Dramatizing the Past in Australian and Canadian Literature
How do you bring history alive? This book explores the use of dramatic modes – such as melodrama, metatheatre, and immersion – to bring immediacy and a sense of living presence to works of literature rooted in history. Focusing on Australian and Canadian literature from the late 1980s to the present, the book features original research on novels by award-winning writers such as David Musgrave, Richard Flanagan, Daphne Marlatt, Peter Carey, Tomson Highway, Thomas Keneally, and Guy Vanderhaeghe. The analysis addresses how these writers use strategies from drama and theatre to engage with colonial and postcolonial histories in their novels and create resonant connections with readers. Some of the novels encourage readers to imagine themselves in historical roles through intimate dramatizations inside characters’ minds and bodies. Others use exaggerated theatrical frames to place readers at a critical distance from representations of history using Brechtian techniques of alienation. This book explores the use of dramatic modes to enliven and reimagine settler-invader history and bring colonial and postcolonial histories closer to the present.
Chapter 2: Performing Identity in Tomson Highway’s Kiss of the Fur Queen
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Performing Identity in Tomson Highway’s Kiss of the Fur Queen
Cree Canadian playwright, composer, and writer Tomson Highway transposes storytelling traditions, classical piano, and theatre into his first novel, Kiss of the Fur Queen (1998). In this semi-autobiographical novel of two Cree brothers, Jeremiah and Gabriel Okimasis, Highway creates a sense of vitality and the living moment to express the brothers’ journeys of survival and decolonization through storytelling and the performative arts. Highway’s incorporation of performances and performative modes embodies a distinctive energy and force that is derived from storytelling and a combination of mythologies from Cree and Western cultures that have informed Highway’s identity.1 The overall structure of the novel is performative, in that the content of each of the six parts reflects the particular mood and style of a selected term from classical music, and the novel contains storytelling traditions and other dramatic performances where characters develop and reflect on their cultural identities. These range from an indigenous soap opera, roleplaying in church, historical re-enactments in high school, and a mixed-cast Gilbert and Sullivan school production, to large-scale theatrical and musical productions. Highway explores, through performative content and structures, how the two brothers develop strategies for decolonization and construct cultural identities as Cree and Canadian after being taken away as children to live in a residential school in Winnipeg in the 1950s and surviving sexual abuse from priests who were in charge of their wellbeing. ← 63 | 64 →
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