her persona as citizen of the world, representing one of the American races: I could not speak for all Americans, but as a U.S. citizen of Asian descent I was as entitled to my spot in the U. S. melting pot as any Caucasian, Hispanic, or black woman, or any other race that made up the American soul. Peel away our colorful skins a nd we are all children of one planet. Our creed of choicefreedom and independence, re sponsibility and compassionis the core of our humanity. We can no more reje ct it than we can reject the spark of life which fate or luck or god has given us. Many people may be better suited 126

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by education or talent to bring this message to East and West, but one handhold on that burden has fallen to me. ( Child 330) Built on these novel lines, Stones script puts si milar words into Le Lys voiceover as she walks, angelically dressed in white, through the high, green grass of her countrys fields at the end of the movie, mentally affirming her mission to be in-between East and West, Vietnam and American, Heaven and Earth ( Heaven and Earth). Amy Tans novel The Joy Luck Club becomes a vehicle of cultural preservation and transmission as much as any production of the oral tradition. Before I wrote The Joy Luck Club, my mother told me, I might die soon. And if I die, what will you remember, said Amy Tan in an interview (qtd. in Rozakis 387). 30 The Joy Luck Club explores issues of cultural Chinese-American and generational diffe rences while avoiding direct criticism of either country. In one of the stories na rrated by Lindo Jong in th e novel, Double Face, Lindo explains her dream of inculcating in her daughter the best in th e two worlds, but also her disappointment that the American ident ity ended up displacing the Chinese traditions: I wanted my children to have the best combination: American circumstances and Chinese character. How could I know these two things do not mix? I taught her how American circumstances work. If you are born poor here, its not lasting shame. You are first in line for a scholarship. If the roof crashes on your head, no need to cr y over this bad luck. You can sue anybody, make the landlord fix it. You do not have to sit like a Buddha under a tree letting pigeons drop their dirt y business on your head. You can buy an 127

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umbrella. Or go inside a Catholic ch urch. In America, nobody says you have to keep the circumstances somebody else gives you. She learned these things, but I couldnt teach her about Chinese character. How to obey parents and listen to your mothers mind. How not to show your own thoughts, to put your feelings behind your face so you can take advantage of hidden opportunities. Why easy thi ngs are not worth pursuing. How to know your own worth and polish it, never flashing it around like a cheap ring. Why Chinese thinking is best. (289) The movie emphasizes the linguistic and cultural tension between Lindo and her daughter Waverly as they spend time together at the beauty salon and over the blunders of Rich, Waverlys fianc, at dinner. Again, Roses feminist awakening to confront her husband when dealing with an immanent divorce, both in the novel and movie, show that the daughters of the Chinese mothers have inherite d a Chinese strength, which translated into American terms, results into challenging the male authority as much as it had led to challenging the parental author ity during their American chil dhood (June revolts against her mothers pressures to master the piano and Waverly does th e same with her mothers ambition to see her a chess champion). After Richardson Morses floppy adaptation of Scott Momadays The House Made of Dawn in 1987, and a deep blend of activ ism and poetry in David Seals Powwow Highway s adaptation directed by Jonathan Wacks, the onl y adaptation of fiction written by a Native American about Native Americans in th e 1990s remains the humorous, charming Smoking Signals (1998) directed by Chris Eyre and based on a script by the Native American Sherman Alexie who used here materials from his shor t-stories. In one of his short stories, 128

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Imagining the Reservation, S. Alexie makes a mathematic and at the same time sociophilosophic statement: Surviva l = Anger x Imagination. Imagination is the only weapon on the reservations (150). And further, he launc hes a rhetorical questio n: Does every Indian depend on Hollywood for a twentieth-century vision? (150). The screen adaptation The Smoke Signals operates on the above equati on factoring in Victor as a prototype of anger and Thomas as a repository of imagination, both of whom re-enact the oral type of survival of the Native American spirit at the end of the twentieth century. Moreover, there is a salient scene in the movie, discussed below, that debunks the Hollywood vision a nd indirectly answers Alexies question. The movie follows the pattern of the matur ity journey motif and does so in a racial context. A journey of coming of age fo r the two young men, Victor and Thomas, the Greyhound ride to Phoenix teaches them to deal with cons like the young lady who pretends to have been part of the Olympic games and with racists like the driver who stares at them in a discriminatory way and the two whites who had appropriated their seats and refuse to move. Victors irony when teaching Thomas to pose and act as a stoic Indian matches that in Alexies story of historical social injustice, The Trial of Thomas-Builds-the Fire, in which Thomas-Builds-the-Fire im personates various Indian heroes As a screenplay writer, Alexie seems to prefer a refe rence to another Indian lite rary work of the 1990s, which portrays a stereotypical image of the clas sic noble savage: How many times have you watched Dances with Wolves ? Victor asks Thomas on the bus while teaching him how to be a real Indian ( Smoke Signals ). Later when their stoic faces could not move the whites from their seats, Thomas observes that stoic f aces dont always work and you know, Victor, cowboys always win, pointing to the invincib ility of the Anglo-Saxons and mentioning John 129

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Wayne as a white prototype (Smoke Signals ). Victors spontaneous orality manifestation is a mockery of the whites superficiality and hidden weaknesses and a subtle demystification of the white cowboy myths: John Waynes teeth, hey-ya hey-ya, are they false or are they real/ John Waynes teeth are they plastic, are they steel, sing the two boys and their song assumes studio quality while a crane image pans away along with their bus ( Smoke Signals ). Thus, the two characters resort to incantatory singing, an oral ritua listic manifestation that challenges the superiority of the colonizing archetypes. Blakes Dances with Wolves shows with impartiality th e Indian noblesse (Comanche) and the Indian cruelty (Pawnees), the whites base ness (new soldiers at the fort), but also the whites potential for redemption (Dunbar). The novel, as much as the movie, depicts a world in turmoil, in which neither races were complete ly in the right. The sense that both Blake and Costner make of the racial and political tensions takes the so cial discourse to a universalistic level. Kicking Bird, gives a last piece of advice to Dances: There are many trails in this life, but the one that matters most, few men are able to walkeven Comanche men. It is the trail of a true human being. I think you are on this trail. It is a good thing for me to see. It is good for my heart (281-2). A law and order movie, Thunderheart, softens its plot with Levois rediscovery and acceptance of his Indian blood and his re-a ffirmed connection with Thunderheart, a Wounded Knee hero. Apted chooses to inserts grayish frames of poverty 31 on the reservation (as Levoi and Coutelle first dr ive through) and a drunken fight in a bar to signal alcoholism, but other than that, the movie overtly shuns any political implications that abound in Matthiessens novel, such as the AIM internal conflicts related to drug abuse, mishandling of funds, illegal weapon traffic, and dubious conne ctions to Communist governments. As 130

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ragged and ignorant as they appear in Thunderheart Apteds Indians never go so far as to refuse to swear in court by the Bible and to deny their U.S. citizenship as some of the witnesses do in the trials pres ented by Matthiessen in his novel. One of the Indian accounts of the Pine Ridge natives confr ontation with the feds hints at the merging realities of cinema and of making history on an isolated Indian re servation. One fed car started to come up the hill, you know, something straight out of the movies. They were shooting at us, so people were shooting back [. .], accounts an eye w itness in Matthiessens novel (164). The lines of shooting in Apteds adaptation were redu ced to a few fire exchanges over Jimmys attempted arrest and lacked the dramatic tones voiced in the book. This remediation in the movie of the confrontation between the FBI and the Indians on the reservation fully confirms Segers argument that A novel may be re flectiveemphasizing meaning, context, or response to an eventbut a film puts the emphasis on the event itself (2 4). What both the novel and the movie in this case fail to explai n is why AIM or ARM (in the movie) makes use of guns and dubious funds to authenticate the Indian traditions culture, and property rights. Again, this avoidance of controversial de tails, limits the political discourse in film to one that would not offend any member of th e community; in other words, film follows patterns of communal standards observed in the oral tradition. A statement in Matthiesens novel, attributed to Russel Means -an Indian leader who says Our concept of time, which makes up part of our reason for being Indian, is that we have no concept of time (131) -becomes a recurrent motif on which Apted constructs a cross-cultural interaction in the movie between FBI agent Ray Levoi and Indian medicine man Yellow Hawk. Able to understand the Indi an concept of time on the reservation as opposed to the frantic stress of the time cons traints in urban American areas, Levoi 131

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voluntarily exchanges his Rollex watch with Yell ow Hawks pipe at the end of the movie ( Thunderheart ). As much as film re-enacts orality, it also shows the year ning of post-modern heroes to return to a tribal stress-free community. * When Baby Suggs, in Morrisons Beloved withdraws from the still turbulent Reconstruction world into trauma-induced insani ty to meditate on colors, she does more than leaving behind a legacy of survival through her quest for color that pl aced trust and choice squarely in Gods nature (Br acks 69). The racial connotation of color(s) occasions Baby to contemplate the divine scheme in which peopl e of different colors, just like any other colorful elements of the creation, contribute their own value and beauty. Morrisons novel is all about the beauty and value of the black race. Very much like the novel, Demmes production is all about an identity built on hope, struggles, both inner and external, and selfaffirmation. It is a production th at re-enacts community ideals a nd values as much as the oral tradition did. Both Sethe 32 and Paul D. have to deal with ni ghtmarish memories of events that basically identified them under sl avery as non-humans, animals, even inferior to animals: Paul D. was given less consideration than Miste r, a rooster; Sethe was deprived of a human wedding ceremony and later accused of being an animal when she killed her daughter to avoid a return to slavery. The novel meticul ously depicts their struggle with accepting, rejecting, and fearing their an imal status, but the movie only superficially catches the schoolteachers study of the behavior of an abused black woman and his calling her 132

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Animal! at the crime scene, while completely doing away with Paul D.s narrative about Mister and his present fear that he might indeed be an animal since he could not resist his sexual attraction to Beloved. Morrison puts fo rth Sethes story, but also builds a solid background of collective trauma that did not end after the Civil War. Two of her characters, Paul D. and Stamp Paid occasion in the nove l evocations of the hopeless condition of exslaves during the Reconstruction period. Caroli ne Rody sees Paul D. as a voice of tribal griot-cum-historical eyewitness who offers cinematic visions of an entire struggling people (Rody 92). Her characterization is based on Morrisons account of Paul Ds memories of his wanderings: During, before, and after the war he ha d seen Negroes so stunned, or hungry, or tired or bereft it was a wonder th ey recalled or said anything. Who, like him, had hidden in caves and fought owls for foodstole from pigsslept in trees in the day and walked by nightO nce he met a Negro about fourteen years old who lived by himself in the woods and said he couldnt remember living anywhere else. He saw a witless colored woman jailed and hanged for stealing ducks she believed were her own babies. (66) Another identity element in this scene is the old African dialect spoken by Sethes mom, but only made manifest in Nans words at the death of Sethes mother. Morrison, using the rememory from the pers pective of Sethe as a child at the time, can afford to be rather evasive in identifying this language. She only refers to different words, a language that Sethe underst ood then but could neither reca ll nor repeat nowthe same language her maam spoke, and which would ne ver come back (62). The movie, although significantly cutting on Nans speech, is obviously more specific than the novel, as it 133

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presents Alerte Belance (Nan) speaking a particul ar version of patois French, and so defines a probable linguistic transition phase, which the Africans imported from Africa experienced when being handled by various colonizing cultures (Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Anglo). In terms of language as an expression of social relations and ethnic identity, the African American experience was different from colonial experiences. The colonized, in most cases, were able to maintain a bilingual status while the African American slaves lost their native languages/dialects in America. The movie version of Beloved honors a possible lost dialect, but at the same time it offers simultaneous captioning in English which is nothing else but edited snippets of Morrisons text. Of course, the English translation credits Morrisons writing, but it also sends a message of linguistic domination: the now lost dialects of first generations of slaves could not operate as valid linguistic curr ency in the New World, so they had to be translated (read gradually transformed and assimilated) into dominant, colonizing English. It is interesting that when rememoring the death of her mother combined with the story of her conception, all told by Na n in an old forgotten language, Sethe also acknowledges her vivid memories of singing and dancing, thus completing the portrait of a ritualistic African culture This is what makes language part of a ritual, and perhaps this is what makes Beloved less a novel than a ritual enacted in language (Marks 145). In this context, it is worth consideri ng Leantin Bracks observation th at Morrisons keen attention to the importance of memory or rememory stems from the historical real ity that slave culture was based on an oral society, further reinforced by laws forbidding literacy to slaves (62). The orality of the African-Ameri can generations of slaves and the struggle for literacy in the post-Civil-War era constitute dominant themes in both the movie and the novel Beloved themes that shape the cultural identity of the liberated slaves. 134

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* * The dictates of community morals, the tribal standards, if you will, as they would be in an oral society, rule out the possibility of Francesca abandoning he r routine to follow Kincaid in Wallers novel and Eastwoods movie The Bridges of Madison County. In the movie, her deliberations over her choice at th e last dinner with Kin caid include both the talk of the town, but also the needs of he r children and her mother-role. To show the emotional conflict that tears Francesca betw een passion and duty, betw een the histrionic dichotomy of the Dionysian and the Apollonia n, Eastwood further manipulates close ups on the cross she gave Kincaid, as he hangs it in his car while waiting for the traffic light to change, and on Francescas hand clutching the car handle, ready to flee to join him. But these symbols have reversed connotations: Kincai d seems to use the cross as a beckoning invitation, but it is precisely th e cross that reminds Francesca of duty and morals and her place in the community, whereas the handle to th e car door signifies a freedom that her own hand refuses to grant her. Detective stories such as James Ellroys L.A. Confidential and John Grishams The Firm appropriate roles of social manifests that warn against the corruption within political and law-enforcement circles, but also tackle compromising and controversial conflicts of the righteous hero between his commitment to pr ofessional integrity and his desire to protect his own family. Such fiction works and th eir cinema counterparts re-enact the Greek tragedys system of popular justice, a system of tribunals of the City (Vernant 278). While Edmund Exley remains in L.A. Confidential the only incorruptible cop who goes so far as to warn his own father that he will reveal his criminal involvement and thus loses both his 135

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father and Inez, the woman he loves, Mitchell McDeere in The Firm succeeds to work his way out of a mafia-operated law firm with a satisfactory $10 million that he transfers from mafia accounts to his own account and leaving behind a hotel room full of incriminatory evidence (printed and recorded) wh ich the justice system used to prosecute the firms clients and lawyers. If compromise turned out to se rve both his familys safety and the law with Mitch, both in the movie and the novel, Exleys in transigence leaves him bereft of family in the novel and without a female partner in th e movie as Lynn rides off with Bud. In both movies, justice is served and the conflict is ap peased to a state of normality. Regardless of the characters status at the e nd of the story, it is implied that because of their perseverance, intelligence, and dedication, the culprits were brought to justice and the community became a better place to live. 3. 3. 2. Eroticism 136

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In Mulveys opinion, the er otic objectification of woman in cinema remains indicative of the nature of our still patriarchal society: The image of woman as (passive) raw ma terial for the (active) gaze of man takes the argument a step further into the structure of representation, adding a further layer demanded by the ideology of the patriarchal order as it is worked out in its favorite cinematic form illusionistic narrative film. (17) Our selection of movies based on 1990s novels features a patr iarchal society in which men still hold power positions, but the women ceas e to be passive and rebel against their objectification. As oral tradition had anticip ated (see for instance the sermon Behold the Rib presented in Chapter 1 and quoted from Courlander 359-361), women continue at the end of the twentieth century to conquer territories of equality to men. However, elements of rape, prostitution, male promiscuity or voluntar y adultery that populate the movies based on these novels produced in the 1990s, would have remained taboo subjects in most of the oral tradition pieces. However, some of the movie adaptations under discussion here, if nothing else for the sake of decency standards and for political correctness reasons, observe moral taboos, even if, to do so, directors endorse a stor y version radically differe nt from the original novel. Such is the case of Stones adaptation Heaven and Earth Hayslip avoided explicit erotic descripti ons in her novels, but her honesty in listing most of her boyfriends and two husbands adds to the realism of he r novels, given the war context and the survival choices most Vietnamese women had to make at the time. Some of the writers accounts of cultura l differences between Vietna mese traditional sexual male dominance and the female-objectifying habits of American GIs who preferred acrobatics as part of sexual encounters never come across in the movie. Elaborate novel accounts of 137

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prostitution in Vietnam and the tragic fate of mutilated and murdered prostitutes diminish to a very graphic image of mutilated female corpses with Le Lys voiceover identifying them in Stones adaptation. Again, as part of Stones sanctification of Le L y, the four-hundred-dollar prostitution act she commits--one de scribed in detail in the book When Heaven and Earth Changed Places as an experience of [taking] seed from th e invaders (259)does not graphically appear in the movie that cuts the scene with her acceptance of the job. Parallel cutaways to her son naked and crying in the dust while she is persua ded to prostitute her body and an after lead to her washing her body in disgust work in the movie toward softening the ethical implications of the act she was for ced by circumstances to accept. Other erotic scenes, such as Le Lys making love to Ahn a nd later to Steve, her only husband in Stones version, reduce nudity to the minimum in the movie while the emphasis remains on creating an intimate atmosphere with obscure light and soft musical beds. To the contrary, Oliver Stone constructs the rape scene with a highe r degree of violence and explicit anatomical images, but even in that context, he alleviates some of the horror asso ciated with the rape by parallel cutaways to slow-motion images of Le Ly as an innocent ch ild enjoying nature and to love-exuding close-ups of her father. But if for Le Ly, having sex with the other race (Ameri can) usually carries negative connotations (a certain deletion of her identity), except for her genuine love story with Dan, for other characters in the lite rature of the 1990s, miscegenation erases racial differences. Such is the case of Stands With A Fist in Blakes novel, Dances With Wolves An Irish girl, whose family had been decimated by Pawnees, a violent Indian tribe, Stands-With-A-Fist was rescued and raised by the Comanche Indians. Her first sexual enc ounter with her Indian 138

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husband on the wedding night has a powerful e ffect of wiping away her double racial identity: And she remembered the unconsciousness of the love they made, so free of movement and words and energy. It wa s like being borne aloft to float endlessly in some unseen, heavenly stream It was their longest night. When they would reach the edge of sleep they would somehow begin again. And again. And again. Two people of one fles h. [. .] When sleep finally did find them, it was simultaneous, and Stands With A Fist remembered drifting off with the feeling that the burden of being two people was suddenly so light that it ceased to matter. She remembered feeling no longer Indian or white. She felt herself as a single being, one person, undivided. (80) Robert James Wallers novel The Bridges of Madison County revolves around an illegitimate, and therefore, the more exhila rating relationship between the married Francesca Johnson and the single itinerant photographer Ro bert Kincaid. Both the novel and Clint Eastwoods 1995 screen adaptation play on the strong contrast between the brevity of the affair and its intensity. For the sake of f our days of sharing and connecting, both lovers stipulate in their wills that th eir ashes be scattered at the Roseman Bridge. In Wallers novel, eroticism, maintained well w ithin the limits of decency, overflows with elements of primitivism and remains raw, primeval, a powerful, cosmic union: [. .] She remembered how he held himself just above her and moved his chest slowly against her belly and across her breasts. How he did this again and again, like some animal courting rite in an old zoology text. As he moved 139

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over her, he alternately kissed her li ps or ears or ran his tongue along her neck, licking her as some fine leopard might do in long grass out on the veld. He was an animal. A graceful, hard, ma le animal who did nothing overtly to dominate her yet dominated her complete ly, in the exact way she wanted that to happen at this moment. But it was far beyond the physical, though the fact that he could make love for a long time without tiring was part of it. Loving him wasit sounded almost trite to her now, given the attention paid to such matters over the last two decadesspiritual. It was spiritu al, but it wasnt trite. (105) The sexual preludes, such as R obert kissing Francesca in the kitc hen, lose their tension in the movie as they alternate with cu t-aways to Francescas children s reading her journal. But Eastwoods chromatic choices for the intimate scenes--a flickering light implying a fire place, orange tinting--enhance the romantic, spir itual union depicted by Waller. Moreover, to fill in some of the books emphasis on sharin g, and at the same time, to stand for the novels insert of the story told by Cummings the jazz musician, Eastwood places the two lovers in a club setting where jazz is played and has them talk about their lives and slow dance in a reddish light. The movies club scene, aside from serving the erotic purposes of the story, carries other effects: for one, it sugg ests that their love transgressed the domestic limits of Francescas house and the professi onal space of Kincaids photographic sessions, and moved into a social realm where they became vulnerable to the public eye. Although the case of the woman ostracized by the community fo r her adultery remains salient in the movie (Kincaids encounters the adulte rous woman at the caf and la ter Francesca will bring her a cake), at the club Robert and Francesca seem to be out of the focus of any known people. 140

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After this episode, the light loses its red pa ssion tint and becomes depressingly blue in subsequent love-making scenes or dim candlelig ht at the last dinner. Again, the dominant color is blue for the last time Francesca sees Ki ncaid in the rain before he leaves the town. This chromatic scheme carries profound signifi cations in the manifest ation of psychological and societal conflicts. Francesca chooses to abide by morals endorsed by the community, a choice that remains within oral tradition taboos but her unfulfilling ma rriage will confine her to a blue life. Giles Mayns definition of eroticism fits the best Oscar Hijueloss build of his Mambo Kings character, Cesar Castillo: Sans doute la caractristique premire de lrotisme est-elle de nous propulser irrsistiblement hors de la calme or donnance de notre ralit quotidienne pour nous maintenir veill une experience dun autre type, dune autre intensit [. .]. Lrotisme laisse peu de plac e aux tergiversations, encore mois la tricherie ou au calcul. Contrairement la pornographie, gnralement dfinie comme lveil calcul du dsir sexuel, le mouvement de lrotisme dfie tout calcul. (149) Without doubt, the primary characteristic of eroticism is to propel us irresistibly beyond the calm order of our daily reality in order to keep us awake to a different type of experience, of another intensity [. . ]. Eroticism leaves little room for procrastina tions, and even less for cheating or calculations. Unlike pornography, genera lly defined as the calculated awakening of sexual desire, the movement of eroticism defies all calculations. 141

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Cesars promiscuity does stem from an unquencha ble desire to experience life at various intensities, and of course, as Mayn notes, th ere is no calculation in Cesars affairs, which follow patterns of spontaneity and extreme brev ity. The Mambo King remains a man in love with life and who hopes up until his last night of life that his sexual drives will keep him alive, but there is more to it than that. After the death of his brothe r and the failure of his own career, he clings to casual sexual encounters with desperation, to pu rge his anxiety, to grab a sense of fulfillment. In the movie adaptation, Cesar appears more erotic than promiscuous, and his virility effuses in his si nging and performing, in dancing to Dolores, flirting with the cigarette girl, etc. Cesar remains the macho man of the Hispanic oral tradition, but as a ch aracter in the novel, he lacks the tr aditional erotic purposes of breeding and raising a family. The movie corrects this postmodern deviation by leaving Cesar with the perspective of marrying Dolore s and thus in a role of carrying on the fam ily traditions. In this respect, the movie comes closer to the pr opriety of the oral tradition. 142

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3. 3. 3. Psychological Issues Before exploring the treatment of psychologi cal issues in some of the fiction works and movies selected, I would like to establish a few theoretical premis es with regard to violence, trauma, and the mechanisms of the psyche. If oral tradition, especially Native American, saw war (read violence) as an action i ndispensable to the surv ival of the tribe and to territorial and cultural pres ervation, in the 1990s, fiction and movie characters engage in self-preservation and self-affirmation wars. Unlike the oral war songs, the fiction of the 1990s shows complex battles fought on psychologi cal and mental fields and from which the heroes do not always emerge successful, alt hough they strive for self-affirmation. Mayn rightfully remarks that in late s and throughout the s there appeared des tendences la rrmergence ou la recomposition dun sujet plein individualiste, sr de soi et hdoniste--tendencies to resurg e or to reconstruct a fulfi lled, individualistic, selfconfident, hedonistic subject (159-60). Valrie Sanchou affirms that science define s and explains the Tr uth in our society, and that what she calls le di scours vocation scientifique (t he discourse of scientific vocation) functions as a manipulative discourse (163). In a scientific context, it would be useful to analyze violent drives in our twentie th-century stories from the perspective of a theory described by Roger Cavailles in his article Philosophie de la violence (The Philosophy of Violence). Cavailles offers a sc ientific alternative to the Freudian id-egosuperego paradigm, one which upholds the simultaneous existence and operating functions of 143

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three brains in one with each indivi dual: the primitive or reptilian brain, 33 which is responsible for triggering the Jurassic Park in us, as Cavailles puts it; the limbic brain dealing with affection; and the neo-cortex, wh ich regulates reason (8-9). Another theory worth mentioning is the single-neuron consci ousness presented by Steven Sevush at the conference "Toward a Science of Consciousne ss" held in Tucson, in April 2002. Sevush contends that a single brain at any given moment ha rbors many separate conscious minds, each one assumed to be associated with the activity of a different individual neuron [. .] that is, that what is usually regarded as a persons single conscious experience correlate s not with an integrated neuronal network, but individually with single neurons that separately and redundantly encode the entire conscious content. Consequently, at any given time, a multitude of conscious beings are assumed to be associated with a single persons brain, all having identical or at least similar experiences. Sevushs postulation, that could easily work into explaining the multiple personality syndrome, reinforces Cavailless three-part brain theory that assigns violence drives to a specific part of our psyche or brain. Another premise I would like to point out is that violence closely follows or precedes trauma, again a process that develops in the human brain. James McGa ugh, director of the Center for Neurobiology of Learni ng and Memory at the Universi ty of California at Irvine, explains the emergence of trauma: An ev ent becomes a strong memory, a traumatic memory, when emotions are high. Those emoti ons trigger a release of stress hormones like adrenaline, which act on a region of the brain called the amygdale and the memory is stored 144

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or consolidated (Lerche). He further clarifies th e effect of drugs on regulating traumatic emotions: If we give a drug that blocks the actio n of one stress hormone, adrenaline, the memory of trauma is blunted [. .] The drug does not remove the memory it just makes the memory more normal. It prevents the excessively strong memory from developing, the memory that keeps you awake at night. The drug does something that our hormonal sy stem does all the time regulating memory through the actions of hormones. Were removing the excess hormones. (Lerche) Subsequently, the PTSD patients will be able to remember the event, but they will have forgotten the trauma associated with it, as McGaugh implies. Baby Suggss voluntary forgetting through the denial of her own children in Beloved replicates a procedure psychiatrists have developed recently called t herapeutic forgetting (Lerche). The question that Jeanie Lerche Davis poses is, But by er asing traumatic memories, are we changing the person? Are we erasing capacity for empat hy? Babys mental disintegration in Beloved (shunned by Demme in his adaptati on) proves that indeed the fo rced wiping out of traumatic memories may also erase or debilitate some of the psychic functions of the individual. 34 In 1991, Daniel C. Dennett goes so far as to completely refute the idea of the existence of such a thing as the stream of consciousness, thus replacing one of the modernists structural pillars with a technol ogical network image of circuits and multiple drafts: There is no single, definitive stream of consciousness, because there is no central headquarters, no Cartesian Theat er where it all comes together for 145

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the perusal of a Central Meaner. Inst ead of such a singl e stream (however wide), there are multiple channels in wh ich specialist circuits try, in parallel pandemoniums, to do their various things creating Multiple Drafts as they go. Most of these fragmentary drafts of n arrative play shortlived roles in the modulation of current activity but some get promoted to further functional roles, in swift succession, by the activity of a virtual machine in the brain. (253-4) But it is precisely this fragmentation, so pe rvasive in post-modern literature both on the character-building and on the narrative levels, th at ensues from traumatic events. Jon Shaw, MD, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Miami School of Medicine, and a PTSD expert, associates th e fragmentation of thought, speech, and memory with trauma. The more intense the emotion is, the more fragmentation there is in the memory, says Dr. Shaw. Patients who experien ced trauma dont have a realistic, coherent narrative of what happened. Some aspects are he ightened, others are diminished. Theyre left with an overwhelming sense of the event, yet they cant really piece it together, so they cant really achieve mastery over it. They lose their rational ability to understand it (Lerche). For characters like Stands With A Fist in Blakes novel Dances with Wolves the purging of the traumatic memories comes natura lly when the promise of a better future surfaces during transition periods. Recently widowed by the same tribe that had murdered her family, Stands is asked to try to remember her white language so she can interpret for her tribe in their discussions with Dunbar, an American soldier. If the encounter with Dunbar, and the chemistry therein entailed, tri ggers her linguistic memory and challenges her 146

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atrophied articulation abi lities, her retreat to a lonely s pot outdoors turns on an unstoppable flow of memories about her family and her childhood. Like Morri sons character Baby Suggs, Stands had built her toughness as a mean s of psychological survival on shutting out of her mind the horrific images of her parents decapitation. In Blak es novel, healing can only happen for Stands through complete reme mbering and through the acceptance of her new, rejuvenating love for Dunbar. But the crucial defining element of the charac ters identity is their past. Farrells conclusion that Morrisons goal is to show that self-identification co mes from the past, but that ones history must be reca lled in such a way that it is not destructive oversimplifies an extremely complex post-traumatic healing process (29). But every time the issue of human/animal identity resurges whether it be in the novel or the movie, it cannot be a nondestructive process, as Farell claims that Morrison intends. Nor is rememory a way of understanding the past as Kathl een Marks states. Her definiti on of memory as not merely the past recalled, but the imag inative faculty through which the past is understood (123) does not hold water in Morrisons Beloved or in Jonathan Demmes movie. The characters do not rememory their past to understand slav ery. Historians, Christians, economists, and politicians still find it incomprehensible that black slavery happened in the United States in spite of Jeffersons statement that all men were created equal, against Jesus command love your neighbor as you love yourself, and de spite the fact that it devastated the economy of the South. Morrisons characte rs fear, reject, and abhor the pa st. But they have learned to cherish the best things they had (love, courage, sacrific e) while standing against the humiliations and fighting for their freedom and dignit y. In this sense, Marks is right to assert that Beloved shows memorys work as cultural renewal (23), a feature that oral tradition 147

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certainly shares. Both Morrison and De mme tell the story of people who are not remembering simply to show how sorry they ar e for themselves, but to affirm their strength and their determination to stand their ground and fight for what belongs to them: the right to love, to work, to education, and the right to be accepted as part of the American culture, which confirms Mayns theory shown above. Perhaps for reasons that have to do with the economy of a major cinema production, the only scene that includes a collective trau ma (as well as a collective cultural legacy) is Sethes account about her mothers hanging. It is indeed an excellent production choice because more than Paul Ds and Stamp Paids post-war mini-chronicles, this hanging scene holds a wider array of connotations. For one, th is scene holds the recurrent motif of the engraving or the mark. Given the lack of written records for enslaved African families, Sethes mother reveals to her a distinctive mar k, most likely slavery-rela ted, that will serve as the only way to identify her in case of extr eme face mutilation. Slaves had no written IDs except for the torture engravings/marks. Given Beloveds role in calling the past a few pertinent questions emerge: Does Beloved transmit trauma, as Ramadanovic inquires (99)? Does she do it in a way of remembering and reinventing it as opposed to repeating the trauma? And if Beloved incarnates the horrors of the past, is Beloved or be-loved the only name the traumatized characters want to give the past? Is love th e only thing they really want to remember from the past? Defendants of a reincarnation interp retation might argue that Morrison brings the past alive through Beloveds scarred, monstrous body and he r irrational mind. Morrison indeed confirms this as a possible in-s et allusion in one of her interviews ( Profile). But textual evidence from the novel shows that Denver Sethe, and Paul D, all have various, and 148

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often contradictory interpretations of Beloveds identity, which range between a belief in the reincarnation of Sethes murdered baby to a very pragmatic version of a girl who had been probably confined to a dark cabin and sexually exploited (Morrison 119). If Beloved has any effect on the handling of the past, it is a purging, cathartic function. She gives Sethe a chance to ask for forgiveness and to start living at peace with her guilt, ev en if this involves neurotic phases like giving up her job and chroni c depression. The various traumatic past episodes that Beloved triggers, both in the novel and the movie, do in fact link the traumas of the past to the present through rememory, but in no way do they repeat it. The fragmentation of the stories in Morrisons text and the linear simplifications in the movie demonstrate that characters reinvent traumatic flashbacks every ti me they allow these memories to enter their present. But the mere presence of fragmenta tion in the process of remembering confirms Dennetts new definition of the stream of c onsciousness and Dr. Shaws trauma theories presented above. Again, aside from the racial implications of Sethe being called an Animal at the scene of her murdering her ba by girl, her relegation to an inferior species may be justified in the light of Cavailless th eory, in that Sethe yielded to the violent impulses of her reptilian brain a nd committed an atrocious crime. The multifaceted personalities of the heroes in the fiction and the movies of the 1990s as well as their double ethni city point to Bakhtinian el ements of polyphony, hybridization, and carnivalization, which as shown in Chapter 1, also permeated oral traditions. Morrisons Sethe in Beloved the eight female characters in Amy Tans The Joy Luck Club and Stands With a Fist in Blakes novel Dances with Wolves all these characters negotiate their traumas in the context of racial and cultural dualities, and their identities deve lop as hybrids born in an ethnicity impacted by the colonizing A nglo-Saxon pressures; they all rise as 149

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representatives of a polyphonic, multiethnic consciousness, and sometimes resort to masking their intentions and thoughts, a carniv alization process that secures their self-preservation. 150

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Chapter Four The Postmodern Orality Functi ons of Television and Radio 4.1. Television: An Oral Enactment in the Twentieth-Century Global Village As E. Stone explains in Black Sheep and Kissing Cousins oral literature remains an ongoing phenomenon in which we all participate, consciously or not: All of us, long after weve left our original families, keep at least some of those stories with us, and they continue to matter but sometimes in new ways. At moments of major life transitions, we may claim certain of our stories, take them over, make them part of us instead of making ourselves part of them. We are always in conversation with th em one way or another. (8) Television is one such way to st ay in touch with the stories of our society. Television. It seems just impossible to exclude it from any di scussion of late-twentie th-century American culture as to include it neatly in that discussion, remarked Alan Nadel in his review essay American Fiction and Televisual Consciousness. And he further notes, Television is both the most pervasive mode of American mass cu lture and the most effective conduit for most other chief modes, especially those represented through film a nd advertising (303). While remediating our oral and written culture, television both uses and produces hybrid vehicles of transmission, re-enacts the Bakhtinian carnivaliza tion (a device shared by the oral tradition) through advertising manipulations, and engages in dialogism with a highly polyphonic content since its products represent and target the masses. Moreover, as James Anderson 151

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writes, television, in a fashion similar to oral tradition and to the late twentieth-century fiction and film, voices socio-political issues of the community: In the cultural understanding model, wr ites James A. Anderson, one studies television (or any popular art) as an index of the cultu re from which it springs. It presumes that the members of a cu lture are in a continual process of negotiating that culture. That negotiati on gets done in the meeting rooms of the clubs, in the halls of churches, in the living rooms of homes, and in the expressions of the media. The contem porary content of the media provides the panoply of issues, conflicts, offers and counteroffers that the current negotiations involve. The content of the media, th en, is not trivial but composed of the shared values, ideas and symbols by which individuals are joined as a people. (303) Ongs concept of magical potency (32) that he attributed to the spoken word in the oral tradition resurges in television, but with this medium, it is a combination of words and images that renders the magic. Television disc ourse operates with what Jean Peytard calls une smiotique iconologique an iconographi c semiotics (La mdiacritique 111); in other words, the Saussurian paradigm of the li nguistic sign ceases to re ly exclusively on aural signifiers, as it does with the or al tradition, and incorporates both visual and audio signifiers within the television text. Gi ven the major role of the iconogr aphic semiotics in reaching the audience, it is important to note that televise d publicity carries out wh at Jean-Pierre Besiat describes as the appropriation of the vi sual, temporal, and private space. Controversial perspectives al so developed around the role of television in education, as shown in the following section. For the purposes of this study, I will show that television 152

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constitutes a postmodern oral medium, as in strumental in teaching the members of the community as the oral tradition was. 153

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4. 2. The Televisions Didactic Role: Appr oaches to Literature-Based Teaching In the twentieth century, television l iterary shows and e ducational programs appropriate the didactic functions of the oral tradition. The epistemological function of television has been fueling heated debates among scholars, educators, a nd politicians alike. On the one side, there are those who support the aiding role of television in the processes of teaching and learning. McLuhan could not ev ade a generalized awareness of broadcast education as he coins a daring definition of the movie, radio, and TV as classroom without walls (248). On the same line s, Phillip Simmons writes in his study Deep Surfaces that Together with popula r film and advertising in all media, television is one of the primary means by which the postmodern conditions of knowledge are establis hed within everyday life (1). The oral medium of television proves to be efficient in so far as oral learning strategies become validated by th is pedagogical Bakhtinian theory: When verbal disciplines are taught in school, two basic modes are recognized for the appropriation and transmission simultaneously of anothers words (a text, a rule, a model): reciting by hear t and retelling in ones own words. The latter mode poses on a small scale the task implicit in all prose stylistics: retelling a text in ones own words is to a certain exte nt a double-voiced narration of anothers words, for in deed ones own words must not completely dilute the quality that make s anothers words unique; a retelling in ones own words should have a mixed ch aracter, able when necessary to 154

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reproduce the style of and expressions of the transmitted text. It is this second mode used in schools for transmitting a nothers discourse, retelling in ones own words, that includes within it a series of forms for the appropriation while transmitting of anothers words, depending upon the character of the text being appropriated and the peda gogical environment in which it is understood and evaluated. (532) Telling and re-telling stories not only perpetuate s oral tradition practices, but also sets the premise that orality serves as a dependabl e and flexible device of epistemological transmission, a premise that a number of educa tional experiments and scholarship confirm. Hence, Judy Freeman presents several features of literature that can be orally read/performed by teachers and students as part of the educati on process. In her vi ew, the book selections should be entertaining, involving audience th rough language, arousing empathy, triggering memories, surprising, feeding the imaginat ion, impersonating a sense of history and connections to times past, including a mlange of cultures, developing social conscience and personal ethics (7-23), all of which constitute elements that television educational programs usually include. In addition to illustrations mentioned in Freemans findings (reminding of the oral traditions pictographic materials with a didactic role), oral enactments of literature in classrooms also include performance, another orality ingredient. The selected essays in Childrens Voices are a great source of welding material for the oral literature performances and their educational f unction. In his 1987 study Creative Drama in the Classroom Cottrell points out the benefits of employing drama tic activities in the learning process: 155

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Creative drama is an art for children in which they involve their whole selves in experiential learning that requires imaginative thinking and creative expression. Through movement and pa ntomime, improvisation, role-playing and characterization, and more, children explore what it means to be a human being. Whether the content of the dram a is based in reality or pure fantasy, children engaged in drama make discove ries about themselves and the world. (1) It is on these oral features that television programs have shaped their content and presentation. Since the incipien t phases of radio and film us age in the classrooms in the 1940s and the introduction of televised edu cation in the 1950s, (Anderson 298-299), it has become true that A young person goes to two schools, as T. Himmelweit shows in her Experimental Study of Taste Development in Children, the ordinary school and the television school. From the age of 8 until 15, he devotes about equal time to each; both influence his taste and outlook and help to shape his view of th e world and of human relationships; both, in fact, educate. A number of scholars, including Gropper, favor televised educational programs. Educational television has the ca pability of presenting direct and supplementary instruction to vast numbers of schoolchildren, he writes in his Experimental Ev aluation of Procedures for Individualizing Televised Instruction. Perhaps because he was writing in 1963, Gropper displayed none of Postmans criticism against the televisions involvement in education: There has rarely been any doubt that the quality of the lesson content which educational television has to offer these children can meet the highest standards. Indeed, one of the most often cited advantag es of educational television is its potential for maintaining 156

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standards for lesson content not often possibl e in many schools, stat es Gropper (248). The only drawbacks of televised educational programs mentione d both by Gropper and by James Mitchell, Jr. is that these programs lead to passivity in learning and lack of interaction and feedback between students and TV teacher (260) But this shortcoming seems to be denied by R. P. Abelsons 1981 study that addresses the issue of reten tion with television education by arguing that such programs do include heuris tic components of the type now think in their scripts (qtd. in Salomon 188). Even with the presence of cognitive stimuli, the level of difficulty remains low to average for television educational programs. Gavriel Salomons study confirms a largely accepted opinion that television is perceived to be a much easier and a more lifelike medium, demanding far less effort for comprehe nsion than printed material of the same content, but this type of accessibility also gua rantees positive results since children also expressed more self-efficacy with te levision than with print (189). On the other side there are those who shed harsh criticism on th e didactic uses of television. Perceptions of the tele visions impact as a negative or at least artifi cial exchange abound in the scholarly publications of the last two decades. Deleuze and Guattari offer such a television reading 35 asserting that one is enslaved by a TV as a human machine insofar as the television viewers are no longer consumers or user s, nor even subjects who supposedly make it, but intrinsic component pieces input and output, feedback or recurrences that are no longer connected to the machine in such a way as to produce or use it. In machinic enslavement, there is nothing but 157

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transformations and exchanges of information, some of which are mechanical, others human. (458) Neil Postman, who fervently opposes the entertaining slant of te levision educational programs, argues that under the governance of the printing pres, discourse in America was different from what it is nowgenerally cohere nt, serious, and rational; [. .] under the governance of television, is has become shriveled and absurd (16). Furthermore, referring to television images, Postman states that in a print-culture, we are apt to say of people who are not intelligent that we must draw them pictures so that they may understand. Intelligence implies that one can dwell comfortably without pictures, in a field of concepts and generalizations (26). Postmans definition of intelligence remains limited and biased. It is a scientifically proven fact that certain age groups react more efficiently to learning through images rather than assimila ting abstract concepts. Postmans virulent attack on televisi on does not spare the Childrens Television Workshops production Sesame Street (94), an d blatantly opposes television education. Among the several shortcomings of television educational programs, Postman mentions the entertaining ingredient as a lo w-retention factor, the elimina tion of a hierarchical learning system by allowing students to tune in at any time, and the lax requirements that relieve the students into thinking that not hing has to be remembered, studi ed, applied, or, worst of all, endured (147). Further, Postman writes, Television clearly does impair the students freedom to read, and it does so with innocen t hands, so to speak. Television does not ban books, it simply displaces them (141). Post mans concerns that an overabundance of entertainment actually dilutes the educational content is also shared by Hannah Arendt, who writes: 158

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The state of affairs, which indeed is equaled nowhere else in the world, can properly be called mass culture; its prom oters are neither the masses nor their entertainers, but are those who try to entertain the masses with what once was an authentic object of culture, or to persuade them that Hamlet can be as entertaining as My Fair Lady and educational as well. The danger of mass education is precisely that it may beco me very entertaining indeed; there are many great authors of the past who have survived centuries of oblivion and neglect, but it is still an open question wh ether they will be able to survive an entertaining version of what they have to say. (352) But pedagogical research has indicated, in some instances, that it is precisely the entertainment factor that increa ses the accessibility and stimulates the interest of the students, thus contributing to a more e fficient learning process. Brya nts study shows that television educational programs use entert ainment because of necessity (222) since children may be attracted to other television programs unless the educational one entices them with humor and music. Recent evidence indicates, however that entertainment features are excellent attractors of attention and typically facilitate attention to educational messages, concludes Bryant. To those who oppose television education on the grounds that education should be delivered in a serious discourse, Bryant responds that humor th at is well integrated in the educational message [. .] might have beneficial effects and that if we consider Freudian theories according to which humor alleviates tensions and anxieties, entertaining education should relax students who are nervous about exams and improve their performance (230). Postmans solution lies in how we watch (160). And he has a word of advice for teachers who are enthusiastic about the inclus ion of technologies in the learning process: 159

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Educators are not aware of the effects of television on their students. Stimulated by the arrival of the computer, they discuss it a great dealwhich is to say, they have become somewhat media conscious. It is true enough that much of their consciousness centers on the question, How can we use television (or the computer, or word pr ocessor) to control education? They have not yet got to the question, Ho w can we use education to control television (or the computer, or word processor)? (162-3) In 1980, the WNET project set off to accomplish precisely what Postman envisions for more educated television consumers as this project defines a critic al viewer as one who plans television viewing in advance and who eval uates the programs while watching (Anderson 313). Ideally, we should all become critical viewers in the sense opened by the WNET project and by Postman. As Ande rson advises, we need to stop trying to save children from television because television consumption re mains part of normal membership in this culture (326); what we must do, instead, is educate children how to filter and process the television educational input. Babette had made it a rule, writes Don DeLillo in White Noise She seemed to think that if kids watched tele vision one night a week with pare nts or stepparents, the effect would be to de-glamorize the medium in their eyes, make it wholesome domestic sport. Its narcotic undertow and eerie diseased brain-suck ing power would be gradually reduced (16). Scholars and educators have been attempting th e same things: to demythologize the power of television, to find the right dose of television co nsumption that would only vaccinate children against it, and that would keep them safe from becoming television addicts. One way to do so would be to choose the appropriate timing for the use of the tele vision set or of a VCR. In 160

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his Introduction to Tibbetts and Welshs Encyclopedia of Movies Adapted from Books Robert Wise raises several issues that pertai n to incorporating movie adaptations into the academic literature teaching. I understand that there are a few educators who sometimes use a movie as a substitute in the classroom fo r the book itself, writes Wise. But he warns against this approach: This can be very dangerous. A lazy edu cator might be tempted to do this. Its so much better to compare the book a nd film and see how each has its own spin on the central concept or story. It can be fascinating to know what was kept and what was rejected in the adap tation process, and why. But the tricky question is, which should come first? Read the book, then see the movie? See the film, then read the book? Or is it see the book and read the film? Maybe thats not as silly as it sounds! Change s from book to film can occur for all kinds of reasons (ix). To Potsmans negative perception of television shallowness, McLuhan actually opposed, two decades before Postman, a belief in the profoundness of te levision: The cool TV medium promotes depth structures in ar t and entertainment alike, wrote McLuhan, and creates audience involvement in depth as well (272). Moreover, McLuhan remains under the cultural spell of televisi on teaching, which he elevates to sacral proportions: Even teachers on TV seem to be endowed by the stud ent audiences with a charismatic or mystic character that much exceeds the feelings develo ped in the classroom or lecture hall, says McLuhan. In the course of many studies of a udience reactions to TV teaching, there recurs this puzzling fact. The viewers feel that the teacher has a dimension almost of sacredness 161

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(293). McLuhans statement implies a ritualistic, sacral function of te levision as a teaching medium, an element which oral tradition certainly shared. Returning to the more pragmatic realm of re search, it is worth noting that statistics are often misleading in evaluating the effi cacy of television education. Meringoffs study How Is Childrens Learning from Television Di stinctive? indicates th at precisely because there are so many variables that must be taken into consideration when assessing the efficiency of television educational program s (such as the audiences ages, previous knowledge, mental abilities, psychological partic ularities, social context, and all the other technicalities related to production such as goals, choice of di scourse, etc.), this plethora of factors that influence childrens digestion of televised education cannot be measured and evaluated to lead to exact conclusions. In hi s analysis of the educational program -2-1 CONTACT, Keith W. Mielke shares th e same conclusion as Meringoff: [. .] the enormous complexity of a television program makes it difficult for formative research to infer generali zations from possibly idiosyncratic programming or to pull out detailed gui dance from general principles. A seemingly endless supply of variables can be imposed on programming and its relationship to the audience and still fall far short of a predictive recipe for a new program. (261) For example, Meringoffs study shows that when television and picture-book presentations were compared, preschoolers memory for figur ative language was incr eased dramatically by having a picture book read to them, as opposed to their language reca ll after watching the televised story (176). In this particular instance I cannot hold this result against the efficacy of television because it is a known f act that camera discourse places emphasis on 162

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action and not on language as the print medium do es. Jennings Bryant raises the same issue of the multitude of learning and viewing styles of children as consumers of televised education. According to Bryants findings, the research on Sesame Street indicated that there are at least three types of viewers: zombie viewers who devote their whole attention to the program, dual attention viewers who di vide their attention between television and other external stimuli, and modeling viewers who actively participate in the television action (221). We can easily infer that the latter categor y is the one that best benefits from this type of education, but then, active participan ts also perform best in classroom settings as well. Aside from the educational debate on the results of television education, the fact remains that television has taken over the functi ons of oral tradition didactic enactments and its uses of multimedia, but as with film and radio, television does not (and should not) exclude the written (printed) word. In the following section, I will take a look at another major socio-cultural role of television, th at of fostering the formation of reading communities, traditionally called book clubs, through oral tellings and re-tellings of stories, and sometimes of stories about stories. Thus the televisions connection with book clubs not only promotes and strengthens readership, but also perpetuates the cultural patrimony of the community, as much as the oral tradition did. 163

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4. 3. Book Clubs: From Sewing Bees to the Oprah-Factor Susan McMahon and Taffy E. Raphael menti on four Bakhtinian social factors that make written and oral speech possible, and which they take over from Clark and Holquists book Mikhail Bakhtin : (1) words materialize within experience, (2) the experience occurs within a social context, (3) word meanings ar e thus constructed within discourse, and (4) any study of language must consider the social context (Book Club Program 11-12). In the light of these epistemological factors, any cu ltural event beco mes a social function, as much as the case was with the oral tradition. The interpretation, assimilation, and subsequent recreation, re-enactment, and transmission of lite rature involve the whole community, which leads to the premise, also based in the oral tradition, that literature (or the cultural text) is the property of the tribe, not of a single author, in terpreter, or performe r. The literary shows hosts re-enact functions of ve rsatility, manipulation, and i mmediacy, and emerge as the tricksters of the oral televisi on tradition. In this sense, book cl ubs and their television/radio counterparts or literary shows revive the or ality-based rituals of creating, transmitting, and preserving cultural messages. Scholarly evidence proves that in Europe exis ted, as early as the twelfth century, what Brian Stock calls textual communities of reader s who shared their reading tastes and habits and that helped to create community, sustai n collective memory, generate knowledge, and challenge tradition (Long 32). These featur es of pristine European book clubs blatantly resemble the characteristics of oral literature discussed in Chapter 1. In the United States, 164

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Philadelphia marked the beginning of literar y groups with Benjamin Franklins 1726 Junto the first literary society in the United Stat es, but and the first book club for which records exist, was founded in 1854 by Edward D. Ingr aham (Growoll 4, 28). Ingrahams book club started out with a full organizational structure (president, secretary, locale, etc.), but failed three years later, after the death of Ingraham (Growoll 28). Even before Ingrahams book club, there were other forms of reading and di scussion gatherings that created cohesive cultural communities. On his 1852 tour through Am erica, Alfred Bunn excitedly noted in his journal that people were excited to attend lecture halls: It is a matter of wonderment [. .] to witness the youthful workmen, the overtired artisan, the worn-out factory girl [. .] rushing [. .] after the toil of the day is over, into the hot atmos phere of a crowded lecture room (qtd. in Berger 158). Writing about the history of book clubs in the United States, Moore and Stevens emphasize the existence of two definitive streaks: the Puritan urge for consensus and the Emersonian urge for self-improvement, the fear that books might corrupt the nature of women and lower-status people (slaves, etc.) a nd the movements that supported the love of books as a liberating tool (28). After the Ci vil War, white womens book clubs spread from the urban centers of the Northeas t across the American continent to the West almost as fast as did the frontier, remarks Long. The New England Womens Club and the New York Sorosis, both founded in 1868, were among the most prominent white womens book clubs (Long 35). The role of women s book clubs in the nineteenth century differed from the functions of such clubs in the twentieth centu ry. Long points out in her study that book clubs assumed a more militant feminist character in the nineteenth century when women were struggling for socio-political recognition and pr ofessional self-affirmation, or self-culture 165

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(38), but at the same time, most of such organizations avoided at the time religion and politics (69). Nowadays, Long remarks, mo st women members of book clubs are educated and indulge in informal discussions; their goal is not to enact social reform anymore because other organizations have taken up that mi ssion (70), but to p rovide a forum for self-reflection [that] involves learning thr ough literatureboth fiction and nonfictionabout the most important objective and subjective deve lopments of the contemporary world (72). Following on Longs observations, it becomes eviden t that the strong indivi dualistic trends of the modern and post-modern times have impacted the goals of book clubs, or rather have pushed these organizations on the track of wh at Moore and Stevens call the Emersonian urge for self-improvement (28). In this sense, the purpose of the book clubs of late twentieth century tends to lose the social functions of oral communities practices. Nevertheless, some of the twentieth-century book clubs, such as Oprahs televised Book Club, feature book selections that reinforce contemporary or historical socio-political issues, such as racism or women rights, a thematic feature which confers to such book clubs a function of raising social aw areness in the way of the oral tradition. Twentieth-century book clubs rely heavily on sophisticat ed organizational patterns and function as small businesses. A leader of over twenty reading groups in Chicago, Rachel Jacobsohn offers in her 1994 Reading Gr oup Handbook practical advice about what constitutes a book group, how to get one started, what organizational decisions need to be made, how to lead or participate in valuable in-depth discussions, whether to have memberled or professionally led discussions, how to use group dynamics to benefit the group, and how to choose an appropriate syllabus (xiii); her book includes everything from a glossary of literary terms and a proposed list of readings and one of critical s ources, to tips about food, 166

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recipes, services of car egiver/babysitter, notifications, leader fees, rental fees, transportation, and how to network with other organi zations and with lo cal mass media. Audience and thematic specialization cons titute another feat ure of contemporary book clubs. A large number of book clubs have emerged in connection with educational programs, another argument in favor of the di dactic functions of tw entieth-century orality enactments. Elizabeth Knowles and Martha Smith show that a book club may take many forms depending on location, various age groups of members, inclusion of family and friends, book selections and goal-oriented activities ai med at cooperative learning, independent reading, and group discussions (vii). But they underline that the major purpose of any book club is helping students become lif e-long students (vii). Knowles and Smith suggest the creation of a book club around Carl Deukers sports novel Night Hoops. This book club will have the most meaning if it is done in the spring when the NBA team schedules are winding down and excitement is he ating up for the playoffs, they write. And they dont forget to mention a strong connect ion with media and ente rtainment: Basketball will be featured in the news, in magazines, and in stores. Night Hoops is the perfect title to read and discuss (1). The explicit goal of every book club is reading fluency and deep comprehension, writes Donna Marriott. But her purpose in cludes performative trai ning in addition to comprehension: If the children cannot read th eir book club selection ma sterfully, with voice, and with a clear sense of meaning, then I ha ve failed them through insufficient support or inappropriate book selection (11). The way Marriott conceives a book club for young students involves the development of readi ng skills like skimming and scanning, writing through focused literature logs, and oral expr ession applied through literary discussions (22167

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30). These oral performative features of th is educational book club also re-enact the performative and the didactic charac teristics of the oral tradition. Other school book clubs also share multimedia transmission and social functions that remind of the oral tradition. Susan McMahons study of the oral and written texts of fifthgraders involved in a book-club type of litera ture-based reading program confirms her preestablished assumptions that the ability to elaborate story ideas is facilitated by using multiple representations that help with w ord identification and decoding (Book Club: Studying 3, 7). The discussions in the book club were precluded by drawings that illustrated the readings and were thus constructed ar ound those drawings. McMahon also points out that, according to a social constructivist pe rspective, meaning builds up on the interaction among reader, text, and the social context (Book Club: Studying 9). McMahon invokes Bakhtins theory that words are defined in so cial settings (Book Cl ub: Studying 36). This particular Book Club reading program cente red around reading, writing/representation, instruction, and discussion and in corporated reading silently, orally, student-led discussion groups, predicting, summarizing and sequencin g (Book Club: Studying 11). All these activities created an oral pattern for the assimila tion and analysis of literature that entailed an active audience 36 From the literary societies and book groups th at grew at the turn of the twentieth century from womens reform groups, chur ch groups, the National Council of Jewish Women, and the American Association of Univ ersity Women to Oprahs Book Club, reading groups have been mostly established by women a nd have targeted a female audience. Bob Lamm, quoted in Ellen Moore, brings to the op en this major trend in American book clubs: The prevalence of womens reading groups is an equal-opportunity world 168

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underscores several controversial clichs that carpet either side of the gender divide. Namely, that men read how-to manuals and speak in grunts of less than two syllables, while women love literature and discourse. (5) Jacobsohn confesses to have develo ped in 1989 a newsletter entitled Reading Women as part of her efforts to start minibook clubs in her Chicago area. Why not Reading Men ? Like most such organizations, hers targets mainly women. In 2003, Elizabeth Long remarks, in her comprehensive study of American book clubs in a regional(Houston, TX) and gender-related context, that reading for pleasur e still lingers, in connot ation, at least, in a realm of leisured bourgeois priv ate time that is female and domestic (13). Perhaps that is why traditional women reading clubs apparently were and still are of little interest for literature academic departments, sociologists, or political scientists, since these organizations rarely make a difference in these areas (Long ix). Oprahs Book Club, another womens readi ng club, has met the same reservations from the academic world although its connect ion with television entails a redemptive educational quality. In the face of a genera l academic skepticism toward, if not outward rejection of the Oprahs book selections, some voices argue for an integration of the televisual potential into teaching. Mark Hall wr ites that rather than denigrate the most pervasive form of communication in our cultur e, we ought to examine the literate behaviors associated with Oprahs Book Club more closel y, seeking ways to join television and print literacies (664). Bronwyn Willia ms goes even further in attributing to broadcasting a cultural tradition that edu cators should not ignore: For teachers of writing, mass popular cult ure in general and television in particular are often the enemy against wh ich we battle in the name of writing, 169

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rhetoric, literature and the essay. We see our jobs as enticing students back to the one true faith of print literacy. We rarely think about the nature of the visual and cultural literacies they po ssess as a result of their long viewing histories [. . ]. (2-3) From a historical perspective, social changes, in particular feminism, have often been associated with the developments in mass media, especially television. Virginia Valentines contention that feminism and television play a major role in the emergence of book clubs throughout the country sheds a new light on the cultural impact of television: My feeling is that the current movement [of fo unding numerous book clubs] gained momentum from the genera tion of people now in their thirties and forties. This was the first genera tion to grow up with television as their primary stimulus and the first genera tion in which women took working for granted. These young women were working very hard and didnt really have the chance to read. They wanted companionship, intellectual stimulation. They wanted to go back and repattern themselves, and they found they could do this by sitting down and reading a book. Oprah has taken this tradition of the televisions involveme nt with self-empowerment to a whole new level. Television is the grea test medium in the world, says Oprah Winfrey, and she goes on to articulate the mission of television people: I think t hose of us who work in it are in a blessed position. We have a responsibility to enli ghten, to inform, and entertain, if we can (Adler 63). But what Oprah under lines always is the pow er of television to empower people and to a ffect lives (Adler 103). 170

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Initiated on September 17, 1996, Oprahs Book Club embodied Oprah Winfreys dream to get America reading again, and f eatured books such as Jacquelyn Mitchards The Deep End of the Ocean Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds, Shes Come Undone by Wally Lamb, and Toni Morrisons Beloved Oprahs Book Club was discontinued in 2000 after the last selection, Toni Morrisons Sula, and was launched again in 2003 on a new format called Traveling with the Classics. Her show inspired other television networks, like C-SPAN and A&E, to devote airtime to liv e book discussions, and fomented the creation of similar book clubs across America 37 Elizabeth Long thinks th at Oprahs mass-oriented yet extremely intimate relationship with he r audience (199) produced not only huge sale boosts, but also cemented her impact on na tional culture, an impact which becomes controversial if we consider that Oprahs book selections follow her own idiosyncratic criteria and taste and show as little regard for academic literary analysis as for traditional literary authority (200). Gavin McNetts comme nts on Oprahs cultural influence voice the skepticism of many scholars and professors, who similarly believe that the Oprahs Book Club selections were meant to play on base sentiment, to reaffirm popular wisdom, to tell readers what they expect to hear [. .] to help them learn what they al ready know [. .] and to reinforce what they think is right and wrong in the world. The format of the show included discussi ons with the author, viewers on the show who testified about the impact of the book on their lives, which made critics call it confessional TV (Moore 19). Oprah creates empathy through her own shared experiences, but also through the testimonies of her club participants, but she also works on building immediacy through incorporating in the show interv iews with the authors friends or relatives who inspired some of the characters (for Clarkes River, Cross My Heart ) and snapshots of 171

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plot locations in the case of Lalita Tademys Cane River (Striphas 207). In her 1990s Book Club format, Oprah organized gettogethers with the author and selected viewers, sometimes over dinnersas was the case with Toni Morrisons Song of Solomon whose debate took place in Oprahs home--, sometimes in club pajamas (for Maya Angelous The Heart of a Woman), an American cozy, home setting that appeal s to the American public as much as the choice of the castle of Bordelais appealed to the French public for their literary television show, La Bote aux Lettres (Peytard, La mdiacriti que littraire 165). In a 1997 Time retrospective of the twenty-fiv e most influential people of 1996, Richard Lacayo highlights Oprahs tremendous financial impact on the publishing market. Oprah selects a title for the book-discussion club [. .]. Then everyone in America buys it. This gives her the market clout of a Penta gon procurement officer (70). Oprahs publicity boosted the sales of J acquelyn Mitchards Deep End of the Ocean from 100,000 to 915,000 copies and Toni Morrisons Song of Solomon from 300,000 to 1,390,000 copies (Maryles 18). Given Oprahs dual cultural and financial influence, Mark Hall bestows on her the title of literacy sponsor taking over a term coined by Deborah Brandt who shows that literacy sponsors are a tangible reminder that lite racy learning throughout history has always required permission, sanction, assi stance, coercion, or, at a mi nimum, contact with existing trade routes (167). According to Hall, Oprah constructs her au thority as a literacy sponsor through cultivating an intimacy with her audience with whom she shares details of her private life as part of a para-social interac tion that is all too common between the medium of television and its cons umers (650-51). As she perpetuates on TV a didacticism a nd an audience-centeredness rooted in the oral tradition, Oprah becomes in fact a post-modern version of the Native-American 172

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medicine man, the African-American preacher the Asian shaman, a prescriber and a preserver of literature. Oprahs show functi ons on any television shows major advertising laws of empathy (identificati on with the need to consume the product presented) and of betterment (promising that its consumption will have a quick positive effect on the consumers life quality), but it also combines the empathical powers of fiction with the empathy of television viewing. When people watch television, st ates Oprah, they are looking to see themselves. I think the reason w hy I work so well as I do on the air is the people sense the realness (Adler 63). Elsewhere, she reinforces this empathetical quality of television: Television is a refl ection of who we are and who we say we want to be. Its time to offer new choices, new possibilities. Its time to elevate our pot ential (Adler 104). Oprahs Book Club emerged as a result of her stri vings to elevate this potential of television, and especially as an attempt to join televi sion empathy with reading empathy: You read about someone elses life, but it makes you thi nk about your own. Thats the beauty of it, confesses Oprah. Thats why I love books. . Reading is like everything else. Youre drawn to people who are like yourself (q td. in Moore 19). Her reading philosophy highlights aesthetic standards that pull literature out of the academic analytical laboratories into a purely pleasurable, consumers res ponse-oriented realm. As Malcolm Bradbury writes, A reader is not like a critic, who reads for professional judgment. The reader seeks pleasure, enlightenment, se lf-identification, seduction (qtd. in Moore 23). Oprahs ingredients for a successful television show have been spontaneity and her naturalness of being human on the camera (A dler 64). It was in fact, her I-amEverywoman approach that won her the interest of her audience. In the tradition of oral communities, Oprah becomes a leader who repres ents and identifies with individuals in her 173

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community. Consequently, every woman in Am erica with whom Oprah identifies becomes sensitive to Oprahs recomme ndations as to what books coul d enrich her mind and soul. Surprisingly, Oprah acknowledges the uniqueness of the books impact on the consumers minds and hearts: I feel strongly, she stat es that no matter who you are, reading opens doors and provides, in your personal sanctuary, an opportunity to explore and feel things, the way other forms of media cannot. I want books to become part of my audiences lifestyle, for reading to become a natural phenomenon to them (qtd. in Moore 18). With all her aversion for French culture (especially of French hairstyling and cuisine), Oprah, as a literature promoting journalist, does fit into a three-angle paradigm established by Jean Peytard with regard to literary television shows aired in France: la littrature est situe dans un contex te vnementiel. Le journaliste est un promoteur de produit soumis la surenchre du sensationnel. les auteurs eux-mmes, et surtou t la TV, sont prsents comme personnages, conduits fair e valoir leurs oeuvres le journaliste par sa function de p r-lecteur influence le lecteur; il devient prscripteur dopinion. (120) literature is placed in an event-type of context. The journalist is a promoter of a product subjected to the higher bid of the sensational. the authors themselves, and especial ly the television, are present as characters, and led to enhan ce the value of their works the journalists, through their function of pre-readers, influence the readers and become professional advisors 174

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Oprahs Book Club became the phenomenon that changed the face of book clubs forever, saved a struggling publishing industry, es tablished its own canon of literary works, created millions of new active members and peaked over thirteen million viewers and a distribution to one hundred and thirty count ries in 1999 (Moore 18). Acknowledged as the most influential force in publis hing, Oprah was awarded the 50th Anniversary gold metal at the 1999 National Book Awards (Moore 19). Opr ah is to be credited for encouraging human-scale literary activity, writes Jerry S. Herron. Most people are reading more books than at any time in the history of American society, without contact with the so-called authorities. Oprah has done a brilliant job of encouraging people to do that. Who needs literature professors? Weve become absolutely irrelevant (qtd. in Hall 646). Herrons concerns will make the subject of other scholar ly studies that have at tempted to categorize the Oprah factor in a hybrid genre of literar y, business, or motivational endeavor. In his article, A Dialectic With the Everyday, Te d Striphas points out that women between the ages of 18 and 54 constitute both the primar y Oprah television audience and the largest United States book buying public (295-7). His further comments justify some of the negative perceptions of the quality or efficien cy of televised educational programs, Oprahs included: Critical responses to daytime television talk shows further confirm the rule that mass cultural texts intended for and consumed primarily by women tend to attract condemnation. Popular, schol arly, and lay critic s alike routinely impugn these shows for specularizing the profane and/or for offering a surfeit of popular psychological quick-fixes to recalcitrant social problems. (299) 175

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On the other hand, Striphas shows that Oprah tunes her selections to both sophisticated readers and neophytes since her book club c overs easy reads like Mannette Ansays 1994 Vinegar Hill and Alice Hoffmans 1997 Here on Earth, but also complex works such as Toni Morrisons and Bernhard Schli nks (303). Testimonies of women like Siebert who states on the show that Wally Lambs Shes Come Undone was the first book she read at the age of 40 (Oprahs Book Club Anniversary Party 4) demonstrate not only how acute the reading crisis became in the 1990s for some social segments, but also how powerful Oprahs impact was. Nevertheless, her elitist choices remained inaccessible to untrained readers such as the unidentified woman #7 who expr esses her struggles with th e text of Melinda Haynes Mother of Pearl Half of the time Im not sure what the characters are talking about or unidentified woman #12 who genuinely confesses about the same novel, It was a great book to read before going to bed because I always fe ll asleep quickly (Oprahs Book Club 9). The Book Club has turned Oprah into an authority in the American community, a version of the oral tradition medicine man or preacher in our global village society, who dictates reading tastes and book marketing strategies. But th e motivation behind her reading ministry springs from her own convictions in the power of books to change people and societies. Her insistence on reading stems fr om her own struggles fo r education and selfaffirmation. Born in Kosciusko, Mississippi, in 1954, to an unmarried mother, Oprah received her first reading and writing lessons from her grandmother, and intermittently benefited from her fathers encouragements to continue her education. Getting my library card was like citizenship, it was like Ameri can citizenship, remembers Oprah about her childhood reading experiences (Krohn 18), a statement which confers to reading an indispensable role in the identity formation of any individual. Oprahs public speech career 176

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started with her childhood and t eenage years church recitatio ns that earned her nicknames like the Speaker and the Preacher Woman and ascended with her fi rst newscast job at WVOL, a radio station in Nas hville, Tennessee, later with her reporter position with WTVFTV, a CBS television station also in Nashville, which propelled her to WJZ-TV in Baltimore where she failed at news, but found he r strengths in the daytime show, People Are Talking Oprahs next major move was to WLS-TV in Chicago where she hosted a talk show called A.M. Chicago (Krohn 8-54). From her first educational experience in an all-white school in the Milwaukee High School to her pageant beauty contests successes and her jobs as an anchor and daytime shows host, Oprah broke racial barriers and ma de a stand for both whites and blacks. 38 A teenager who did not think much of her physical beaut y, Oprah participated in a local Miss Fire Prevention contest and made a statement th at not only made her a winner, but also prophetically announced her vocation: I want to be a broadcast journalist because I believe in the truth, said Oprah. I am interested in proclaiming the truth to the world (qtd. in Krohn 37). However, on Oprahs show--(as much as in some of the screen adaptations discussed in chapters two and three)--political correctness takes precedence over the social, racial, or political tens ions of the original literary works. To mention only one example, John Young remarks that Oprahs Book Club discussion of Morrisons Song of Solomon ignores the critique of American racial history (182). Native American spiritual le aders, such as the Iroquois Hiawathawho persuaded his people to abolish the law of revenge and invent ed a healing ritual for the grieving families and Handsome Lake, who delivered a message of hope for the growingly dysfunctional Iroquois families forced to adapt to an Americ an lifestyle, replaced the old traditions and 177

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produced a new cultural text (Morrison, Kenneth 126). In a manner very similar to oral tradition leaders like Hiawatha, Oprah produces a new literary/cultural text within the acceptable political correctness parameters of her community. The literature mediated on Oprahs Book Club serves orality-based soci al functions of cultural preservation and educating the masses, while also incorporati ng strong post-modern trends of focusing on the individual; Oprah attempted to change the American community of readers by winning one reader at a time. 178

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4. 4. Radio Waves and the Tribal Voices of Postmodern Literature McLuhan attributes to the radio a tribal magic (259). T he subliminal depths of radio are charged with the res onating echoes of tribal horns and antique drums, he writes. This is inherent in the very nature of this medium, with its power to turn the psyche and society into a single echo chamber. The res onating dimension of radio is unheeded by the script writers, with few exceptions (261). In this context, radio becomes a vehicle for the voices of the community as much as film and television in our global village. More often than not, when disseminating literature, since most literary texts at the end of the twentieth century incorporate political a nd social messages, radio also assumes oral tradition roles of inculcating political ideas and of dictating th e politics of culture. McLuhan emphasizes the political role of the radio when he compares Pl atonian ideas with the possibilities of the radio medium: Plato, who had old-fashioned tribal ideas of political structure, said that the proper size of a city was indicated by the number of people who could hear the voice of a public speaker. Even the printed book, let alone radio, renders the political assumptions of Plato quite irrelevant for practical purposes. Yet radio, because of its ease of decentrali zed intimate relation with both private and small communities, could easily impl ement the Platonic political dream on a world scale. (268) 179

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In support of the oral tradition elements in ra dio, Fahamisha P. Brown goes so far as to define contemporary African-American sermons as extended manifestations of oral traditional spiritual culture and specifically refers to their radio broadcastings as yet another enactment of black orality: The living legacy of African American sacred vernacular culture can be heard by anyone who has a radio or a compact disc or cassette player. The tradition is alive in African American church se rvices, which are often broadcast on the radio, and on recordings of famous Afri can American preachers, such as the Reverends C. L. Franklin and Martin Luther King Jr. Poets continue to replicate in print the sound, language, and style of the traditional sermon. (21) Along Browns argument of radio orality, we must acknowledge that although radio does not share with television and film the pictographic or iconographic elements of the oral tradition, it comes very close to traditi onal orality in linguistic terms. In the case of radio, the linguistic sign, placed in a Saussurian paradigm, l acks a visual signifier, but the combinations of sound variations and special effects, along with musical beds, often modify the signification or signifying of the sign and make it as meaningful as a complete sign that would contain image and sound. Given the mu ltitude of voices, genres, and formats that characterize the radio literary programs, the Bakhtinian concepts of dialogism, polyphony, heteroglossia, carnivalization, and hybridizati on also function within the messages of this medium. Further, McLuhan connects the language el ement in radio to the Jungian concept of collective unconsciousness, and thus, defines th e medium of radio as an extension of the human consciousness or unconsciousness, a reposito ry of and a stage for the enactment of the 180

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epistemological legacy of mankind, a feature that again, radio shares with the oral tradition. Even more than telephone or te legraph, radio is that extension of the central nervous system that is matched only by human speech itself, opi nionates McLuhan. Is it not worthy of our meditation that radio should be specially attuned to that primitive extension of our central nervous system, that aboriginal mass medium, the vernacular tongue? (264) As critical as Postman is of television, he shows a genuine sympathy for radio, which, he writes, is the least likely medium to join in the descent into a Huxleyan world of technological narcotics. It is, after all, particularly well suited to the transmission of rational, complex language (112). Indeed, the lack of the iconographic element makes for a greater concern with the quality of the language empl oyed in radio messages. On the 1998 Radio: Imaginary Images show, one of the commentators, Thomas Whitaker, points out that the lack of images forces the audience to focu s more on the words. Elissa Guralnick, a University professor invited on the same show, states that the audience creates the images of a radio play, and the summative perception of a radio show or play depends on the listeners ability to imagine what he/she hear s. Writing about literary radio shows, Jean Peytard observes that labsence dimages confre aux elements sonores additionns une prsence particulirement forte et que le travail du metteur en ondes de la littrature se situe dans ce preque plus rien dire quprouve lcrivain, une fois le livre achev the absence of images confers to the added sound elements a particularly powerful presence and that the job of the one who sets literature on waves lies in an area where there is almost nothing else to say that w ould distress the writer, once the book is accomplished (Prface 8). 181

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Indeed, the radio moderator remains in an ar ea where there is al most nothing else to say, as Peytard argues, but a d eep knowledge of literar y trends and political issues is a musthave for the interviewer, so that the writers work can be contextualized. As much as Oprah and the oral tradition performers, radio hosts of literary shows carry on functions of cultural preservation and assume the role of cultural l eaders in the community. Their versatility in literary and cultural studies and their ability to negotiate financial and political discourses turns them into post-modern tricksters. A goo d example in this sense is a radio interview with Mary Gordon. When Tom Smith intervie ws writer Mary Gordon in 1991 on the Public Radio Book Show of the New York State Writers Inst itute affiliated with SUNY at Albany, New York, the academic context in which th is radio show functioned imposed not only higher topics standards, but also a formal dialogue. Smith does start on a relatively familiar tone when introducing Mary Gordon and can even afford simplistic, nave bridges of empathy. And the fascinating ti tle essay, Mary, blew my mind b ecause its strong stuff, and I think its strong stuff because I think its true, Smith gropes his way into a discussion of Gordons collection of essays, Good Boys and Dead Girls and Other Essays (73). However, Smiths literary eloquence picks up when discussing an impressive array of American writers that deal with gender issues from Melville to Faulkner and Philip Roth and while eliciting Gordons views on contemporary gender-related traits in American literature. What is interesting in this interview is that Smith gracef ully leads the discussion in a way that allows Gordon to maximize her sharing at a very high literary level, wh ich leaves very little room for empathy-based or emotion-dr iven contextualizations. Th e only social reference that Smith affords is a final question on the future of legal abortion in the light of recent soundings and rulings of the Supreme Court, an issue on which Mary Gordon had touched 182

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in one of her essays under discussion (80). As with film and television, we see here a politically correct message that forcefully remains within a didactic sphere. In his extensive study of postmodern American literature, Beyond Suspicion, Marc Chnetier points to the importance of radio wa ves for the propagation of literature in the United States: We cannot overemphasize the importance of this medium [radio] for the writers of a recent generation whose fi rst flights of imagination and first desires to write stories occurred while listening to the wireless. Along with the illustrated books from the thirti es and forties and popular literature, from Jules Verne to Dickens, radio has played for Charyn, for example, the role held by almanacs and chromos for an earlier generation. The voice of the set was mysterious and fascinating before it became overwhelming, laden with indoctrination, with advertising messages, musical assaults, longdistance therapies, and propaganda as is now the case of the time in the United States. (185) Henderson shows that book discussions can be tra ced back to the commercial radio programs of the 1920s to the 1950s, and that in fact, ar t propagation always went hand in hand with commercial advertising (330). However, what she calls cultural programming (331) could also be read as a machinic programming of the audiences to embrace certain types of books featured on such cultural programs, hence the manipulatory aspect of radio literary transmission. Regardless of the commercial 39 context or lack thereof, it is obvious that literature made it into radio since the early da ys of this medium. In 1937, out of 200 radio stations polled by the Publishers Advertisi ng Club, 146 broadcast some type of literary 183

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comment or show (Lazarsfeld 280). Again, the Radio Guide listed 161 book programs for the week ending March 18, 1939 (Lazarsfeld 281). Some of the 1990s concerns of radio impact on literature were voiced as early as 1936 in the February 15 issue of The Saturday Review of Literature : What the radio will do to fiction as an art leaves no room for doubt. What it will do to the taste of the public is scarcely less uncertain. For by forcing the novelist to shear away desc ription and extran eous happenings, leaving only outstanding incident and dialogue in high relief, it will accustom the public palate to fiction stripped of every vestige of psychological content and so barren of subtleties and psychological interpretations as the fiction of the screen. (qtd. in Lazarsfeld 293) On the other hand, the same editorials expressed a contradictory optimism in the radios potential to increase not only readership, but also the quality of literary productions: In the editorial opinion, it is all nonsense that radio puts an end to good reading. . When print took over the telli ng of popular storie s, oral telling declined. But to suppose th at the book is to be supplemented by the radio is to assume that we are going to be conten t with story-telling [. .]. Indeed, the radio may do a great deal to restore good reading which suffers now more from diffusion than from lack of materi al. . In all probability the radio will eventually take over much, though by no m eans all, so-called light fiction of the rental-library variety, leaving the be tter books a freer field to attract good readers. . What would be left would be re al books. (qtd. in Lazarsfeld 294) 184

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In 1971, Paul Lazarsfeld conducted an ex tensive study on the interdependence between radio and reading habits and compiled his research results in his book, Radio and the Printed Page Among his conclusions, it would be worth mentioning that he found most of the radio audiences to have been already reached by print and that educators usually did not consider educational the book shows broadcas t on radio stations (x iii). Another finding of Lazarsfelds comparative case studies indica tes that since radio and print have what might be called a different valence [. .], people feel that reading is more difficult, more worthwhile, more educational and cultural than ra dio listening (177). If Lazarsfelds research proved that the greater the formal e ducation of a group, the more likely they are to do some reading in consequence of having li stened to a radio program (308), then the question still remains to what extent did and does radio stimul ate reading with less educated audiences. Lazarsfeld proposed establishing radio programs th at would work closely with libraries, and he also suggested building audience appeal th rough the entertainment quality of the literary shows, an idea that came to life in StoryLines and other radio shows of the 1990s (325). Widely recognized as a defining lite rature radio program of the 1990s, StoryLines America: A Radio/Library Partnership Exploring Our Regional Literature was founded in September 1996 by a $350,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and launched in October 1997 on 21 public radio stat ions and 141 different radio outlets in the Northwest and Southwest of the United States. StoryLines involved over 130 participating public and school libraries that received sets of the 13 series books [and tapes of all broadcasts] through the NEH grant, displayed colorf ul posters [. .], and distributed attractive bookmarks and discussion guides to readers (L omax StoryLines 88). Inspired by a 1993185

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1995 call-in radio show about books called Big Sky Radio also an NEH-founded program broadcast on two Montana public radio stations (which had emerged as a materialization of the vision of a Montana librar y director, Georgia Lomax), StoryLines America featured discussions with authors such as Sherman Alex ie, Denise Chvez, and Patricia Limerick and readers from all walks of life, including tribal leaders, mountain men, and storytellers (Lomax Bringing Book Talks 27), people fr om reservations, ranches and universities (Paminfuan 24), a way of paying tribute to th e oral tradition. Among their book selections were Sherman Alexies The Business of Fancydancing John Okadas No-No Boy Ivan Doigs This House of Sky and Mourning Doves Coyote Stories for the Northwest Series and classics such as N. Scott Momadays House Made of Dawn and Willa Cathers Death Comes from the Archbishop in the Southwest Series (Lomax 8889); other classics selected include Mark Twain, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Toni Morrison (Paminfuan 25). Executive StoryLines producer and Northwest on-air host Paul Zalis makes an obvi ous connection between radio and the oral tradition when he describes the book discussion format as sort of swapping stories around the campfire, only we use radio instead (qtd. in Lomax StoryLines 90). Radio has an intimacy, imagination, and inform ality that TV doesnt have and perhaps it still has more of a sense of extended community than the Inte rnet, says Zalis (qtd. in Paminfuan 25). Lomaxs descrip tion of the main objective of StoryLines also echoes similarities with the oral stor ytelling. One of the reasons for creating StoryLines, she writes, was to take the li brary out to the readersand nonreadersand to engage more people in discussion of books (Bringing Book Ta lks 27). Thus, radio becomes a medium that oralizes the printed system of the libra ry and engages the comm unity into tribal-like enactments of call/response rituals. 186

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Writing about the limitations of StoryLines Henderson points out that while seeking a wide range of listeners, the pr oducers attempted an effacement of both feminist politics and racial, ethnic and national diffe rence (334). For instance, StoryLines took pride in creating a balance between a feminist presence through se lecting books written by female authors and a 54% male presence on the callins (Henderson 335-336). The StoryLines proposal to NEH reinforced the opening to a diverse audience pertaining to different socio-economic and ethnic groups: [W]hile we are confident in our ab ility to win the de votion of regular public radio listeners, we have made program decisions and developed a promotional campaign to broaden and d eepen the series appeal. To reach new listeners, we will offer one progra m each month on short fiction and one on novels. The program on short ficti on is designed for those (including listeners in lower socio-economic brackets) who lack the leisure time to read an entire novel. Both programs will feature writers of diverse racial, ethnic, and class backgrounds whose work reflect s the concerns of the audiences we seek to engage. ( Storyline 11) On the other hand, Henderson shows the producers subtleties and hesi tance in identifying the ethnic or social stat us of their callers: The producers were reluctant, however, to introduce studio gu ests in terms of their ethnicity or race. Their soluti on was often to do so implicitly, for example identifying the Latin American nationalities and year of immigration to the U.S. of two guests during the program How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent, a story of immigration from the Dominican Republic to the United 187

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States. Another example is an Afri can-American studio guest invited to participate in the Beloved pilot, who was introduced as a professor of AfricanAmerican literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Producers (all of whom are European-American) know that not all teachers of AfricanAmerican literature are black, but they also know that such an introduction will signal that possibility for listeners, in a white-dominant world where the simpler designation, literature professo r, is likely to produce (perhaps among white audiences) an assump tion of white elites. (338-339) Thus, StoryLines voices directly and indirectly racial and economic tensions present in the American society of the 1990s, while remaining, in Platonian terms, a public speaker who transmits the community values and assumptions as part of an oral trib al tradition re-enacted in postmodern times. Indeed, in a society controlled by monetary levers and in which speech is at times suppressed by political correctness considerat ions, cultural programs on public radio must negotiate their content and audience treatment accordingly. Henderson explains these economic and social interdependencies in her conclusion to a thorough feminist analysis of the StoryLines design: The democratic possibilities of public radi o are thus restricted not only by the debilitating bite of funding cuts (leaving stations additionally dependent on corporate underwriting), but also by the ambivalent (if no less determining) practices of its professional-manager ial producers. In their contemporary institutional setting, old anxieties ab out culture and commerce resurface, 188

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coupled to a newer and no less insist ent oppositionbetween cultural pleasure and political significance. (348) As the descriptions of the following radio shows will show, literature radio transmission follows oral-based patterns of audience manipulation, immediacy (targeting specialized audiences like stude nts, children, scholars), and emerges as a discourse that represents and serves the comm unity in a didactic, but also in an economic manner (since it stimulates book sales). Loose Leaf Book Company the fruit of early 1990s efforts of radio personality Tom Bodett and producer Ben Manill a, debuted in January 2000 as a weekly radio program for adults but a dvertising children books but within a year it grew to cover 227 stations and 250,000 listeners, and it al so came on the verge of bankruptcy. Loose Leaf featured authors like Lois Lowry, Gary Paul sen, Beverly Cleary, Ka therine Paterson and Tomie dePaola, and attracted sponsorship from prestigious publishing houses, among which Random House, Harcourt, Little Brown, Houghton Mifflin, Winslow Press, Scholastic, Hyperion, Simon & Schuster, etc. In an effort to save the financial futu re of the program, the producers established the Loose Leaf Foundation which launched the Partners in Reading project with chapters in Wich ita, San Francisco, Seattle a nd Abilene, TX (Lodge 26). Bodett sees this program by far the most exciting potential I see for our fu ture and he further describes it: These locally run chapters are organized with our assistance and involve community schools, school and public librarie s, universities and books ellers, who harmonize their existing reading programs with the Loose Leaf broadcast (qtd. in Lodge 26). A similar children books enterprise has been taken over by author-i llustrator Daniel Pinkwater who, since 1996, has begun to pres ent and discuss his book selections once a month on the National Public Radios Weekend Edition Saturday hosted by Scott Simon. I 189

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like to find books that are obscure, not top-of-the-list. And its always a treat to discover a new author or something I just really like. Its very random, but they [NPR] allow me to be the eccentric I am, says Pinkwater (qt d. Maughan 30). The effects of Pinkwaters recommendations on the market visibly manifest ed in dramatic increases of sales, i.e. Insectopedia went from 15,000 before to 60,000 after it was presented on NPR (Maughan 31). Although sales figures proved that exposure to 2.3 million listeners of the NPR Weekend Edition Saturday turned many listeners in to buyers, it is hard to determine what the intellectual impact on the readers actually was. Publishers Weeklys Between the Covers with Mort Sahl was launched in January 1995, on Sunday evenings, 9-11 p.m. ET from the ABC Radio Network studios in New York City. Political humorist Mort Sahl worked w ith the PW staff, among which editor-in-chief Nora Rawlinson, associate news editor Maur een OBrien, and associate childrens editor Shannon Maughan, to produce interviews with authors of fiction and nonf iction and to field phone calls from the listening audience (Reid 20). Fred Ciporen, one of the creators of the concept, defined the goal of the program as to serve and expand the book publishing industry using any media available to us (qtd. in Reid 20). The MLA radio program Whats the Word? emerged as another major literary radio enterprise of the 1990s. Launched in April 1997, the program reached a coverage of 30 states and 140 stations in 2004, has also b ecome available through the In Touch Network, and is now carried overseas by Armed Forces Radio and Radio New Zealand ( MLA ). Whats the Word follows a topical structure th at ranges from specific themes in literature (the 1997 humor topics that c overed anything from Russian to African-American hilarity patterns; the 1998 food in literatur e show, which made extensive re ferences to the writing of 190

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Daniel Defoe, Henry Fielding, Virginia Wool f, and Emily Post; th e 1999 Literature and Science show; etc.) to pedagogical editions the 1998 Teaching Then and Now with a stellar participation (Alison Booth, Wayne Booth, Jean Ferguson Carr, Margaret Ferguson, Mary Anne Ferguson) and the 1999 Improving Your Writing. Whats the Word also tackles metaliterary topics such as the 1999 Rereading and Discovery focusing on the experience of finding new meanings in familiar literary works; issues related to the mechanics of translations Literary Translations (1998)and to Learning a New Language (1998); discussions on the diffusion of literature through Radio Drama (1998) and the Preservation of the Book and Public Libraries (1997). The participants, selected from among writers, critics, professors, and stud ents maintain an academic verbal level, and usually avoid overemphasizing empathy elements as it is the case with other public radio literary shows. A perfect coordination with the musical bed (often in to ne with the topic of the show, and most of the time chosen from or chestral pieces) adds to the classical, elitist texture of the Whats the Word program. Of all the literary radio shows of the 1990s, Whats the Word? remains the most speciali zed, although the texts of the discussions and lectures are made accessible to both students and scholars of literature alike. The mission of this type of literary radio show remains th e cultural preservation of a conversation that engages an elite segment of the communitys audience. 191

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* * In the 1990s, television and radio breed a postmodern orality that revives, in a different manner and through different media, the sacral and di dactic rituals and performances of the oral tradition; they inform, transmit values, and attempt to preserve the cultural and spiritual le gacy of the community. Educati onal television, Oprahs Book Club, and the literary radio programs on air at the e nd of the twentieth century serve the cultural needs of the community, boost read ership and literacy, but also operate in a society ruled by monetary interests and by ma ss media ethical laws. As mu ch as the industry of film, television and radio face political and financial limitations that oftentimes influence not only the dissemination, but also the production of li terature. The last chapter of this study will tackle in detail these constraints of broadcas t media and their impact on aesthetic literary standards. 192

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Chapter Five The Mediatized Literature of the Nineties: Art and Dollars In the nineteenth century, the dime novel was a brand name that designated a short novel, with a sensational and melodramatic plot, that sold for ten cents and told stories of the frontier and the West (Cox xiii, xv). The heroes of dime novels were frontiersmen, American Indians, bandits, dete ctives, fire fighters, inventors, and school boys and girls and their authors were doctors, lawyers, and jour nalists (Cox xvi, xvii). All these features obviously characterize the commercial, but al so the scholarly acknowledged American fiction of the 1990s if we c onsider the Western frame of Dances With Wolves or the goodvs.-evil patterns in L.A. Confidential and The Firm. As Cox notes, the importance of the dime novels resides not so much in their aesthe tic quality as literature but rather in their function as historical and commercial commodities: The significance of the dime novel for t odays reader or scholar is not as literature but as social history. It is a record of attitudes that prevailed from 1860 to 1915 in the United States. Examples of racial stereotypes, political opinions, and issues of gender are all there in these once popular books. One can trace the development of the myth of the American West as well as the changes in marketing a product to a mass audience. (xxv) The American literature of the 1990s recreates the myth of the American dream or disillusionment and crosses the border to popular culture through its scre en adaptations and 193

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social manifest content; it also tells the st ory of marketing quality art in a predominantly mercantile society. But is this all there is to the literary discourse of the 1990s? Are these novels (especially the ones under discussion in th is study) doomed to be remembered in the twenty-first century with the same indulge nce with which we regard the dime novels today? Or are they to be classified as ra re museum items, tinted with the orality of the broadcasting media, as we hold today the pieces of oral literature? The question is, what damages the reputation of a fiction work to a greater extent, its oral ity (or oral means of transmission) or its accessible (read med iocre) content, made so by the financial pressures that demand the author to target a wider, and thus less s ophisticated, audience? The diagnosis that a French scholar, Marc Chnetier, 40 offers for postmodern American literature is as real as it is shocking: American fiction is without doubt one of the richest of our time. It is the most powerful literary form in the United Stat es today: theater has moved toward an aesthetics of performance in which the text is of secondary importance; and the isolated examples of good poetry are crushed beneath an avalanche of confessionalism that is more lax than unrestrained. Perhaps the failure of postmodernism to unify literary producti on under one descriptive, generative vision is due to the fact that, in a certain way, we have in fact left modernism, since the profound truths of our societ y can no longer be grasped through the metaphors of art. (58) If art fails to grasps the truths of our society, literature rema ins certainly under the spectrum of the societal trends that marked the e nd of the twentieth century. However, the performative characteristics and the confessionalism that permeate the mediatized literature 194

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of the 1990s do not lower its aesthetic quali ty. The preoccupation with the mental and psychic struggles of the indivi dual, as Chnetier observes, pe rvades confessional poetry and also the fiction of the nine ties; Toni Morrison, Sherman Alexie, Amy Tan, Le Ly Hayslip construct avenues of spiritual a nd racial restoration in their novels, while others, like Oscar Hijuelos and Robert James Waller show the trag edy of unfulfilled dreams. But there is also another type of fragmentation of the fictional discourse, or wh at Chnetier calls a lack of vision unity, occasioned by the writers often uns uccessful search for th e ethical values of society, a quest illustrated w ith the writings of John Grisham, James Ellroy, and Michael Crichton. The American society of the 1990s stands under the sign of global democratization trends, Wall Street, genetic breakthroughs, a nd the power of mass me dia, and all these elements place a powerful impact on literature. If in Kantian formula tion, the aesthetic experience is distinguished by its disinterestedness, its purity from contamination by moral and political considerations (Taylor 91), th e end of the twentiet h century saw a highly politicized art condoned by New Historicism and fu eled by socio-financial pressures. Taylor admittedly states that in fact, the discourse of aesthetics is being exposed as a product of ideology (92). In a political world in which the concept of democracy prio ritizes the leading role of the masses, while paradoxically claiming the pr ecedence of individual ri ghts, literature, as political as it can be, tackles individual cr ises while addressing mass audiences. Inevitably, Politics and political economy, to be sure, ar e implicated in every discourse on art and on the beautiful, as Derrida wr ites in 1981 (Economimesis 3). The acute subordination of literature to the tribal ties of the community, which reminds of the role of the oral tradition 195

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texts, poses issues of mass consumption and financial viability. A lthough oral texts were targeting mass consumption as well, that f eature did not imply any commercialization process. As Phillip Simmons postulates, th e postmodernist mass consumer culture is not simply a rerun of the shadows flickering on th e walls of Platos cave, but a historically distinct phenomenon that define s the postmodern period (10). Simmons further indicates that within postmodern fic tion the tension between the positive and negative values of mass culture typi cally results in a historical double vision in which mass culture is both the cu tting edge of progress and the decline of civilization; it can be both the means by which the masses achieve de mocratic participation in culture and the means by which a power elite manipulates the masses into consumeris t passion and political quietism; it both educates and indoctrinates, stimulates and enervates, pleases and bores (1718). As Simmons points out, an analogy can be traced between the United States possible cultural downfall and Romes decay caused by the empires fall into defining their existence on material parameters panes et circenses (bread and circus). Pa trick Brantlinger supports this theory: As Rome was bot h the zenith and the burying ground of ancient civilization, writes Brantlinger, so modern mass society with its mass culture is both zenith and nadir of modern progress, acme and end of the line for the dual revolutions of industrialization and democratization. Or so negative clas sicists either f ear or hope (35). In this context, can we attribute aesthetic valu e to a type of art that has been diluted or perverted, as some would have it, in order to be accessible for the masses? Frank Norris certainly thought this possible a nd even desirable when he stated that a literature that cannot be vulgarized is no literature at all (qtd. in Kazin Native 99). And Elizabeth Long reminds us that the printed book was the first mass medium of communication (189). Hence, we 196

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cannot necessarily label as inferior any produc tion that targets a mass audience. Not all popular literature represents an art-demeaning act, nor should we categorize as true art only that which does not share a wide public app eal. Further, Bakhtin writes that Every conversation is full of transmissions and inte rpretations of other peoples words, and he contends that [. .] everyday speech is not concerned with forms of representation, but only with means of transmission (530-531). Does that make broadcast literature everyday speech? In other words does this preoccupa tion for the means of transmission demote literary discourse to everyday sp eech, made accessible for the masses? In some instances, it is precisely this everyday speech that carri es deep meanings and high aesthetic value. Clyde Taylor observes that, during what many call the post-aesthetic era the magnetic direction of aesthetic discourse or ients toward passive consumption, toward competitive, hierarchical recognition [. .], and therefore toward the social system that has provided it (91). If the postmodern audiences appear to consume art more passively than those of the oral societies, th eir perception is not always depr ived of aesthetic awareness. The audience factor has always been part of the picture, even with what Taylor calls a strict constructionist interpretation of aesthetics [that] refers to the pleasurable appeal to the senses (91). Different audiences will expect various senses to be titillated. As Wiget notes, in some Native American song traditions, fo r instance, pleasure derived from fitting innovative lyrics to traditional melodies (Wiget, Native American 14). The major difference would be that, unlike the audiences of the oral tradition, the art consumers of the 1990s are more aware of the existence of aesth etic parameters, or perhaps more prone to aesthetic manipulation by broadcast media. In 1973, H. Zettl described a process of aesthetic manipulation by the media that still rings true du ring the last decade of the twentieth-century: 197

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There are, of course, subtle aesthetic variables that we can use to produce a specific aesthetic response in the recipient, even if he is not consciously aware of these variables. In short, we can manipulate a persons perception, and ultimately his behavior, by a precise, calculated application of aesthetic variables and variable complexes. (1-2) Such a manipulation of aesthe tic values with mass audience s becomes possible due to the lack of professional training in literature of mass vi ewers/readers. If we shall consider Rabinowitzs four rules of reading that in clude notice, significa tion, configuration, and coherence (1011-1012), we may wonde r if readers at the end of the twentieth century have what Jonathan Culler calls literary competence ( Structuralist 113). To read a text as literature is not to make ones mind a tabula rasa and approach it without preconceptions; one must bring to it an implicit understanding of the operations of literary discourse which tells one what to look for, writes Culler in his Structuralist Poetics (113-114). This type of interpretative sophistication remains a m onopoly of elitist audience circles, with a membership limited to graduate students and sc holars. Broadcasting media that air literature in the 1990s in America attempt to reconcile the purist art th eories with Georges Poulets statement that books only take their full existence in the reader (qtd. in Iser 966), or rather in a massive number of readers, which justif ies their goal of reaching mass audiences. To follow a simple illustration, let us consider the stunning conclusi on that Striphas reaches in his in-depth analysis of Oprahs impact on female readership, namely that traditional book distributors and promoters have failed to reach an audience at the proportions television does it through Oprah, simply because the audiences woul d not be equipped to react to aesthetic or literary specialized promotions: 198

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Thus, critics who attribute an appare nt disinterest in books and book reading to an intellectual downturn in the Un ited States culture or to putatively deleterious effects of electronic media may overlook a far more mundane explanation for these phenomena. Th e communicative strategies employed on Oprahs Book Club throw into relief the global book publishing industrys general ineffectiveness at communi cating the relevance of books and book reading to specific social groups using a nything other than the most traditional of aesthetic/literary labels. (311) With oral societies, it was not as much an ab sence of aesthetic sta ndards, but a lack of awareness of textual aesthetic functions. Andrew Wiget wonders why scholars like Alan Merriam, a well-known ethnomusicologist, critici ze the Indians for not having a lexicon of aesthetic and critical terms (Native American 5). As Wiget argues, the main form of aesthetics in Native American oral literature is the function of genre, and particularly of ethnic genre (Native American 11). In fact Merriam does not deny, in his 1967 Ethnomusicology study, the existence of an aesthe tic system with the Flathead Indians who constitute the subject of his study. He rather points out that whatever aesthetic standards these Indians have, they do not fit the Western aesthetic principles: We seem not to be clear in our ow n culture about what is meant by the aesthetic, and yet ours is the logical, if not the only, yardstick which can be used. If we find that the Western concep t is not applicable in other cultures, we are not sure what this means. While it seems to indicate simply that such and such a culture does not have an aesthetic, it may also mean that the investigator has missed it, or that the Western concept is but one variation on 199

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a wider theme, the details of whic h are not understood clearly for other cultures. At this point, then, we can only indicate what we think is meant by the Western aesthetic and attempt to disc over whether this set of principles is applicable cross-culturally. (43) Merriam proceeds to expose the Native American lack of Western aesthetic principles. He makes it clear that since the Indians hold musi c as a practical expression designed for specific occasions, they do not regard it as abst ractable, and therefore do not expose it to what Western aesthetic calls psy chical distance, the audiences detachment from a work of art that is to be analyzed. The Flathead Indians, for one, w ould not take their songs out of their social context and examine them for their own intrinsic value as objects of art (Merriam 43-44). Futher, Merriam shows that the Indi an concept of song as serving a community function also does away with th e Western aesthetic f unction of manipulati ng the form for its own sake and with the emotional function of a work of art. (Although Indian songs are emotional, it is debatable whether the emotions arise from the circumstances the songs evoke or from the songs themselves.) It becomes evident from Merriams analysis that the Indians not only do not verbalize about music, since they do not even have words to denominate beauty that could be applied to art, but they also lack a purposeful intent to create something aesthetic (45). Even the shamans songs, which are songs of personal power possibly implying a degree of i ndividual creativeness, serve with the Indians specific ritualistic purposes geared toward tribal even ts such as gambling, hunting, war, love, etc. (Merriam 55). Thus, I can conclude, that given th e socio-religious functions of art with oral tradition, in this case Native American, the tribal audiences neith er expect aesthetic sophistication, nor value their cultural texts based on aesthe tic standards. However, tribal 200

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consumers, as much as postmodern audience s remain involved in the acts of creating, performing, and transmitting cultural messages. * Wiget identifies three types of audience th at would evaluate the work of a writer: first, the author himself who assumes the role of audience in predicting the readers response; secondly, the reviewers involved in the publication process, a nd thirdly, the actual reading public. All these audiences are present, accordin g to Wiget, in the performing of the oral literature acts, with the difference that the wr iter is there replaced by the performer, who incorporates the reactions of the immediate a udience into his work during the performing act. But the active participation of the audience in th e reinvention and deliver y of oral literature makes the latter an emergent form of art while textual literature remains a fixed form (Wiget Native American 15-16). Further, it would be worth men tioning that in 1947, Wittgenstein constructed a paradigm of the tr iangular relation of audience perception, the value of a work of art, and its intrinsic emotional load: There is a lot to be learned from Tols toys bad theorizing about how a work of art conveys a feeling. You really could call it, not exactly the expression of a feeling, but at least an expression of feeling, or a felt expression. And you could say too that in so far as pe ople understand it, th ey resonate in harmony with it, respond to it. You might say: the work of art does not aim to convey something else, just itself. Just as, when I pay someone a visit, I dont 201

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just want to make him have feelings of such and such sort; what I mainly want is to visit him, though of course I should like to be well received too. And it does not start to get quite absurd if you say that an artist wants the feelings he had when writing to be ex perienced by someone else who reads his work. Presumably I can think I understand a poem (e.g.), understand it as its author would wish me to but what he may have felt in writing it doesnt concern me at all (58e-59e) By Western aesthetic standards, the work of art should be aimed at conveying just itself, as Wittgenstein pleads. But the oral tradition, abounding with sacral and social functions, evidently registers frequent productions designe d to transmit particular emotions of their authors/performers (such a grieving Native Amer ican ritual might do). By the same token, film versions of post-modern novels resemble the oral tradition in that they place more emphasis on the message (whether political or emotional) than on the aesthetic merits of the work itself. Even the most refined taste, remarks Wittgenstein in 1947, has nothing to do with creative power (60e). Oftentimes, the tast e of the readership does not concomitantly coincide with the creative powers of their gene ration of artists, which explains why so many geniuses were rediscovered and appreciated ab out a century at least after their death. On the other hand, when applying Wittgensteins ma xim to the three-angle connection of film producer, novel writer and movieviewer, it is frequently the case that the producers taste and financial power has nothing to do with the wr iters creative power, but the intentions of both may meet in attempting to please their vi ewers, and respectively readers. Audience reception and participation in shaping the trends in cinema can be analyzed in the context of 202

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the Bakhtinian concept of dialogism, as Martin Flanagan does when he starts with the premise of considering film as a a form of textual utterance and thus, a text and he expounds that the formulation of reception suggested by dialogic theory raises the spectator to a position of active participation in the textual process, and we can see how this kind of relationship underwrites mark eting strategies such as the test screening. The screening is a micr ocosmic version of the way that commercial cinema functions in relation to its audience; films that fail to convey their message in a way that is narratively comprehensible and pleasing to a general audience invariably unde rperform at the box office. (157) As Corrigan explains, the availability of m ovies on home video tapes has transformed the activity of watching a m ovie into a very personal, and cu stomizable act, very similar to reading. We can now pause, rewind, replay, fa st-forward a movie, which gives us the same mobility we have with the pages of a book, which we can flip back and forth. (Film 70) The problem with the time necessary for consum ing a novel as opposed to a film has also altered with the advance of technology. A novels length can be measured in pages and hours needed to read them, while a movie consis ts of frames and usually less hours to view it that it would be necessary to read the novel. With all the possibilities of manipulating VHS tapes at this time, scholars might take as long to watch a movie adaptation as they would take to actually read the book. And several questions rise: Are postmodern audiences simply changing post-modern narrative explosions of words for explosions of images as Bluestone puts it (Limits 212)? Are vi ewers and readers alike surrounded by simulationswhat might be calle d Dysneyfication as Linda Kaufmann puts it? (11) 203

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Are these virtual products strategies that subvert cultural amnesia and saturation? (Kaufmann 11). And therefore, has a new cri ticism become necessary, maybe of one of the anti-aesthetic, to match this new art (Kaufmann 11)? Given the subjectivity of art, several answ ers might be appropriate for the simplistic way in which John Chamberlain asked the essen tial question for us, W hat in hell is art, anyway? (qtd. in Kazin Native 384). Taylor argues that to be able to evaluate emerging art forms, such as minority literatures, we have to pass through a hypothe tical zero aesthetic point and define the parameters of a post-ae sthetic system (97), in terms of the major determinants of traditional Western aesthetic s, which are, according to Taylor, beauty, transcendence, order, perception/ reception, the creative principle, criticism, authorship, taste, historicism (98). Thus, we can safely affirm th at aesthetic standards change with the cultural context, and that along these li nes, we can even acknowledge th e existence of a concept such as ethno-aesthetics (Taylor 108). Post modernism, predicted Clyde Taylor in 1989, will attempt to colonise [ sic ] human creativity through a campaign of art-prop aganda (108). But the concept of artpropaganda involves more than marketing and an equitable share of monetary profits. As Taylor shows, the Middle Ages produced one phase of objectifi cation accompanied by a theological Absolutism; in the current crisis, the Absolutism is furnished by technological rationality (95). In this context, I can ar gue, along with Harold Bloom, that a writer is more apt to transgress than imitate (Wiget Native American 11). The writer will choose, as I have shown in Chapters 2 and 3, to write a type of fiction that can transgress the print media into film, television, and radio, in othe r words, a narrative discourse more prone to 204

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being oralized. In Herbert Read s words, the extent to which a book or a film lends itself to visual remediation determin es their aesthetic value: If I were asked to give the most distinctive quality of good writing, I should express it in this one word: VISUAL. . .To project onto an inner screen of the brain a moving picture of objects a nd events, events and objects moving toward a balance and reconciliation of a more than usual state of emotion with more than usual order. That is a defini tion of good literature. . It is also a definition of a good film. (231) Some ethnic portions of American literature derive this oral feature from their own ethnic oral tradition. Referring to African-American literature, Gayl Jones remarks a more manifest and deliberate use of oral tradition a nd folklore to achieve and assert a distinctive aesthetic and literary voice (41). And in the words of Taylor, the postmodern writers, with few exceptions, will follow patterns of compatib ility with art-propaganda that is with the mediatization of their work. One way for the writers to do so is to commercialize their perspective and their fiction. With regard to the profession of wr iting, it is worth mentioning that on the one hand, the second half of the twentieth century saw a dramatic tendency to professionalize amateur writers. From only two writing seminars in the ea rly sixties, one at Stanford University and the other at the University of Iowa, the academic curriculum of writing expanded in the United States to several dozens, which now pr ovide training by writers and job placement for their graduates (Chnetier 52). The writers at the end of the twentie th century lived in a publishing reality that included the Library of Congress Copyright Office and professional organizations such as the Writers Guild of Ameri ca, but also in which they often resort to the 205

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services of a lawyer to negotiate a writing contract (Witte 8); it was a world in which writing had ceased to be the leisurely activity of the ni neteenth-century novelists or the privilege of the gifted. It takes more than talent to be a writer, says an advertisement in Writers Digest but with two exciting new workshops from Writers Digest School youll develop your natural ability and learn the fundamental skills you need to make the most of your innate talent (Fundamentals 13). With so many creative programs within the academe and a host of workshops like the one advertised above, writing becomes an accessi ble enterprise. But the caliber of the writers schooled in such wr iting programs remains questionable. Is there enough information on the page for the reader to know how many people are present, what gender they are and what theyre doing? as ks Nancy Kress in her sample writing lesson (Fundamentals 15). This question reflect s a constant preoccupation of commercial publishers, namely that of providing sufficient information to make the writing accessible for the average reader, and when the writer produces under that pressure, ther e is little room left for genuine aesthetic value. Wayne C. Booth in his Rhetoric of Fiction reviews canonical theories on issues of popularity vs. the quality of art, acknowledging that it is only in handbooks about how to write best sellers that we find very much open advice to the author to think of his reader and write accordingly (90). Booths statement indicates that gearing ones writing to the readers expectations does not necessarily imply a lowering of aesthetic standards, but that it is unfortunate that only commercialized ou tlets would raise the writers awareness of public appeal. However, writers who still abide, intellectually, to artfor-arts-sake credos, maintain, like Mark Harris, a solid artistic integrity. I write. Let the reader learn to read, declares Harris. There is easy reading. And there is literature. There are easy writers, and there are writers. [. .] Th e novelist depends upon that relatively small 206

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audience which brings to read ing a frame of reference, a sophistication, a level of understanding not lower than the novelists own [. .]. I resi st, as true novelists do, the injunction (usually a worried editor s) to be clearer, to be easier to explain, if I feel that the request is for the convenience of the reader at the expens e of craft (113-116). On the other hand, while writing become s more and more an acknowledged profession, the notion of traditional writer with no other skills is now obsolete. Successful published contemporary writers like Michae l Crichton, James Ellroy, and John Grisham, come from diverse professional fields like medi cine, law enforcement, and law practice, and their novels constitute specialized discourse about their collateral careers. In some instances, it is precisely this direct reference of fiction to issues from the real, outside world (see Jurassic Park L.A Confidential, etc.) that ensures the commer cialization, or the mass appeal of the book. Foucault himself acknowledges that the authorial attunement to the societal trends becomes not only a necessity, but cons titutes an involuntary, intrinsic feature of literature. The author-functi on is therefore characteristic of the mode of existence, circulation, and functioning of certain discourses within a so ciety, writes Foucault (894). Precisely this attunement of the authors voi ce to the societal discourses constitutes a solid convergence point of postmodern literature with the community-oriented oral tradition. But perhaps, this renewal of the writers preoccupation with society and with his audience, sometimes to the detriment of his focus on traditional aesthetics, is what made Derrida proclaim an absence of a center, but also the absence of a subject and the absence of an author in post-modern literature (Si gn 885). Following on the modernists authorial impersonality, Foucault deplores along with Derrida the extinction of the writer: 207

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The work, which once had the duty of providing immortality, now possesses the right to kill, to be its authors murder er [. . ]. Using all the contrivances that he sets up between himself and what he writes, the writing subject cancels out the signs of this part icular individualit y. As a result, the mark of the writer is reduced to nothing more than th e singularity of his absence; he must assume the role of the dead ma n in the game of writing. (891) Moreover, Foucault comes to regard the twenti eth-century author as a recipient and at some times a retainer of oral literature, a fo rm of culture in which the free circulation of fiction was not restricted by co mplex copyright laws, but by ances tral rituals. Here is how Foucault redefines the postmodern writer: [. .] the author is not an indefinite source of significations which fill a work; the author does not precede the works, writes Foucault, thus reminding of the writers indebte dness to the Jungian collective unconscious, he is a certain functional principle by which, in our culture, one limits, excludes, and chooses; in short, by which one impedes the free circulation, the free manipulation, the free composition, decomposition, and recomposition of fiction (899). On a larger scale, the changes in the func tions of the individual writer and his/her close integration with socio-po litical trends have produced al terations in the literary canon altogether. The selection of novels discussed in this study pr oves that the canon of American literature enlarged in the 1990s with the inclus ion of women and ethnic writers. At the end of the twentieth century, American l iterature has ceased to be male. 41 The issues of gender trigger a plethora of interdependencies in the field of literature produc tion, including political and economical power. Here is how Judith Fetterley explains some of the negative repercussions of gender biases with women: 208

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Power is the issue in the politics of litera ture as it is in the politics of anything else. To be excluded from a literature that claims to define ones identity is to experience a peculiar form of powerlessnessnot simply the powerlessness which derives from not seeing ones experience articulated, clarified, and legitimized in art, but more significantly the powerlessness which results from the endless division of self against self the consequence of the invocation to identify as male while being reminded th at to be maleto be universal, to be Americanis to be not female Not only does powerlessness characterize womans experience of reading, it also describes the content of what is read. (992) While discussing the emergence of a contempor ary literary canon in the academe, Barbara Herrnstein Smith poses the question of several categories of literature: highly innovative works and such culturally exotic works as oral or tribal literature popular literature, and ethnic literature (1558). Smiths conclu sions show that the evaluation of literature remains a constantly changing process in whic h writers, scholars, and readers must always reconstruct the aesthetic equation: The prevailing structure of tastes and preferences (and the consequent illusion of a consensus based on an objective value) will always be implicitly threatened or directly challenged by th e divergent tastes and preferences of some subjects within the community (for example, those no t yet adequately acculturated, such as the young, and others with uncultivated tastes, such as provincials and social upstarts) as well as by most subjects outside it or, more significantly, on its periphery and who thus have occasion to interact with its 209

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members (for example, exotic visitors, immigrants, colonials, and members of various minority or marginalized groups ). Consequently, institutions of evaluative authority will be called upon repeatedly to devise arguments and procedures that validate the communitys established tastes and preferences, thereby warding off barbarism and the constant apparition of an imminent collapse of standards and also justifyi ng the exercise of their own normative authority. (1565) While Smiths argument that the challenge of constant changes exist stands true, her condescension for the assumed inferior educatio n level of immigrants and minority members reveals a racist bias that has no place in establishing aesthetic st andards of literature or of its consumption. As shown in this study, minority writers have made a tremendous impact on the American literature of the 1990s and a great proportion of educated immigrants (especially from Europe) usually come from very rich cultural b ackgrounds which clearly qualifies them to participate in the aesthe tic conversations on American literature. In Barths LETTERS Tod Andrews poses the question of the writing profession as a quixotic enterprise. Nowadays the genre [of the novel] is so fallen into obscure pretension on the one hand and cynical commercialism on th e other, and so underm ined at its popular base by television Andrews says, that to he ar a young person declare his or her ambition to be a capital W Writer strikes me as anachronistical, quixotic, as who should aspire in 1969 to be a Barnum & Bailey acrobat, a dirigible pilot, or the Rembrandt of the stereopticon (84). Along these lines, Bowerman explains how freelan ce commercial writing fits in the scheme of corporate America: 210

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For the last decade, downsizing and out sourcing have sculpted the corporate American landscape. Corporations ev erywhere are doing more with less. Consequently, many organizations rely heavily on well-paid freelancers to write their marketing brochures, ad c opy, newsletters, direct mail campaigns, video scripts and We b content. (22) And he also urges potential wr iters to get their share in the commercial writing market (23). Hence the spectrum of an aesthetically challenging polarity be tween commercial (read censored, profit-oriented) writing and quality literature. Or as Derrida has it, the Kantian dichotomy of free (freie) or liberal art and mercenary art ( Lohnkunst ). Operating with these Kantian concepts, Derrida defines mercenary art as being characterized by lack of freedom, a determined purpose or finality, utility, finitude of the code, fixity of the program without reason and without the play of the imagina tion (Economimesis 4-5). The element of pleasure in the aesthetic sense becomes key in Derridas definition of liberal art as an occupation that is agreeable in its elf and in his distinction betw een the liberal artist, the one who does not work for a salary [and] enjoys and gives enjoyment immediately and the mercenary who in so far as he is practicing hi s art, does not enjoy ( Economimesis 6). Michael Wolff observes that we live in an investment-banking culture since many investment bankers have become media owners 42 (22), and warns against an artistic and social phenomenon that he calls identity crisis (23) or what Laurent Danchin calls une crise interne de la littrature, an internal crisis of literature (3). But is it a crisis or a need? The 1990s saw a plethora of literary organiza tions (academic and publishing institutions, reading centers and groups, but also social bodies such as churches, prisons, hospitals, museums, etc.) that plunged into establis hing and carrying on read ing sessions, writing 211

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workshops, multimedia events and performan ce pieces [with] a strong literary component (Author & Audience 1). A reading becomes in the twentieth century a promotional event, closely dependent on a sponsor and a specific targeted audience, and involving a project director, advertising f unctions both with printing and media bodies, determining fees for the events expenses and for the writer sche duled to read (Author & Audience 2-19). Above all, such a postmodern oral event 43 has everything to do w ith networking to attract an audience, a sponsor, and a read er (Author & Audience 20). With the writer enmeshed in a competitive financial network, the question remains how should scholars and literature consumers react to issues such as conglomerates in the publishing industry, federal government cuts in art allocated funds, and cases of censorship of literary works throughout the country, issues that were raised as early as 1981 at the October Congress of American writers at the Ro osevelt Hotel in New York (Chnetier 55). In 1972, Hayakawa offered a historical perspectiv e on the need for monetary injections into art, which, in his scholarly opinion do not necessarily lower the aesthetic quality of sponsored literature: To say that poetry is sponsored, however, is not to say that it is necessarily bad. Poets have been sponsored in ti mes past, although the conditions of their sponsorship were different. The court poet, or poet laureate, is a typical example of the sponsored poet of a previous age. Such a poet, a paid retainer in the court of an emperor, king, or nobleman, had the task of saying, in odes and epics on suitable occasions, how great and powerful was the ruler who employed him, and how happy the people were under the rulers benign and just government. Good poet laureates rose above the level of personal flattery 212

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of the kings they worked for, and some times gave expression to the highest ideals of their times and of their na tion. Virgil was poet laureate to the Emperor Augustus. (221) Smith lies out a similar view of intact aesthet ic values in a literature integrated into a mercantile society: All value is radically contingent, being neither an inherent property of objects nor an arbitrary projection of subjects but, rather, the produc t of the dynamics of an economic system. It is readily gran ted, of course, that it is in relation to a system of that sort that commodities such gold, bread, and paperback editions of Moby-Dick acquire the value indicated by their market prices. It is traditional, however, both in economic and aesthetic theory as well as in informal discourse, to distinguish shar ply between the valu e of an entity in that sense (that is, its exchange-value) and some other type of value that may be referred to as its u tility (or use-value) or, es pecially with respect to so-called nonutilitarian objects such as artworks or works of literature, as its intrinsic value. Thus, it might be said that whereas the fluctuating price of a particular paperback edition of Moby-Dick is a function of such variables as supply and demand, production and distribution costs, and the publishers calculation of corporate pr ofits, these factors do not affect the value of MobyDick as experienced by an indi vidual reader or its intr insic value as a work of literature. (1560) Mediatizing their work through movie ad aptations and/or ra dio and television appearances may not only enhan ce the writers opportunities to communicate their ideas to 213

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the whole postmodern tribal community, but may also optimize the author s income, and thus change what Barth calls a quixotic profession into a topdollar enterprise. For many writers at the end of the twentieth-centur y, such mediatized appearances constituted landmarks of their career 44 Chnetiers is an insightful analysis of the mercantile pressures that constrain writers and shape culture in the post-modern American mediascape: Intellectuals are calle d upon to sell themselves or not be read at all, thought becomes a matter of marketing, role s become substitutes for functions, oversimplification makes everything in comprehensible. Philosophy makes itself new to get on the top-ten list academics inquire what is the next thing, the coming thing, the ideas th at sell, and there is toothpaste and detergent between the lines of treatises hastily written to satisfy the cult of the new. The economic becomes the only ontology and profit treats itself to kept dancers, books of the week, writers of the month. Sin ce culture is only being consumed as shows, all attempts to judge, assess, or distinguish fairly are reputed hierarchical, and ther efore condemnable in a world where difference is only interesting when artif icially created in order to generate surplus value. The postmodern, ev en postcontemporary, vulgate (Wake up, Hegel, theyve gone crazy!) flaunt s drifting, uncertainty, indecision, nondifferentiation, and simulacrum as va lues worth fighting for since it no longer has the courage to oppose them. On e has to make a living. Or at least give oneself the impre ssion of living. (196-7) As part of his harsh criticism directed at so me of the French literary televised shows, Michel Peroni observes that the authors who appear on these variety shows fulfill artificial 214

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roles of stars or actors (109, 141). It is only fair to note that at no time has Oprah attached such a commercial veneer to her authoria l presences on the Book Club shows. In 2001, following the ancient rule of storytelling empa thy, Oprah selected Jonathan Franzens novel The Corrections for her fall Book Club show because it is a book about things that happen in the families of our global village: career failure, dysfunctional relationships and marriages, decrepitude, anxiety, the wiping out of moral values, internati onal complots around the fall of the former Soviet states, the battle betw een the inner canker of consumerism and the turbulent toppling of communism But Jonathan Franzen was the first writer to react negatively to her patronage. A white Ameri can male who had sensed the importance of financial power for the males identity in this country and had voiced it in the thoughts of his character Chip--who feels that without money he was hardly a man ( The Corrections 105) --, Jonathan Franzen draws back in the face of a huge financial impact that his book could have made on Oprahs Book Club show. I feel like Im solidly in the high-art literary tradition, stated Franzen, but I like to read entertaining books and this maybe helps bridge the gap, but it also heightens these feelings of being misunderstood. And further, referring to Oprah, he commented: Shes picked so me good books, but shes picked enough smaltzy, one-dimensional ones that I cringe myself, even though I think shes really smart and shes really fighting the good fight (qtd. in Edward s 76). Oprah not only excused Franzen from appearing on the show, as Edwards opinionates, perhaps after a heart-to-heart with his publishers? (76), but she also stalled her Book Club immediatel y after that incident. (When Oprah resumed the Book Club in 2004, the new format, Traveling with the Classics no longer featured interviews w ith the authors, which shows how much her experience with Franzen impacted her.) Many have voiced an ut ter disapproval of Franzens attitude toward 215

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the Oprahification of his novel. His seeming self -regard indicted him as an elitist or a snob; for not rejecting the Oprah se lection outright, he was a hypoc rite; for not joyfully swooning into the book clubs mass reader ship and uttering dutiful grat itude, he was simply stupid, writes Chris Lehmann, summarizing the me dia reactions to the newly created media/literature conflict (40). But Franzen was not alone in his reservati ons toward the mass media involvement in the marketing of literature. Pynchon represents another literary figure of the postmodernist era who has created for himself a commercial image as a recluse in the words of John Young (186). By distancing himself from all pub lic discourse about himself or his work, comments Young, Pynchon becomes an even greater albeit more mysterious, celebrity than most authors manage in all their interviews and memoirs (186). Across the ocean, in France, a leading scholar, Jean Peytard, also rose, in 1990, against the commercialization of literature through television: Le livre est un objet de public it: on en signale lexistence, on en dit la qualit comme on vante celle dun paquet de lessi ve. Dsacralisation et banalisation du livre, en consquence de la littrature. (125) The book is an advertising obj ect; they indicate its existence, they state its quality the way one praises a pack of pow der detergent. A desacralization and trivialization of the book, and conseq uently of literature. Nevertheless, in the end, even fervent de fenders of artistic values seem to be vulnerable to corrupting monetary advantages Franzen, also accused in the press of misusing in 2002 a $20,000 taxpayer-funded grant from the National Endowment for the Artshe allegedly spent it not on rent, but to buy sculpture from a friend (Valby 23)--, 216

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became incredibly tolera nt with profitable advertising means. Remarkablyit comes as news, he stated in 2002, despite initial suspicio n of book clubs, Ive come to think that theyre actually fine things and that anything within r eason that gets books into the public eye is a good thing (qtd. in Valby 23). Moreover, in February 2002, Franzen allowed producer Scott Rudin to option The Corrections, and agreed to entrust the screenplay writing to David Hare (Valby 24). Negative reactions to such commercializati on tendencies in literature abound in the twentieth-century scholarship. In Se ptember 2003, Harold Bloom deplores in LA Times the fact that the National Book Foundations annual award for disti nguished contribution went to Stephen King. By awarding it to King, Bloom writes, they recognize nothing but the commercial value of his books, which sell in the millions but do little more for humanity than keep the publishing world afloat. If this is going to be the criterion in the future, then perhaps next year the committee should give its award for distinguished contribution to Danielle Steele, and surely the Nobel Prize for literature should go to J.K. Rowling (B13). And a Nobel Prize winner himself, Octavio Pa z voices similar concerns regarding the commercial trends in the literature of the 1990s: All too often the only bonds (in modern society) are the bonds of immediate interests and immediate worth and no t of enduring value. For example, literature used to be an extraordinary celebration of those collected feelings, passions, desires and tragedies that endure over time. Just as we used to make cathedrals or palaces to endure for cent uries, we also made literature to endure. Every word was chosen very carefullywith very consistent and solid power of meaningwith the intention of duration. But more and more, 217

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literature has become cheap, instantaneous entertainment. Now, if they are fortunate enough, modern works of literatu re have the duration of one season. (36). Along the same lines, Phillip Simmons writes that [. .] mass cultureparticularly film television, and the consumer culture built on advertisingshows up as a significant historical development in itself. Enabled by new technologies and multinational organizations of capital, mass culture has become the c ultural dominantthe force field in which all forms of representation, including the novel, must operate. (2) But, Simmons further assesses, as commodities marketed and distributed by national and multinational corporations, commercially publ ished novels are themselves mass-cultural artifacts (5). Simmons voices a concern widely spread among scholars, namely that mass culture, especially film and te levision, threatens genuine hi storical understanding, giving us an awareness of surface appearances only, and failing to penetrate to the depth of an authentic understanding of histor ical process (2). Contrary to Simmonss view, I would like to propose that twentieth-cen tury seminal fiction works, such as Toni Morrisons Beloved not only do not lose their histori cal meaningfulness when translat ed into oral media (film or audiobooks), but re-create history and offer to postmodern audiences an accessible, and therefore not less sophisticate d, story version of the past. I believe that with all the mediatization pressures, the writers of 1990s in the United States still make a difference in the literary and historical developments and that their answ er to the question why do you write? would incorporate, as much as Robert Coovers answer, the whole history of 218

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philosophy of aesthetics from Aristotles imitation theories to the social militant role of the contemporary writer: Because fiction imitates life s beauty, thereby inventing the beauty life lacks. Because fiction, mediating paradox, celebrates it. Because God, created in the storytellers image, can be destroyed only by his maker. Because in its perversity, it harmonizes the disharmonious. Because in the beginning was the gesture, and in the end to come as well: in between what we have are words. Because, of all the arts, only fiction can unmake the myths that unman men. Because the pen, thought short, casts a long shadow (upon, it must be said, no surface). Because the world is re-invented everyday and this is how it is done. Because truth, that elusive joker hi des himself in fictions and must therefore be sought there(11). It certainly becomes difficult to reconcile these high ideals with the reality of commercialism invading the profession of writing. As Seger points out, for many writers, commercial is a dirty word. It implies compromi sing, losing the integrity of ones project, adding a car chase and a sex scene 45 as the lowest common denominator to draw audiences (4). It involves strengthening the dramatism of the story and raising th e stakes (Seger 106). It also entails embracing a style that would ear n the largest possible se gment of audience. The realistic style is the mo st accessible to mass audiences, the most easily understood, and the clearest. Its like real life, says Seger (156). And th e real life implies Jungs mid219

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twentieth century diagno sis of the modern man, a definition that perfectly fits the condition of the post-modern individual, as well: Our intellect has achieved the most tremendous things, but in the meantime our spiritual dwelling has fallen into disrepair (Archetypes 16). It is precisely this state of spiritu al disrepair and decomposition that late twentieth-century novels and their film counterpa rts mirror. The car chase and the sex scene that Seger mentions, in other words the exhilara tion of danger and sensua lity that constantly defines audience appeal in our society, represen t more than a vehicle of commercialism or a sign of art vulgarization; they virtually mirror the disintegra tion of the postmodern heroes. Nevertheless, because of the inherent commercial nature of oral media, such as radio, television, and film, scholars te nd to associate these media with the corruption of aesthetic and moral values. Such is the view of Gilles Mayn, who explains the media aesthetization of violence and eroticism in the context of th e psychological trauma of the twentieth-century individual who replaces ancestral community rituals (rooted in an oral tradition) with a malign orality which exacerbate s his alienation from reality: Cest louverture un tat dexpecta tive, dangoisse, dincompltude, de risque pouvant certes procurer les plus grandes dsillusions, mais aussi les plaisirs les plus intenses. Or cet tat est prcisment ce dont la dmultiplication et la rcupration incessante de sons, des images, des mots semble vouloir nous loigner de faon de pl us en plus varie et insistante. Le martlement des mdias amplifie encore le mouvement : heure aprs heure les radios dispensent le mme discours dulcorant, savant dosage dabstractions journalistiques, de messages publicitaires suav es [. .] Quant la tlvision, [. .] ce pilonnage tlvisuel coupe les spectateurs touj ours plus de la ralit 220

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tangible, tout en rassemblant, ce qui est plus grave, les conditions dune esthtisation de lobscnit [. .], avec t ous les risques didentification primaire et dabus extrm(ist)es que cela peut comporter lintrieur dune socit en plein dsarroi affectif et la recherche dsespre de valeurs scurisantes. Pour preuve que cette iden tification primaire a dj cours, et ce de faon massive, il suffit de considrer le succs ingal que peuvent avoir, dans notre socit du spectacle les films dhorreur, de violence muscle, et les shows pornographiques, signes ultimes dun corps social en dcomposition, en mal de hros et de r ituels communautaires, au sein duquel lindividu, dsabus, au lieu de descendre dans la rue recharger ses instincts vitaux tends se retrouver calfeutr chez lu i, en train de recevoir sa dose de violence obscne virtuelle mdia tise : [. .] lrotisme soft la maison, en pantoufles, labri des rega rds indiscrets(161-62) Its an opening to a state of uncertain ty, of anguish, of incompleteness and risk, which can certainly provide the greatest disillusionments, but also the most intense pleasures. But it is pr ecisely the incessant reduction and recovery of sounds, images, and words pert aining to this state that seems to tend to alienate us in a manner more and more varied and persistent. The hammering out of media amplifies even more this process: for hours on end, the radio sends out the same sweeten ed discourse, the right amount of journalistic abstractions, smooth adve rtising messages [. .]. As for television, [. .] this te levisual pounding is always cutting the viewers further and further away from the tangible real ity, while mimicking, which is worse, 221

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the conditions of an aesthetization of obs cenity [. .], with all the inherent risks of primary identification and extreme(ist) abuse that may exist within a society in a state of utter emotional confusion and which is desperately searching for secure values. As evidence that this primary identification has already occurred, and in massive propor tions, it suffices to consider the unprecedented success that our society of spectacle bestows on horror movies, physical violence, and pornographi c shows, which are final signs of a social body in decay, sickened by heroes and community rituals, within which the individual, disillusioned, instead of going down in the street to recharge his vital instincts, tends to find hims elf shut in his own home, about to receive his dose of virtual, mediatiz ed obscene violence: [. .] a soft eroticism that the individual views at home, in his slippers, sheltered from indiscrete looks. In an image-dominated culture, seeing, not reading, became the basis for believing (Postman 74). The more information spews out at us the less we believe, write Nathan Gardels and Leila Conners. The more channels there are to entertain us, the more bored we become (2). Have we come to the point wher e everyone chooses their own reality in this emergent Republic of the Image? (Gardels 4) And what would be the most efficient method of balancing the image with realit y, immediacy with durat ion, movies with books, publicity with privacy, celebrity with greatne ss, spin with truth, voyeur with viewer, Dionysian sensuality with Apollonian rigor hype with hope as Gardels and Conners recommend (50)? 222

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An American counterpart of Ma yn, Neil Postman argues in his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death that television is one of the primar y culprits for bringing our culture to an alarmingly low level of degradation at which, as Huxley feared for this Brave New World, there would be no reason to ban a book, for ther e would be no one who wanted to read one (vii). What the culture consumers want is, in Postmans theory, sheer entertainment with insufficient substance. Our politics, religi on, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, la rgely without protest or even much popular notice, postulates Postman, and his sentence resounds with cynical pessimism: The result is that we are a people on the verge of amusing ourselves to death (3-4). Postman stretches so far his attack on television as an image-centered media as opposed to the word-centered printed media that he subtly infers that for some reasons God must have warned against images when He gave the law through Moses (9), and he mockingly asserts that televisi on is, after all, a form of gr aven imagery far more alluring than a golden calf (123). In other words, he tr ansposes the religious c onnotations of idolatry onto the aesthetic discourse of printing versus the iconographic, and thus culturally perverted, broadcasting media. Postman draws our attention to a simplified tw entieth-century syntax that he labels as inferior to earlier American discourse. Peopl e of a television culture need plain language both aurally and visually, and they will even go so far as to require it in some circumstances by law, writes Postman. The Gettysburg A ddress would probably have been largely incomprehensible to a 1985 audience (46). And here it is how Postman explains the superiority of earlier forms of discourse: In th e eighteenth and nineteen th centuries, print put forward a definition of intelligence that gave priority to the objective, rational use of the 223

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mind and at the same time encouraged forms of public discourse with serious, logically ordered content. It is no accident that the Age of Reason was coexistent with the growth of a print culture, first in Europe and then in America (51). Postman connects this oversimplification of syntax w ith the abundance of slogans that started to be used in advertising as early as the 1890s and with th e increasing affordability of leisure for the American society at the end of the twentieth century (60-61). But the consequences acquire dramatic proportions in Postmans view: When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-tal k, when, in short, a people become an audience and their public business a vaudevill e act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a cl ear possibility. (155-6) Holding the telegraph and the photography as the precursors of television, Postman warns that televisions conversations promote incohe rence and triviality; th at the phrase serious television is a contradiction in terms; and that television speaks in only one persistent voicethe voice of entertainment (80). His ho rror knows no limits at the thought that our cultures adjustment to the epistemology of television is by now all but complete; we have so thoroughly accepted its definitions of truth, knowle dge, and reality that irrelevance seems to us to be filled with import, and in coherence seems eminently sane (80). Have the nineties seen indeed a culminati on of the decline of the Age of Typography and the ascendancy of the Age of Television as Neil Postman was warning in his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death ? We are now a culture whose information, ideas and epistemology are given form by television, not by the printed word, complains Postman. 224

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To be sure, there are still r eaders and there are many books pub lished, but the uses of print and reading are not the same as they once were ; not even in schools, the last institutions where print was thought to be in vincible, he continues, and then radically dismisses any merit of what educators call teaching with tec hnology: They delude themselves who believe that television and print coexist, for coexisten ce implies parity. There is no parity here. Print is now merely a residual epistemology, and it will remain so, aided to some extent by the computer, and newspapers and magazines th at are made to look like television screens (28). Postman himself gives an answer to the low popularity of literature books as opposed to high television viewership ratings when he points out that as ear ly as 1786, Benjamin Franklin had observed that Americans were so busy reading newspapers and pamphlets that they scarcely had time for books (37). The sa me attraction for flippa nt sensational news that lessened literature readership in the ei ghteenth century causes a decline in the Americans gusto for books at the end of the twentieth century. What Mayn and Postman never consider is that, in fact, to some extent, twentiethcentury audiences use literature printed or mediatized, as equipment for living (Burke 253), and that the oral media often enhance the po tential of literature. What Hayakawa calls verbal hypnotism or a form of rudimentary sensual gratification (103) presupposes the uttering of appealing sounds, wh ich may very well attract the at tention and interest of an audience without actually communicating a meani ngful message. But it is precisely this meaningless cacophony that reflects the condition of the postmode rn individual. During the post-modernist era, which McLuhan calls t he Age of Anxiety, the dilemma of the twentieth-century hero seems to be deeply exis tential: he is the ma n of action who appears not to be involved in the action (20). He roes as well as consumers manifest a certain 225

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aspiration of our time for wholeness, empat hy and depth of awareness which McLuhan identifies as a natural adjunct of electric technology (McLuhan 21). This very aspiration for empathy constitute s a currency that shows like Oprahs Book Club employ to stimulate the audiences interest in literature. Talking about Oprah Winfreys aesthetic system, Mark Hall notes that it reflects neither the values and assumptions of a high culture aesthetic, nor a mo re popular aesthetic. Instead, Hall writes, she combines something we might call a celeb rity aesthetic, one th at celebrates the good taste of the rich and famous, with an aesth etic of intimacy, one based upon trust in the recommendations of a close friend (653). It is interesting to consid er Halls remark that although Oprah does not actively discour age intellectual re sponses to books 46 [. .] affective responses are more highly valued because they are more consistent with the values and assumptions underlying the show, where shari ng ones feelings gets top billing (658). If the goals of Oprahs Book Club are entertainm ent, self-improvement, and social reform, as Hall proposes (655), where doe s literature fit in this equation of money, taste, and psychological therapy? While Winfrey has taken considerable cu ltural authority away from publishers (Max 40), she has also brought them stellar prof its (in spite of her pe rsuasive insistence on affordable prices and donations to public libraries). On a really good day, she sends more people to bookstores than the morning news programs, the other daytime shows, the evening magazines, radio shows, print reviews and feature articles ro lled into one, asserts Gayle Feldman her 1997 New York Times Book Review article (31). However, it remains debatable whether or not we can attribute or at least rela te a tremendous increase of readership in the United States in the 1990s to an increased tele vision viewership, as Mich el Peroni does when 226

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comparing statistics of consumers of books a nd television literary shows for France for the same decade (15). We know that people read more in the 1990s in America because Oprahs show boosted the books sales, but these numbers are not indicative of how many people actually read thoroughly the books they bought, and again these statistics cannot measure the impact these books had on the intellectual advanc ement of their readers. We can only assert with certainty the indubitable impact of the media on audiences. As early as 1963, Kurt W. Back remarked in his study Promi nence and Audience Structure that mass communication theories indicate that mass media sharpen and reinforce existing tendencies in its audiences psychic and mental patterns (14). Television literary shows like Oprahs and postmodern literature converge, perhaps, in their motivational nuances and in the unquenc hable drive of postmodern writers to direct their narration flow not only toward an acute in trospection, but also to self-redemption. Paul Ds final statement in Morrisons Beloved You, Sethe, you your best thing. You are seems to echo the positive philosophy promoted by Opra h on her show. As Oprah says, everyone has the power inside (Krohn 103), and writers and media personali ties that promote literature make not only a living, but also a mission out of raisi ng this type of self-affirming awareness in their audiences. The media principle of operating with empathi cal levers to allure viewers/readers into the act of consuming a work of art traces its roots back to the Aristotelian theories of dramatic purging effects and of mimesis Aristotle would have clearly rejected the modernists penchant for objective, detached works (imbued with Bertolt Brechts dramatic alienation effect for instance) si nce one of the functions of the Aristotelian discourse is that of purging feelings of fear, pity, and anger. W. C. Booth also admitted the impossibility of 227

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eliminating all traces of appeals (emotional or no t) to the reader from a literary work (98-99). The author cannot choose whether to use rhet orical heightening. Hi s only choice is of the kind of rhetoric he will use, wr ites Booth (116), thus implying that empathy will always be an inherent part of any piece of literature, but the manner in which the author toys with it will make the difference. Johnston discusses the trends in the literature of the last three decades of the twentieth-century in terms of an aesthetic reaction to the Aristotelian mimesis and in the context of linguistic theories of sounds and sign s. He argues that the novels written between the 1970s and the 1990s demonstrate the necessity of discovering alte rnatives to mimetic and expressive models in a culture of noise and entropic dissemination, in which information constantly proliferates and re presentations insidiously replic ate and in which human agency finds itself enmeshed in vira l, bureaucratic forms and transhuman networks (3). The Aristotelian basic emotions of fear, pity, and awe have certainly become infinitely more complex in the postmodern entropic society since For the postmodern reader, in short, modern consciousness no longer conveys the id ea of a necessarily prior state of which writing would be the expression, as Johnston writes, but rather of a conglomerate of effects (sensation, memory, fugue states, etc.) produced by new machinic assemblages specific to a modern urban /industrial milieu (34). Talking about the Aristotelian concept of mimesis Derrida postulates that the artist does not imitate things in nature, or if you will, in natura naturata, but the acts of natura naturans the operations of the physis (Economimesis 9). In this context, I can infer that cinema productions follow the Derridian para digm in that they imitate, or provide a reflection, of the acts (read acti ons) of heroes or antiheroes in constant motion. The early 228

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cinema was called The Bioscope, remarks Giddings, because it was claimed, it imitated life, but it was really a synthesis of early technology and the new electricity (ix). This synthesis of technology and electr icity, as Giddings calls it, might serve as a stimulus to reading (Tibbetts Introduction xv iii). The movies could bri ng literary properties to a public that otherwise would not bother to read th em, observe Tibbetts and Welsh in their Introduction to their 1999 Novels into Film These authors warn that the argument that Hollywood distorts and corrupts serious literatu re for the entertainment pleasures of a mass audience relies on the choice of consumers to watch a mediocre adaptation while discarding the literary work as one more disposable comm odity in a throwaway society (xvi). In this context, some critics, such as Kazin, deplor e the mass culture fostered by television to the detriment of literature fomenta tion through cinema. Television is a factory, he explains in his Introduction to Nathaniel Wests novel The Day of the Locust and manufactures more products in gross than movies ev er did. Television lends itself to parody, not literature. But Hollywood, from the beginning stimulated a rema rkable amount of American writingmost of it satiric but impressed by the power exerted over American minds, morals, music, speech, even the shifting styles and issu es in national politics (viii). In spite of scholarship that categorizes movie adaptatations as what Laurent Danchin called in 1975 une sorte de version vulgaris de la littrature (12) a ty pe of vulgarized versi on of literature, I can only go so far as to acknowledge that Movies do not ruin books, but merely misrepresent them (Tibbetts Introduction xvii) at times fo r obvious political and financial reasons. Revenue figures differ for the industries of writing and film. While a best-selling book may hope for a readership of one to eight million, a movie will be considered a failure if only five million people go to see it (Seger 5) As harsh as it may sound, there is more than 229

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one grain of truth in Tibbetts statement that for motion pictures in America the ultimate failure is commercial, and when box-offi ce revenues fail to c over production costs, 47 Hollywood gets the message. As the saying goes in the Industry, Youre only as good as your last picture, and goodness in this context has nothing to do with fidelity or art 48 (Introduction xvii). This acerbic financial competit ion in the movies industry also dictates standards of value in the assess ing of auteurs (directors, produ cers). Kazins observation that the sense of status in Hollywood was fixed by the size of the salary check still holds true today (Introduction ix). In this context, Timothy Corrigan explai ns the consequences of the collaboration between film and writing: [. .] by the mid-seventies both film and literature were more blatantly enmeshed in the commercial shapes that determined their artistic possibilities. The value and meanings of both film and literature were determined by their status as saleable commodities, and what they shared as entertainment products began to overshadow the diffe rences of the past. From this perspective, (1) the value and meaning of both forms are fundamentally determined by a marketplace economics rather than by aesthetic or social discourses, and (2) within this commodification of form and meaning, writers and filmmakers would, nece ssarily or by choice, l earn to use the others commodified textuality as the focus for a self-promotion, critique, or play for consumer choice. ( Film 68-9) 230

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In a similar direction, Giddings expounds on the marketing differences, and inherently on the differences in aesthetic standa rds, between fiction and film: Novels are produced by individual writers and are consumed by a relatively small, literate audience. Film and television are the result of groups of people engaged in industria l production, and are consumed by a disparate, mass audience. [. .] Cinema and television production is highly costly, and to justify this ex penditure, audiences must be large; consequently, these commercial pressures, combined with the restrictions imposed by the more overt censorship of these mass media, create different requirements from those expe rienced by the novelist. (2) Seger argues that the nove lists choice to go with a movie adaptation to increase readership and implicitly their own revenues often conditions them to write their fiction with an eye to movie structure and characters and places them in a position to sell their rights only if they get to write the screenplay (xii). The c opyright world made giant leaps since Gene Gauntier adapted Lew Wallaces 1880 novel Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ in 1907 for the Kalem film company and was sued by the Wallace estate (Tibbetts Introduction xiv). In The Threepenny Lawsuit Bertolt Brecht voices a genera l negative perception of a collaboration between literature and film, when he explains: We have often been told (and the court expressed the same opinion) that when we sold our work to the film industr y we gave up all our rights; the buyers even purchased the right to destroy what they had bought; all further claim was covered by the money. These people felt that in agreeing to deal with the 231

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film industry we put ourselves in the pos ition of a man who lets his laundry be washed in a dirty gutter a nd then complains that it has been ruined. (47) If at the beginning of the twentieth century, film novels like Nathaniel Wests The Day of the Locust and F. Scott Fitzgeralds The Last Tycoon galvanized a critical perception of the Hollywoodian lack of values, the latter pa rt of the century sa w an ever-increasing collaboration of writers with th e film industry not only in the U. S., but also elsewhere. In 1978, the Austrian novelist, screenwriter, and filmmaker, Peter Handke, wrote and simultaneously filmed his Left Handed Woman a perfect coordination of the two processes of creation. Nevertheless, most consecrated postmodern writers still hold on to the primacy of writing and to what they consider the cinemas dependence on liter ature. Its movies in part that seduced people into thinking the novel was d ead, says Don DeLillo. And he warns, If the novel dies, movies will die with it (qtd. in LeClair 84-5). Thomas McGuane supports the movies indebtedness to the raw material of writing by asserting th at Contrary to what people think, the cinema has enormously to do with language (qtd. in McCaffery 217). Hence, I can infer that there is a transfer not only of linguistic -sign paradigms from literature to film, but also a tr anslation of aesthetic parameters from writing to the screen. As early as 1965, Kluge noticed that there is a tendency to impose upon the cinema the aesthetic ideals of the classica l arts (233). When this impos ition of quality occurs with a movie adaptation, the product often encounters financial failures, given its reduced mass appeal. The movie Beloved for instance, the dearest thing to Oprahs heart for which she felt passionate, as Oprahs friend Gayle King observes, turn ed out to be a box office flop and did not bring Oprah an expected Oscar (Krohn 92). Bordwell illustrates the possibility of 232

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an aesthetic transfer of artistic values between literature and movie adaptations by asserting that the evaluation criteria for movies, sim ilarly to those of postmodern mediatizable literature, are reality, morality, coherence, intensity of effect, complexity, and originality (589). Artworks, whether they be novels or films, constitute products of culture that abide or not by conventions, concludes Bordwell (59). Imelda Whelehan best summarizes the mechanism of interdependence and mutual influence between literature and film in the co ntext of aesthetic appraisal. The question is left open, however, as to how successful films are determined, notes Whelehan, but it raises issues of the relationship of box office su ccess, target audience, and how, in particular, high literature becomes popular culture w ith a corresponding eff ect on book sales and the perception of literary value and high cultural tastes in the eyes of the mass viewing audience (8). However, as early as 1975, La ura Mulvey expressed her confidence in the possibility of a merger between the fina ncial and aesthetic st andards of cinema: Cinema has changed over the last few d ecades. It is no longer the monolithic system based on large capital investment exemplified at its best by Hollywood in the 1930s [ sic ], 1940s [ sic ] and 1950s [ sic ]. Technological advances (16mm, etc) have changed the economic conditions of cinematic production, which can now be artisanal as well as capitalist. (7) The opening of the academe to film as an aes thetic discipline as early as the sixties shows a major shift in the redefinition of artis tic standards, which has been expanding to include productions of the broadcasting industry. Imelda Whelehan points to a certain apprehension, which emerged in the 1970s, that cultural studies dominated by popular culture will end up replacing English in our worldwide a cademic institutions (18). But is this fear 233

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grounded in reality? What has certainly beco me a fact in English studies is that postmodernism has brought a tremendous opening of literary studies to cross-curriculum and interdisciplinary trends. To mention only an example, a leading academic institution, Stanford University, has initiated at the turn of the twenty-first century a program of modern thought and literature that enmeshes lite rature into the modern days world. 49 If we think that adaptations earn 85% of all Academy Award winning Best Pictures and 70% of all Emmy Awards (Seger xi), we should not be too skeptical about the chances of quality literature to acquire recogniti on in the film industry, and consequently we should not altogether dismiss the positive impact of quality adaptations entering the English curriculum to complement literature studies. But perhaps the contentions between the academe and popular culture productions such as movies actually stem from a constant conflict between writers on the one hand and film and media pr oducers on the other. Stephen Kings dispute with Kubrick over the adaptation of his 1980 novel The Shining and Jonathan Franzens resistance to Oprahs mediatizing his Corrections in the late 1990s indicate that the power conflicts between the traditional pen and the camera are far from blowing off. As for the promotion of literature on radio, largely debated in chapter 4, this medium seems to escape the attacks of scholars who claim a demeaning of literary aesthetics on television and cinema. In fact, it is largely accepted that aesthetic literary standards are upheld on radio literary programs. Commenti ng on radio literary shows, Jean Peytard remarks that la critique radiophonique pourrait tre une faon de pratique esthtique cest definer celle-ci comme une technique dart the radio criticism could be a type of aesthetic practice, that is we could define such a criticism as an art technique (Prface 8). On the same lines, Rgis Labourdette contends that radio moderators become literature 234

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sponsors or recommenders as much as television show hosts: A la radio, la littrature vit, priclite ou prit, outre par sa qualit, selon la qualit des mi ssions qui lintroduisent, cest une vidence, It is a fact that on radio, l iterature lives, disint egrates, or perishes, overdone by its own quality, based on the quality of the shows that present it (14). The features of StoryLines a major radio literary program of the 1990s in the United States, 50 indicate, according to Henderson, that the producers strove to abide by high aesthetic standards, in spite of commercial constraints: Storyline did indeed offer these listener s a different kind of talk: it was public; it was participatory; it often addre ssed intimate responses to a range of cultural experiences and to reading about cultural experience; it was framed by a different set of discursive practices than, say, the exoticizing discussions of intimacy on daytime television; it di d not rely on taunting to enhance the dramatic value of the broadcast; and fi nally, it did not insist upon the celebrity or intentions of authors in creati ng meaning and value with books. (342) In Linda Hogans novel Power Ama Eaton kills the sick, dying panther, from which Oni (the spirit or the breath of life) is oozing out, and with that, she does away with an exhausted old order and tradition. The infu sion of mass media into the postmodern world performs a similar act of exterminating the old, dying panther in literature, an act of eradicating the traditional concepts of write r and of literature. It is a phenomenon that concerns not only the United States, but also other media-dominated countries. Writing about the media-driven cultural changes in France, Laurent Danchin remarks that, il est donc vident que le livre et la littrature, lre de laudio-vi suel, tendent perdre le rle exclusif quils occupaient traditionellement da ns la culture -It is therefore obvious that 235

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books and literature, in the era of the audio-visual, tend to lose the exclusive role they had traditionally in the culture (2). Along the same lines, Birkerts noted in 1994 that the book was no longer the axis of our intellectual cu lture (152). However, some American voices, although acknowledging the media impact on literat ure, do not consider it destructive. Fitzpatrick raises several pertinent issues regarding the reception of literature and the function of writers in todays society as opposed to the past centuries, ar guing that in fact, the replacement of literary traditions by mass media does not diminish the aesthetic value of the literary productions, nor does it demean the role of the postmodern writer: The question then becomes whether all th e books that are sold are (1) in fact being read, and (2) of literary importance; both of these subq uestions raise for me a discomforting sense of elitism. Mo reover, to argue that the writers role in contemporary culture has been di minishedwhether by film, television, computer, or other cultural shiftis of necessity to post an Arcadian past in which the writer was culturally central, an assumption that, like any such nostalgic utopianism, is suspect in its revisionism. (n. 7, 523) When the aesthetic of high modernism became exhausted, postmodernist literature emerged as a discourse of replenishment, argue s John Barth in his essa y The Literature of Replenishment (71). Further, in his LETTERS John Barth suggests th at literature can be replenished if we reinsp ect the origins of narrati ve fiction in the oral tradition (438). Or it is precisely the mediatization of literature that proposes a re-enactment of the oral tradition as it has been shown in this study. Danchin claims that to reconcile literatu re with the emerging mass media, we should not revolutionize literature, but convert wr iting to fit new marketing tools (19). His 236

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solution addresses a necessary adaptation to new instruments of discourse and proposes a reconciliation among audio-vi sual arts and writing: Exactement comme au moment o la guitare lectrique, le s ynthtizer, lorgue lectronique ou les tables de montage ont commence remplacer dans les studios, dans les salles ou dans la rue meme, les vieux outils artisanaux qutaient le piano, le violon et tous les instruments de lorchestre classique, it faut que la machine crire, la cam ra, le magntophone, la presse ou la rono deviennent les instruments bana ux de cration dune nouvelle varit dartistes, spcialiss dans la parole, limage ou lcriture plutt que dans les sons: cest seulement cette condition quon pourra vraiment librer les arts essentiellement verbaux et visuals, au trement menacs de tous les riques de rgression et de nvrose quentrane un travail solitaire avec des instruments dpasss, et quon pourra de mme coup achiever la rgnre scence en cours de la culture, parce que lon contribuer a ainsi la naissance collective dune vritable littrature a udio-visuelle ou illustre (un Nouveau Cinma, une nouvelle bande-dessine, de nouvelles formes de montages), dfense et illustration de ce quon appellera bientt dfinitivement la Nouvelle Culture, quand les generations montantes de cr ateurs en auront plus amplement consacr le movement. Car cest seulement en changeant dinstruments dexpression et de conscience quon transformera vraiment la vie et quen faisant changer les symboles, on favorisera une vritable Renai ssance de la culture. (23) 237

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In the same way in which the electric guitar, the synthesi zer, the electronic organ or the consoles starte d to replace in the studios, halls, or even in the streets, the old craft t ools that were the piano, the violin, and all the instruments of the classic orchestra, now the typewriter, the camera, the tape recorder, the press, the mimeo become th e trivial instruments that create a new category of artists, specializing in word s, images, or writing rather than in sound. It is only on this condition that we will be able to truly free the essentially verbal and visual arts, ot herwise threatened by all the risks of regression and neurosis entailed by a solit aire work with outdated instruments; and only this way will we be able at the same time to achieve a regeneration pending in our culture, because in this manner we will contribute to the collective birth of a genuine audio-visual or i llustrated literature (a new cinema, a new cartoon, new ways of directing), in defense and as an illustration of what we should soon definitely call the New Culture when emerging generations of artists will have been able to fully establish such a movement. Because it is only by changing the expr ession and conscience instruments that we will indeed transform life and it is only by changing the symbols, that we will facilitate a genuine Renaissance of culture. In 2002, Kathleen Fitzpatrick talks about a similar symbiosis of text and machine (521) in her article The Exhaustion of Literature: Novels, Computers, and the Threat of Obsolescence, a title drawn from John Barths 1967 article The Litera ture of Exhaustion, published in Atlantic Monthly. Both the narrative content and the dissemination of literature 238

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have actually become imbued with technology. Michael Crichtons Jurassic Park is only one of the examples in this sense. If Cricht ons novel abounds in inte rspersed mathematical formulas, diagrams, and computer screen transc ripts, a rhetorical device that enhances the intertextuality of post-modern fiction, Spielbergs 1993 scr een adaptation made use of ground-breaking computer technologies such as scanning sculpted dinosaur models and then juxtaposing to film cuts the computer-generated images of the monsters (Bordwell 28-30). Inadvertently, these technology infusions will br ing about strong commercialization trends. In her 1998 book, Hamlet on the Holodeck Janet Murray pleads for an intrinsic cultural need of developing writers who should be flexible and versatile enough to work with multimedia technology. The computer is not the enemy of the book, she says It is the child of print culture, a result of the five cen turies of organized, collective inquiry and invention that the printing press made possible (8). Paraphrasi ng Murray, I can argue th at cinema, radio, and television are not the enem ies of the book, either. Directors, radio and television hosts engaged in the promotion of literature do not proclaim the death of printed l iterature since that would do aw ay with the very subject of their productions and thus it w ould be counterproductive for thei r industry. A television top professional in love with literature, Oprah Winfrey acknowledged the differences between reading and media consumption on receiving he r AAP Honors Award in February 2003, an occasion on which she also announced her inte ntions to re-open her Book Club under the new format, Traveling with the Classics: Our society values, for some reas on, swiftness of e xperienceweve grown up with instant gra tification. I ask, Can the slow art of readingthe slow, sensual art of readingand its diffi cult pleasures survive? [. .] The 239

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reading of a book, as we all know, demands that we call time out from all of the business of our livesto luxuriate in a nesting place for hours in solitude. [. .] Mass reading, some say, has be en going on for a relatively short time in human history and is destined to be s upplanted by other, more technologically advantaged modes for understanding our common human experience. I dont believe it. I cannot imagine a world wh ere great works of literature are not read as they have alwa ys been. (16) But shows like Oprahs Book Club, radio literar y programs, and movie adaptations make it a world in which readers become motivated to read in an oral, performative, mediatized environment. Commenting on Toni Morris ons presence on Oprahs show, John Young labels Oprahs Book Club as the most dram atic example of the postmodernisms merger between canonicity and commercialism (181). Contrary to Franzens blunder, Morrison successfully negotiates between both spheres, remaining visibly public as a producer of high art yet simultaneously discussing and marke ting it through a mass cultural medium (Young 182). Perhaps Morrisons success at settling her value between art and dollars to the detriment of neither areas is what all postmodernists wr iters should do. After all, postmodernism operates in a field of tensi on between tradition and innovation, conservation and renewal, mass culture and high art, in which the second terms are no longer automatically privileged over the first (Huyssen 48). And as John Barth postulated in 1967 in his seminal article The Literature of Exhaustion, pop art, dramatic and musical happenings, the whole range of i ntermedia or mixed-means art, bear [. .] witness to the tradition of rebelling against Trad ition (29), so the mediatiza tion of literature becomes an inherently postmodern, and inhere ntly anti-traditional, phenomenon. 240

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Conclusions The thorough comparison of oral literature to postmodern mediatized literature that constitutes the subject of this study has shown that theoretical systems such as Saussures concept of the linguistic sign, Jungs collec tive unconscious, the Bakhtinian dialogic paradigms, and the Aristotelian aesthetic standards represent crit ical tools that can be applied to both oral tradition producti ons and postmodern oral literar y enactments. Elements of multimedia performative characteristics of oral genres, archetypes such as the trickster, tropes such as the talking-book (Francescas journals in The Bridges of Madison County ), socio-political issues (colonia lism, immigration, authorship, racial and gender tensions in Mambo Kings The Joy Luck Club ), linguistic patterns such as bilingualism and use of dialect, stylistic tools (signifying, call/response in Beloved ), all these penetrated not only printed literature, but also mediatized forms of literature in the United States in the 1990s. The selection of novels and thei r screen adaptations analyzed in this study demonstrate the connections between oral tradit ion and post modern orality sin ce they represent a wide range of ethnicities and literary styles, from Native American to Asian, and from autobiographical (Hayslip) to Western (Blake) and futuristic (Crichton), and as they entail complex production, perception, and disseminati on interdependencies. But at the same time, the fiction of th e 1990s, publicized in print, film, or on television literary programs, continues the Modernists obsession w ith the camera as both subject and object of art. Authorship continues to be shar ed among indirect storytellers, writers, co-writers, directors, te levision hosts, editors and publishe rs, all of whom preserve an inherent indebtedness to the collective unconscious ness. The aesthetic st andards of literature 241

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remain negotiable with an inevitable polarity between specialization (of producers, products, and consumers) and simplification trends that attract a larger number of consumers while alienating an elite literary clientele. Broadcast media have certainl y altered not only th e traditional dissemination, but also the consumption and assimilation, and at times even the production of literature. Radio, television, and film have create d a postmodern orality that sh ares linguistic, socio-political, and performative features with the oral tradi tion, but these media also integrate commercial factors which have reshaped aesth etic literary standards. The political position of this study implies a tendency to negotiate a middle ground between commercialization trends in literature and radical attacks on broadcast media involvement in literary production and dissemination. Although offering fair repres entation for both sides of the scholarly conversation, my argument does not embrace Po stmans utter rejection of television, nor does it recommend a full commercialization of literature. Instead, by showing orality features in broadcast literature as a post mode rn revival of cultural preservation trends, this study indicates that broadcast media can be bene ficial to the development and survival of literature. After all, from the pidgin sermons of nineteenth-century African-American slaves to Oprahs televised lunch with Toni Morri son and to Jonathan Demmes adaptation of Beloved from Native American war songs to Matthiessens In the Spirit of Crazy Horse and to Michael Apteds Thunderheart from Hispanic oral historie s to the tragic sense of Hijueloss and Glimchers Mambo Kings from the Asian ancestral stories to Amy Tans and Hayslips novels and their movie adaptations, there is simply a road that the spoken literary word had to cover, an evolution trajectory that has cycled back through orality with the broadcast media. 242

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Nuttall, Sarah and Cheryl Ann. Interview with Rob Nixon. Contemporary Literature 43.3 (Fall 2002): 422-40. Ong, Walter J. Orality and Literacy. The Technologizing of the Word. New York: Routledge, 1982. Oprahs Book Club. The Oprah Winfrey Show Livingston, NJ: Burrelles Information Services. 9 Sept. 1999. Transcript. Oprahs Book Club Anniversary Party. The Oprah Winfrey Show Livingston, NJ: Burrelles Information Servic es. 22 Sept. 1997. Transcript. Ortiz, Simon J. Woven Stone Tucson: U of Arizona P, 1992. Paminfuan, Tina. Storylines America. Humanities 22.5 (2001): 24-7. Panofsky, Erwin. Style and Medi um in the Motion Pictures. Film Theory and Criticism 4th. ed. Ed. Gerald mast et al. New York: Oxford, 1992. 233-48. Paz, Octavio. The Cathedral of Literature. New Perspectives Quarterly 11 (Summer 1994): 36-37. Prez-Torres, Rafael. Between Presence and Absence. Beloved, Postmodernism, and Blackness. Toni Morrisons Beloved. A Casebook. Ed. William L. Andrews and Nelly Y. McKay. New York: Oxford UP, 1999. 179-201. Peroni, Michel. De lecrit lecran Paris: Bibliothque Publique dInformation, 1991. Peytard, Jean. La mdiacritique littraire la tlvision. La mdiacritique littraire Semen 5. Groupe de recherches en linguistique et semiotique (GRELIS). Paris, France: Annales Littraires de l Universit de Besanon, 1990. 105-190. 264

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----------------. Prface. La mdiacritique littraire Semen 5. Groupe de recherches en linguistique et semiotique (GRELIS). Paris, France: Annales Littraires de lUniversit de Besanon, 1990. 7-9. Poague, Leland A. Literature vs. Cinema : The Politics of Aesthetic Definition. The Journal of Aesthetic Education 10.1 (1976): 75-91. Portelli, Alessandro. The Text and the Voice. Writing, Speaking, and Democracy in American Literature. New York: Columbia UP, 1994. Postman, Neil. Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death. Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. New York: Viking, 1985. Pound, Ezra. The Cantos of Ezra Pound. New York: New Directions, 1993. Profile of a Writer. Toni Morrison RM Arts. VHS. Public Media Home Vision. 1987 LWT. Rabinowitz, Peter. From Before Reading. The Critical Tradition. Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. 2nd ed. Ed. David H. Richter. Boston: Bedford Books, 1998. 998-1013. Ramadanovic, Petar. Forgetting Futures. On Memory, Trauma, and Identity. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2001. Ramsey, Jarold. Introduction. Coyote Was Going There: In dian Literature of the Oregon Country Ed. Jarold Ramsey. Seattle: U of Washington P, 1977. xvii-xxxiii. -------------------The White Man in Native Oral Tradition. Dictionary of Native American Literature. Ed. Andrew Wiget. New York: Garland, 1994. 13941. 265

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Read, Hebert. The Poet and the Film. In A Coat of Many Col ours: Occasional Essays. London: Routledge, 1945. 225-31. Reid, Calvin. PW to Launch National Book Radio Show with Mort Sahl. Publishers Weekly 241 December 5 1994: 20. Rigley, Barbara Hill. The Voices of Toni Morrison. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 1991. Robinson, Marc. Introduction. From the Other Side of the Century II. A New American Drama 1960-1995. Ed. Douglas Messerli and Mac Wellman. Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1998. 11-18. Rodrigues, Eusebio L. The Telling of Beloved . Critical Essays on Toni Morrisons Beloved Ed. Barbara H. Solomon. New York: G. K. Hall & Co., 1998. 148-65. Rody, Caroline. Toni Morrisons Beloved : History, Rememory, and a Clamor for a Kiss. Understanding Toni Morrisons Belo ved and Sula: Selected Essays and Criticisms of the Works by the Nobel Prize-Winning Author. Ed. Solomon O. Iyasere. Troy, New York: Whitston Publishing Company, 2000. 81-112. Rozakis, Laurie E. The Complete Idiots Guide to American Literature. Indianapolis, IN: Alpha Books, 1999. Rubin, Joan Shelley. The Making of Middle Brow Culture Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina, 1992. Rubio-Goldsmith, Raquel. Oral History: Consid erations and Problems for its Use in the History of Mexicans in the United States. Between Borders. Essays on Mexicana/Chicana History. Ed. Adelaida R. Del Castillo. Encino, CA: Floricanto Press, 1990. 161-200. 266

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Ruppert, James. The Uses of Oral Tradit ion in Six Contemporar y Native American Poets. American Indian Culture and Research Journal 4.4 (1980): 87-110. Sale, Maggie. Call and Response as Critical Method: African-American Oral Traditions and Beloved . Critical Essays on Toni Morrisons Beloved Ed. Barbara H. Solomon. New York: G. K. Hall & Co., 1998. 177-88. Salomon, Gavriel. Television Watching a nd Mental Effort: A Social Psychological View. Childrens Understanding of Televisi on. Research on Attention and Comprehension. Ed. Jennings Bryant and Da niel R. Anderson. New York: Academic Press, 1983. 181-198. Sanchou, Valrie. Le discours vocation scientifique: tude smiotique de la P.N.L. (Programmation Neurolinguistique). Violence et langage. Ed. Robert Gauthier. Toulouse, France: C.A.L.S., 1999. 163-180. Sarraute, Nathalie. The Age of Suspicion Transl. Maria Jolas. New York: George Braziller, 1963. Sartre, Jean-Paul. On The Sound and the Fury : Time in the Work of Faulkner. The Sound and the Fury Ed. David Minter. New York: 1987. Saussure, Ferdinand de. Course in General Linguistics Ed. Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye. Transl. Roy Harris. La Salle, Illinois: Open Court, 1988. Schopp, Andrew. Narrative Control and Subjec tivity: Dismantling Safety in Toni Morrisons Beloved . Understanding Toni Morrisons Beloved and Sula: Selected Essays and Criticisms of the Works by the Nobel Prize-Winning Author. Ed. Solomon O. Iyasere. Troy, New Yo rk: Whitston Publishing Company, 2000. 204230. 267

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Seger, Linda. The Art of Adaptation: Turning Fact and Fiction into Film. How to Transform Novels, Plays, and True-Life Stories into Screenplays New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1992. Sevush, Steven. Single-Neuron Theory of Consciousness. 12 November 2004 .uk/archive/00003891/01/snt-9html.htm Short, Kathy G. and Charlene Klassen. Literature Circles: Hearing Childrens Voices. Childrens Voices: Talk in the Classroom. Ed. Bernice E. Cullinan. Newark, Delaware: International R eading Association, 1993. 66-86. Simard, Rodney. American Indian L iteratures, Authenticity, and the Canon. World Literature Today 66.2 (Spring 1992): 243-48. Simone, Roberta. The Immigrant Experience in Am erican Fiction. An Annotated Bibliography. Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press Inc., 1995. Simmons, Philip E. Deep Surfaces: Mass Culture and History in Postmodern American Fiction Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1997. Singer, Jerome L. and Dorothy G. Singer. Implications of Childhood Television Viewing for Cognition, Imagination, and Emotion. Childrens Understanding of Television. Research on A ttention and Comprehension. Ed. Jennings Bryant and Daniel R. Anderson. New York: Academic Press, 1983. 265-296. Slowik, Mary. When the Ghosts Speak: Oral and Written Narrative Forms in Maxine Hong Kingstons China Men. Rep. from Multi-Ethnic Literature of the United States (MELUS) 19.1 (Spring 1994): 73. Critical Essays on Maxine Hong Kingston Ed. Laura E. Skandera-Trombley. New York: G. K. Hall & Co., 1998. 246-260. 268

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Smith, Barbara Herrnstein. Contingencies of Value. The Critical Tradition. Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. 2nd ed. Ed. David H. Ri chter. Boston: Bedford Books, 1998. 1552-1575. Smitherman, Geneva. Black Language and Culture: Sounds of Soul New York: Harper, 1975. ------------------------. Black Talk: Words and Phrases from the Hood to the Amen Corner. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994. Smith, Tom. "A Conversation between Tom Sm ith and Mary Gordon. Transcription of Book Show, NY Public Radio/New York St ate Writers Institute, 27 June 1991." 1991. Ed. Bennett, Alma. Conversations with Mary Gordon Jackson, MS: UP of Mississippi, 2002. 73-80. Smoke Signals Dir. Chris Eyre. Perf. Adam Be ach, Evan Adams. Miramax Films, 1998. Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. Translators Preface. Of Grammatology. By Jacques Derrida. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1976. ix-lxxxvii. Stock, Brian. The Implications of Literacy: Written Language and Models of Interpretation in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1983. Stone, E Black Sheep and Kissing Cousins New York: Times, 1988. Storyline : Proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities for a Regional Exemplary Award. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Humanities Council, Delaware Humanities Forum, New Jersey Committee for the Humanities, 1993. 269

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Strehle, Susan. Techno-Texts and Media Machines: The New Age of American Fiction. Rev. of Information Multiplicity: American Fiction in the Age of Media Saturation by John Johnston. Contemporary Literature 41.1 (Spring 2000): 173-79. Striphas, Ted. A Dialectic With the Ever yday: Communication and Cultural Politics on Oprah Winfreys Book Club. Critical Studies in Media Communication 20.3 (September 2003): 295-316. Swann, Brian and Arnold Krupat, ed. Recovering the Word. Essays on Native American Literature. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987. 246-60. Tan, Amy. The Joy Luck Club. New York: Ivy Books, 1989. Taylor, Clyde. Black Cinema in the Post-aesthetic Era. Questions of Third Cinema. Ed. Jim Pines and Paul Willemen. London: British Film Institute, 1989. 90-110. Thompson, Kristin. Storytelling in the New Holly wood. Understanding Classical Narrative Technique Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard UP, 1999. Thunderheart. Dir. Michael Apted. Perf. Val Kilmer. Tristar, 1992. Tibbetts, John C. Oprah's Belabored Beloved. Literature/Film Quarterly 27.1 (1999): 74-6. -----------------& James M. Welsh. Appendix A. The Encyclopedia of Novels into Film. New York: Facts on File, 1998. 479-84. -----------------------------------------------. Introduction. The Encyclopedia of Novels into Film. New York: Facts on File, 1998. xvii-xx. Tibbetts, John C. and James M. Welsh. Introduction. Novels into Film. The Encyclopedia of Movies Adapted from Books Ed. John C. Tibbetts and James M. Welsh. New York: Checkmark Books, 1999. xiii-xxi. 270

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Todorov, Tzvetan. Language and Literature. The Structuralist Controversy. The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of man. Ed. Richard Macksey and Eugenio Donato. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1972. 125-33. Toelken, Barre. Context and Meani ng in the Anglo-American Ballad. The Ballad and the Scholars: Approaches to Ballad Study. Papers Presented at Clark Library Seminar 22 October 1983 by D. K. Wilgus and Barre Toelken. Los Angeles: William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, 1986. 29-52. Valby, Karen. Correction Dept. Entertainment Weekly 679 (2002): 23-4. Vaschenko, Alexander. Oral Hi storical Epic Narratives. Handbook of Native American Literature. Ed. Andrew Wiget. New York: Garland Publishing Inc., 1996. 91-96 Vernant, Jean-Pierre. Greek Tragedy: Problems of Interpretation. The Structuralist Controversy. The Languages of Crit icism and the Sciences of man. Ed. Richard Macksey and Eugenio Donato. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1972. 273-95. Waller, Robert James. The Bridges of Madison County. New York: Warner Books, 1992. Wallington, Aury. Scripts. Script CPR: Cut, Polish, Revise. Writers Digest. 9 (September 2002): 18-19. Walljasper, Jay and Jon Spayde. The L oose Canon: 150 Great Works to Set Your Imagination on Fire. Utne Reader 87 (May/June 1998): 52-9. Weber, Devra Anne. Mexican Women on Strike: Memory, History and Oral Narratives. Between Borders. Essays on Mexicana/Chicana History Ed. Adelaida R. Del Castillo La Mujer Latina Series. Encino, CA: Floricanto Press, 1990. 175200. 271

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West, Nathaniel. The Day of the Locust. New York: Signet Classic, 1983. Whelehan, Imelda. Adaptations: The Contemporary Dilemma. Adaptations from Text to Screen, Screen to Text. Ed. Deborah Cartmell and Imelda Whelehan. London: Routledge, 1999. 3-20. Wiget, Andrew, ed. Handbook of Native American Literature. New York: Garland Publishing Inc., 1996. Wiget, Andrew. Chapter 3: The Beginnings of a Written Literature. Native American Literature. In Twaynes United States Authors on CD-ROM New York: G.K. Hall & Co., 1997. ------------. Native American Oral Literature: A Criti cal Orientation. Dictionary of Native American Literature. Ed. Andrew Wiget. New York: Garland, 1994. 3-18. Wilgus, D. K. The Comparative Approach. The Ballad and the Scholars: Approaches to Ballad Study. Papers Presented at Cl ark Library Seminar 22 October 1983 by D. K. Wilgus and Barre Toelken. Los Angeles: William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, 1986. 3-29. Williams, Bronwyn. Tuned In: Television and the Teaching of Writing New York: Heinemann, 2002. Williams, George Washington. History of the Negro Race in America. Vol. 2. 1883. New York: Bergman Publishers, 1968 Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie. The Wadsworth Anthology of Drama. Ed. W. B. Worthen. Boston: Thomson, 2004. 1038-1063. 272

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Winfrey, Oprah. Oprah on The Fire for Reading. Speech at the AAP. Publishers Weekly 250.10 (10 March 2003): 16. Winnemucca, Sarah. Life Among the Piutes Ed. Mrs. Horace Mann. Boston and New York: G. P. Putnam and Sons, 1883. Wise, Robert. Foreword. Novels into Film. The Encyclopedia of Movies Adapted from Books. Ed. John C. Tibbetts and James M. Welsh. New York: Checkmark Books, 1999. vii-ix. Witte, Maria. Ask the Editor. Writers Digest. 9 September 2002: 8. Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Culture and Value Ed. G. H. von Wright. Transl. Peter Winch. Chicago: The U of Chicago P, 1980. Wolff, Michael. Auld Lang Old Media. K. Andersens Turn of the Century and Panel Discussion on Media Issues. New York 32.21 (31 May 1999): 22-23. Young, John. Toni Morrison, Oprah Winfrey, and Postmodern Popular Audiences. African American Review. 35:2 (Summer 2001): 181-204. Zettl, H. Sight-Sound-Motion Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1973. 273

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Endnotes 1 Tzvetan Todorovs essay Language and Literature was one of the papers presented by over one hundred humanists and soci al scientists at the international symposium The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man [Les langa ges critiques et les sciences de lhomme], an event sponsore d by the Ford Foundation and organized by the Johns Hopkins Humanities Center, and whic h took place in Baltimore during the week of October 18-21, 1966. 2 Jacques Lacans essay Of Structure as an Inmixing of an Otherness Prerequisite to Any Subject Whatever was one of the papers presented by over one hundred humanists and social scientists at the international sy mposium The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man [Les langage s critiques et les sciences de lhomme], an event sponsored by the Ford Foundation and organized by the Jo hns Hopkins Humanities Center, and which took place in Baltimore during the week of October 18-21, 1966. 3 Charles Mozars essay Literary Inventi on was one of the papers presented by over one hundred humanists and social scien tists at the international symposium The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man [Les langages critiques et les sciences de lhomme], an event sponsored by the Ford Foundation and organized by the Johns Hopkins Humanities Center, and which took place in Baltimore during the week of October 18-21, 1966. 4 Even some of the first Native Amer ican writings like Samson Occoms 1772 speech, A Sermon Preached at the Execution of Moses Paul, demonstrate natural and free and eloquent, quick and powerful oratorical skills (Blodgett 35). 274

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5 Shirley Ardener, borrowing the term from the social anthropologist, Charlotte Hardman, denominates as muted groups the u nderprivileged or i narticulate minorities which are perceived and evaluate d culturally, socially, and econo mically based on the criteria of a dominant model created by a dominant social group (xii). 6 Bernard Katz refers here to Edward Longs study History of Jamaica published in 1774, in which there are mentions of We st Indian music known as Calypso. 7 I am reproducing here this sermon in its entirety: I take my text from Genesis two and twenty-one (Gen. 2:21) Behold de Rib! Now, my beloved, Behold means to look and see. Look at dis woman God done made, But first thing, ah hah! Ah wants you to gaze upon Gods previous works. Almighty and arisen God, hah! Peace-giving and prayer-hearing God High-riding and strong armed God Walking across his globe creation, hah! Wid de blue elements for a helmet And a wall of fire round his feet He wakes de sun every morning from his fiery bed Wid de breath of his smile And commands de moon wid his eyes. 275

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And Oh Wid de eye of Faith I can see him Even de lion had a mate So God shook his head And a thousand million diamonds Flew out from his glittering crown And studded de evening sky and made de stars. So God put Adam into a deep sleep And took out a bone, ah hah! And it is said that it was a rib. Behold de rib! A bone out of a mans side. He put de man to sleep and made wo-man, And men and women been sl eeping together ever since. Behold de rib! Brothers, if God Had taken dat bone out of mans head He would have meant for woman to rule, hah If he had taken a bone out of his foot, He would have meant for us to dominize and rule. He could have made her out of back-bone And then she would have been behind us. 276

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But no, God Almighty, he took de bone out of his side So dat places de woman beside us; Hah! God knowed his own mind. Behold de rib! And now I leave dis thought wid you, Standing out on de eaves of ether Breathing clouds from his nostrils, Blowing storms from tween his lips I can see!! Him seize de mighty axe of his proving power And smite the stubborn-standing space, And laid it wide open in a mighty gash Making a place to behold de world I can see him Molding de world out of thought and power And whirling it out on its eternal track, Ah hah, my strong armed God! He set de blood red eye of de sun in de sky And told it, Wait, wait! Wait there till Shiloh come I can see! Him mold de mighty mountains And melting de skies into seas. 277

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Oh, behold, and look and see! hah We see in de beginning He made de beastes every one after its kind. De birds that fly de trackless air, De fishes dat swim de mighty deep Male and fee-male, hah! Then he took of de dust of de earth And made man in his own image. And man was alone, Let us all go marchin up to de gates of Glory. Tramp! tramp! tramp! In step wid de host dat John saw. Male and female like God made us Side by side. Oh, behold de rib! And lets all set down in Glory together Right round his glorified throne And praise his name fore ver. (qtd. in Courlander 359-61) 8 The text of this sermon is entirely reproduced in Harold Courlanders book A Treasury of Afro-American Folklore, pp. 361-64. 9 All translations from German, French, and Spanish belong to Codrina Cozma, a professional translator. 278

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10 But quality exceptions do happen, such as the adaptation of Hemingways To Have and Have Not to which two Nobel-Prize contempor ary authors contributed (Hemingway with the novel and William Faulkner with the script). 11 In a law and media-dominated society, authors and auteurs, although they often take risks of sending off a politically loaded message, have become highly vulnerable to lawsuits. Professional writers and director s can claim First Amendment rights as Paul Matthiessen did, but some of them (Hayslip, St one, Apted) prefer to dip their narrative in cultural ambiguities rather than produce a liable work. 12 For exemplification purposes, here is an abbreviated list of participants in the production of a movie: director, sc reenplay writers, art director set decorator, set dresser, costume designer, make-up artist, haridresers, drivers, graphic artist, first/second/third assistant director, scri pt supervisor, dialogue coach, the ca st (stars, supporting players, minor players, extras for crowds), st unt coordinators, wrangler, chor eographer, dancers, production manager/production coordinator/associat e producer, production accountant/production auditor, production secretary, produ ction assistants, director of photography/cinematographer, camera operator, key grip, gaffer, greenery man, property master, production recordist/sound mixer, boo m operator, third man (Bordwell 26-29). 13 Avrom Fleishman identifies f our classes of voiceovers: voice-off (heard and seen), interior monologue (not heard by others even when the ch aracter is on-screen with them), the acousmtre (heard but not seen), and voice-over (neither heard nor seem by [other] characters (75). Based on Fleishmans categories, the narra torial voiceover in Heaven and Earth constitutes an acousmtre since it is heard, but not seen The lack of the narrators physical presence in such voiceovers rese mbles the anonymity, and implicitly the 279

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universalistic character, of the narrator in oral traditions, in which the storyteller represented only the vehicle, the voice through which the story could be transmitted/performed. 14 Seger notes that the adaptation becomes more facile when th e protagonist also functions as narrator in the novel (120). 15 When dealing with the para llelism or complimentary elements of printed versus filmed texts, terminology, as relative as it can be, plays an essential role in defining the operating criticism tools. Seymour Chatman coin s the terms presenter (performing arts) as a pair for narrator (printed texts), but points out that either will actually become actualized through the teller and the show -er, which can function interc hangeably in both literature and cinema (113). 16 If most modernists remained, at least in theory, under the Eliotesque hex of the objective correlative, a plethora of scholar s following them have argued thatIcannot deny the necessity and the existence of emotions in literary works. Hayakawa concludes, in his 1972 Language in Thought and Action that since the expression of individual feelings is central to literature, affective elements are of the utmost impo rtance in all literary writing (113). 17 Leaving aside all the Whitmanesque cont radictions in Derri das theories of orality and textuality, I cannot help linking his previous stat ement with Emily Dickinsons verses, which confer life-affirming power to the spoken word: A word is dead When it is said Some say. I say it just 280

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Begins to live That day. (qtd. in Portelli 138) 18 Jean Pierre Vernants essay Greek Trag edy: Problems of Interpretation was one of the papers presented by over one hundred humanists and social scientists at the international symposium The Languages of Cr iticism and the Sciences of Man [Les langages critiques et les scienc es de lhomme ], an event sponsored by the Ford Foundation and organized by the Johns Hopkins Humanities Center, and which took place in Baltimore during the week of October 18-21, 1966. 19 See Bluestone, George. Novels into Film Berkeley: University of California Press, 1957. p. 48. 20 Bruce Morrissette supports this view See his Novel and Film: Essays in Two Genres. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985. p. 36. 21 The release of a VHS bilingual version of the movie with Spanish subtitles indicates that Glimchers production targeted massive Hispanic audiences in the United States. 22 It is questionable if the device of voiceover, as Wise says, always approximates the interior monologues. Ther e are several ways of translating interior monologues into the language of camera pr oductions, and Demmes alternate cuts of flashbacks and storytelling prove this point. 23 Seger proposes that a characters declared intentionality initiates a story arc that will end with the fulfillment of the characters intentions (93) According to Seger, Dunbar covers two story arcs, one that finalizes with hi s cultural conversion to Indian tribal life, and 281

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one that starts with his new hunted status and en ds with his leaving the tribe with his wife to escape the search of the white soldiers (95). 24 The iconography (recurring images) of a movi e plays a crucial role in constructing the location; for instance, in Oliver Stones ad aptation, establishing shots that introduce us to the environment of Le Ly Hayslips village in Vietnam are often repeated in key moments of the plot development (farmers on the fi elds, Le Lys riding a bull, etc.). 25 I cannot fully agree with Segers statement Film doesnt give us an interior look at a character. A novel does (20). One of the insecurities of adaptations lies, according to Seger, in the difficulty of rendering in film mat erial that is internal and psychological, that concentrates on inner thoughts and motivati ons (55). Nevertheless, movies like Beloved and Mambo Kings offer complex insights into the ch aracters psychic struggles: Sethe rememories her infanticide trauma along with her rape experience and the hanging of her mother while frantically building an unhealthy emotional attachment to Beloved; Cesar in Mambo Kings struggles with his vices, the love for his brother, the devastation of losing Nestor to death, and a passionate attraction to his sister-in-law. Although such adaptations do not employ restrictive narration (the telling of a story from the exclusive perspective of a character), the combination of omniscient na rrative and point-of-view shots (constructing mental subjectivity through voi ceover, flashbacks, slow-motion, slow-paced sounds) produce intricate psychological portraits of such characte rs (For more on these technical devices, see Bordwell 83, 85). 26 Lorenzo D. Blackson, The Rise and Progress of the Kingdom of Light and Darkness (1867); Thomas Detter, Nellie Brown (1871); Emma Dunham Kelley, Megda (1892), etc. 282

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27 Thus, Beloved seems to have emerged out of the insular nation of children deprived of past and memory that the Czechoslovakian writer Milan Kundera fashions in his Book of Laughter and Forgetting 28 In this respect, the movie adaptations of the 1990s resemble more Louis Lumires penchant for recording current events or actu alities, than Georges Mlis employment of the magical and the fantastic in creating a cinema of attractio ns (Kaufmann 12). However, the abundance of thrilling scenes in Spielbergs Jurassic Park most of them created through computer-generated images and camera manipulations makes Jay David Bolter consider this genre of movies a new version of the early cinema of attractions (157). 29 We have recently seen the exaggerated proportions of aversion and criticism triggered by a radical movie like Mel Gibsons The Passion of Christ which did not set out to specifically satisf y or attack any group. 30 It is interesting to note that Tan produced The Joy Luck Club in only four months, writing fiction as a hobby, after he r experience as a freelance bus iness writer (Rozakis 388). 31 The reasons underlying the failure of the reservations mentioned by Wiget in his electronically published monograph, Native American Literature and referring to the nineteenth-century circumstances, display striki ng similarities to the 1970s circumstances described by Peter Matthiessen in his journalistic manifest, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse : the corruption of agents, the lack of material and financial resources necessary for development and progress, the intrusion of outsiders who appropriated more and more Indian land, and the Indian rej ection of the federal intervention, all remained the same on the reservations up until the end of the twentieth century (Chapter 3: The Beginnings). 283

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32 The great-great-gra nddaughter of Consta ntine and Violet Winfrey, a Mississippi slave couple who had been freed after the Ci vil War (Krohn 8), Opra h Winfrey interpreted the role of Sethe after a judicious training to get in the skin of what her forefathers had lived. Her preparation for this role included a r eenactment of slavery during which Oprah was left barefoot and alone, in the Maryland woods at a spot that used to be part of the Underground Railroad while white men acting as slave traders hara ssed her and called her names. Oprah felt strong and unafraid at first, but then she broke down. I became hysterical. It was raw, raw, raw pain, said Oprah. I went to the darkest place, and I saw the light. And I thought, So this is where I come from (Krohn 91). 33 Following the developments that attribute violence to brain functions, Sanchou coins a new term, violence cognitive -cognitive violence (164) which indicates that violent behavior is more often than not a re sult of complex brain processes, and not an impulse-based action. 34 In post-modernist literature, even attemp ts to exile ones traumatic psyche to a childrens island, in order to forget, or to er ase trauma, as Tamina does in Milan Kunderas novel The Book of Laughter and Forgetting result in failure due to a generalized psychomoral deterioration of the humans; in Kundera s novel, the supposedly innocent angel-demon children behave as sexual perverts (238-51). 35 Even in the France of 1975, Laurent Danchin voices concerns raised by Neil Postman in the 1980s America: Pour beaucoup des parents, et pour la plupa rt des professeurs, laudio-visuel et tous ses derives, en particulier la t lvision, reprsentent par excellence le monde de lanti-culture et de la facilit. 284

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Il est bien connu que les jeunes ne lise nt plus, nont plus le sens de de leffort, etc(11) For many parents, and for most teacher s, the audio-visual with all its derivatives, particularly television, repres ents, in and of itself, the world of anti-culture and of simplicity. It is well-known that young people a re not reading anymore, and have ceased to have any sense of effort, etc. 36 Here is some of the students feedback on the efficiency of oral learning approaches such as a book club: Literature circles take the idea s out of your head rather than keeping all the ideas in your head, says Jami e, a third-grader involve d in a book-club type of learning experience. In literature circles, you get to know a person better and how that book relates to their life and you and them relate (Short 67). A similar view is shared by Carl, another third-grader quoted in Kathy G. Shorts study Literature Circles. When I am in a literature group, says Carl, I feel I am growi ng a lot in being able to understand the deepdown meaning of the book and how the au thor wrote that book (Short 67). 37 Among other television literary shows, which complement or continue Oprahs Book Club tradition, the following are wort h mentioning: Booknot es on C-SPAN with regular televised author readings from bookstore readings; Exxon Mobil Masterpiece Theater Book Club on PBS; Marthas Favorite Books! on Marta Stewart Living, featuring one book selection per week; Read This! on Good Morning America, which profiles regional book clubs; Reading w ith Ripa Book Club on LIVE w ith Regis and Kelly; Today Book Club on Today Show (Moore 344). 285

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38 A childhood fan of Shirley Temple, Opra h Winfrey unleashed her acting energies in movies like Beloved and The Color Purple and she professes her passion for the movies, saying that I would rather do a film than take a vacation. This is the thing Ive waited a lifetime for (Adler 96). Beloved is my passion, says Oprah Winfrey, who acted as Sethe in the screen adaptation of Morrisons novel. Oprah boasts having bought the rights to adapt this novel as early as 1987, before Morrison ha d been awarded the Pulitzer and the Nobel Prize (Adler 158). 39 In addition to radio readings, some write rs, like Toni Morrison, have chosen to market their writings as audiobook versions a strategy which John Young calls the commercialization of the African-American oral tradition (198), and which indeed emerged as a post-modern re-enactment of the ta lking-book trope pres ent throughout AfricanAmerican orality. Sarah Kozloff acknowledge s that envoicing the narrator [through audiobooks] creates a sense of connection strong er than reading impe rsonal printed pages: the communicative paradigmstoryteller to li stenerthat underlies pr inted texts has again become flesh (92). 40 Chnetiers x-ray of the post-modernist tr ends in American literature encompasses the absurd, contestation, the picaresque, marginalism, and formal experimentation of the 1960s, the rise of parodies, demystifications the denunciation of systems and caricature of them and more experimentation in the 1970s, and the 1980s that saw the beginnings of a vast synthesis and a partial reaction agai nst the antirealism that had dominated the seventies (59). 41 American literature is male, states Judith Fetterley in her Introduction to The Resisting Reader (991). 286

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42 Involved in the books sale and mediatiza tion, Oprah Winfrey, reaped an impressive amount of financial benefits from her culture-enhancing prof ession. However, she asserts that, The onethe thing that Im most proud of myself about is that I have ac quired a lot of things, but not one of those things defines me (Adler 115). 43 Television channels, such as C-Span2/ Book TV, often organize literary brunches that involve sponsorships from publishing corp orations, such as NY Times, and entail high organizational costs related to rentin g ballrooms, catering services, etc. 44 Siding with scholars who hold media invol vement as a downgrading element in the formation of an educated, cultured public, Joan Shelley Rubin id entifies as middlebrow the synthesis or symbiosis between commercialis m and art. Thus,Ican infer that postmodernism has seen the emergence not only of a middlebrow writers class, but also of a middlebrow readership. 45 Linda Kaufmann extrapolates on the definition of pornography: The Greek pornographos means the writing of, on, about, or ev en for harlots; by extension, it signifies the life, manners, and customs of prostitutes and their patrons. Not just scenes of sex, in other words, but descriptions of everyday life, from the viewpoint of the masses (9). In other words, a mass-appealing discourse may constitute an act of art prostitution. If pornography is a commerce, as Mayn points ou t (150),Ishould also face the facts that eroticism in any book as well as in an y Hollywood production makes the sales. 46 Some criticize Oprahs Book Club selections for not requiring a dictionary and for presenting little intellectual challeng e besides their length (Crossen W15). 47 The production and distribution of movies function on complex financial and legal interdependencies. During the preparation st age of a film producti on, the director and 287

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producers carry on the screenplay treatment leading to shooting script and secure casting and funding, which fall under above-the-line costs or negative cost category, averaging $50 million per movie (Bordwell 24, 25). The producer pays for the publicity campaign, but the distributor gets 90% of the total box-office recei pts in the first week, after which their share goes down to 30% (Bordwell 13). Profits are generated through commercializing sound tracks and from merchandizing creating products rela ted to the movie); cross-promotion (movie features snapshots of a companys products); ancillary markets such as cable TV, home video, movie websites, best-selling books derived from the movie (Bordwell 18,19). 48 Video versions feature further adjustments from the movie adaptation, such as the elimination of R-rated elements, time-compression or a speeding up of the film to fit in ads, and pan and scan, which is an elimination or alteration of original images (Bordwell 21). 49 For more information on this program offere d at Stanford University, it is useful to visit the link http://www.stanfor 50 Fresh Air with Terry Gross on NPR ma y also be mentioned as a quality radio cultural program that features interviews with authors, film-makers, musicians, etc., carried out in a highly professional manner. For more information, it will help to visit its website at 288

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About the Author Codrina Cozma holds degrees in German, Spanish, and French, and an M.A. in English from Valdosta State University, in Valdosta, GA. Sh e is currently fluent and accurate in five languages and has extensive experi ence as a teacher, translator, and editor. Codrina is the recipient of numerous teaching and publishing awards, and her sc holarly articles have been published with prestigious journals in the U.S., New Zealand, and U.K. Upon the completion of her doctoral studies with th e University of South Florid a, Codrina has accepted an Instructor position with the English Department at the Univer sity of Central Florida, in Orlando, FL. 289


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