Recently Read: Magic Weapons

June 21, 2009

Magic Weapons cover spread.inddIn Magic Weapons: Aboriginal Writers Remaking Community After Residential School, Sam McKegney makes an important contribution to discourses that explore the role of literature in representing marginalized and/or contested histories. His focus on the work of authors including Basil H. Johnston (who also contributes an excellent foreword), Rita Joe, Louise Halfe, and Anthony Thrasher among others, brings much-needed attention to the ways in which the lens of trauma and psychoanalytic explorations of residential school experiences only tell part of the story. McKegney rightly highlights that calls for more awareness of these experiences should be accompanied by new visions for the future. He cautions against an orientation that privileges the past as the sole site of community-making and defining. 

He elaborates:

“Perceived over the past two decades as the principal vehicle for engaging the residential school issue, historicization (alone) dangerously orients our thinking away from the present and the future, binding us in a reactive manner to the power of the past. And, with compensatory and restructuring funds finally being freed from government coffers by virtue of the Reconciliation and Compensation Agreement (November 2005), imaginative visions for plausible futures of First Nations are essential. This is where the understudied resource of Native literature becomes so valuable” (6)

In exploring the history of the schools and the way in which individuals and communities have dealt with their legacy, McKegney asks, “What does literature do that history doesn’t?” (32) His book is an engaging, well-reasoned response to this question. 

McKegney, Sam. Magic Weapons: Aboriginal Writers Remaking Community after Residential School. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2007.

Also, a friend of mine recently informed me that today is National Aboriginal Day in Canada. For more information on the day, click here.

2 Responses to “Recently Read: Magic Weapons”

  1. Dana Mihailescu Says:

    For other equally fascinating views on the important role of literary imagination in relation to history, you might also like to read the Spring 2009 issue of MELUS. The articles therein deal with the link between historical knowledge and imaginative narrative in relation to different ethnic groups.

    Not to mention Martha Nussbaum’s wonderful book Poetic Justice – a plea for the legal input of literary imagination (or what she terms as “fancy”).

  2. tracingmemory Says:

    Thanks for the suggestions. I just did a quick search on MELUS, and Nussbaum’s Poetic Justice, and they sound really interesting. I’ve added them to my ever-expanding list of reading!

    I posted a little while ago about Joseph Slaughter’s book, “Human Rights, Inc.” which may also fit into this list of books that intertwines history, literature and legal discourses.

    Thanks again!

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