[Colonial & Postcolonial Theory]

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


Part Three: Leslie Silko and Fragmented Subjectivity

Jaishree K. Odin, University of Hawaii at Manoa

Fragmentation and discontinuity also mark postcolonial literary and theoretical works because they are most suitable for representing the multiple subject positions that the postcolonial subject occupies. Silko's Storyteller combines many genres--photography, poetry, fiction, as well as telling and retelling of traditional Laguna stories‹to produce an open weave of texts. The text begins with the description of a tall Hopi basket filled with pictures taken since the 1890's around the Laguna. The photographs in the basket, though frozen in time, serve as memory pictures outside time that ground the stories into the day to day reality of the family. The narrative, though autobiographical, is not chronologically arranged events of Silko's life; rather it evokes the world through old and new tales that provided the nurturing ground for Silko the writer. The telling and retelling of old Laguna tales interspersed with personal anecdotes unfold rich interrelationships where the past and present come together in the form of stories. Storyteller is reflexive as it reflects on its art. Stories keep the memories of the past alive and storytelling becomes the act of remembering the present with the past. The fragmentation and discontinuity caused in the narrative through mixing of poetry, prose, fiction, nonfiction, as well as photographs add a rich texture to the text which the reader can explore in multiple ways.

Critics have commented on the episodic structure of Storyteller where "the reader learns by accretion. Successive narrative episodes cast long shadows both forward and back, lending different or complementary shades of meaning to those preceding them and offering perspectives from which to consider those that follow. " Through this Silko establishes a special relationship with the reader who is drawn into the circle of storytelling. "This process in effect makes the reader's responses to the various narrative episodes a part of the larger ongoing story these episodes comprise while simultaneously allowing the episodes to create the contexts which direct and refine these responses. In this way the stories continue; in this way both the story and the reader are renewed" (Hirsch 154).

In Ceremony, in addition to sudden time shifts which disorient the reader, the contemporary narrative of Tayo's experiences is also hypertextually punctuated with the oral tradition throughout the text. Tayo's story is interspersed with the fragments from the purification ritual conducted by the villagers after the corn mother leaves them and they start following the magic of Cukyo, the magician. This particular tale also appears in Storyteller. The fragments of the tale are followed by different stages in Tayo's healing, so that the oral tale ends around the same place where Tayo's healing is complete. At one level the breaks between the oral narrative and Tayo's tale are very hypertextual, so that the textual units appear as fragments, whereas at another level the oral narrative can be seen as a thread woven through the written narrative, it appears and disappears suddenly only to appear once again. The two narrative threads can be read separately, one is a folk tale about the hummingbird and the fly who with the help of the spider grandmother prepare the offering for the buzzard so that he may purify the town to bring back rain and prosperity to people. And the other narrative is about Tayo, a broken war veteran who blames himself for six years of drought which has dried up everything since he cursed rain when he was trapped in the Philippines jungle. The textual play of two narratives, the old and the new, the past and present, the oral and written is accompanied by yet another type of rupture brought about by sudden shifts of time frames--the distant past, the near past, the present are all juxtaposed in a non-linear fashion. Silko thus uses fragmentation and discontinuity in her texts to get the reader intimately involved in the reading of the text; the reader creates her own narrative as she traces her path through the fragmented textual landscape which seems to spill in multiple directions.

Postcolonial OV PoCo Theory Themes