[Colonial & Postcolonial Theory]

The Performative and Processual: A Study of Hypertext/Postcolonial Aesthetic

Topographical Places (maps)/Topological Spaces (itineraries)

Part Two: Topological Spaces in Leslie Silko's Landscapes

Jaishree K. Odin, University of Hawaii at Manoa

The reading experience in the hypertextual environment is best described in terms of itineraries that the reader traces through a weave of texts. According to Stuart Moulthrop, the irreducibly multiple spatial trajectories of the hypertext environment transform the stable format of topographically fixed print text into "geographies of action." The hypertextual subject lies in the zone of transformation where the text as well as the subject take shape. Moulthrop also notes the need for reconfiguring one's map with the transforming narrative trajectory in terms of deterritorialization and reterritorialization of structures. Using Deleuzian terminology, he describes the hypertext environment as having two types of spaces, the smooth space and the striated space.. Thus, he argues that "work in hypertext will involve a constant alternation between nomos and logos. We will create structures which we will then deterritorialize and which we will replace with new structures, passing again from smooth to striated space and starting the process anew" (316).

Silko's stories also represent topological spaces and as such are itineraries traced that attempt to bring out the Native American experience from multidimensional perspectives. The Indian oral tradition that informs her texts does not regard place in isolation with the experience of the place-the place is not out there existing in itself to be conquered or controlled, but place is intricately interwoven with the spatial practices of the people. In Western narratives of progress and social change, on the other hand, time is given precedence over space. It is the spatial practices of the people which turn - topographical places into topological spaces where the geographical place is integrally linked to the experience of this place. As Patricia Smith and Paula Gunn Allen point out for southwestern American Indians, landscape is not divorced from the people who inhabit it, instead, both the inanimate and animate in the landscape enter into a relationship, as emphasized in the creation myth where the land as the Spider Woman's artifact is the whole cosmos. Since the lives of Native Americans are shaped by the land, the literature they produce "must be understood in the context of both the land and the rituals through which they affirm their relationship to it" (117). Thus, ritual or ceremonial enactment of stories is important to experience one's bond with the land. "Nontribal people often perceive the land as an object, as something faintly or greatly inimical, to be controlled, reshaped, painted or feared. Tribal people see it as something mysterious, certainly beyond human domination, and yet as something to be met and spoken with rather than confronted. For them, the land is not just collection of objects you do things to, nor is it merely a place you do things in, a stage set for human action." Rather, the land comes alive in the interaction that people have with it-this live connection with the land is experienced through rituals which are ceremonial spatial practices that lead to harmony and balance (118).

In Silko's texts the stories become ceremonial ritualized practices that join the people and the land while at the same time creating an alternative thread to the competing dominant discourse that fragments space and suppresses differences. Silko sees the urgency of reviving the stories of her people and their actual encounter with these stories because they enable identity as well as politics in which both the landscape and the perception of the landscape are intricately intertwined. Silko notes that "the ancient Pueblo people depended upon collective memory through successive generations to maintain and transmit an entire culture, a world view complete with proven strategies of survival. The oral narrative, or story, became the medium through which the complex of Pueblo knowledge and belief was maintained" (1996:30). Her stories are zones of encounters which depict the relationship between the people and the landscape and people with one another as well as their cultural heritage. As Silko points out, the precise description and location of the geographical place is important in the stories, because the unexpected turn that the story takes is caused by the intervention from some part- of the landscape-a rock, boulder, tree or a plant (1996:33).

In Ceremony, Tayo's experience of his healing is directly linked to the place. Betonie, the Navajo medicine man, performs a ceremony for Tayo by drawing a sand painting of the mountains that are around them and he dreams about the spotted cattle. After he wakes up, he looks around and is amazed to find that "the black of the sand paintings on the floor of the hogan, the hills and mountains were the mountains and hills they had painted in sand. He (takes) a deep breath of cold mountain air, there were no boundaries, the world below and the sand paintings inside became the same that night. The mountains from all the direction had been gathered there that night." (145) The stars, the bespotted cattle, the mountain and the woman all come together as the ceremony continues.

Postcolonial OV PoCo Theory Themes