Date of Award

1996

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

Faculty

Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Dr Susan Ash

Second Advisor

Dr Richard Rossiter

Abstract

This thesis traces the narcissistic dynamics behind mounting idealizations of a Native American Indian, Chief Seattle, and his renowned speech of 1854. In my work I draw from psychoanalytic, poststructuralist, 'post-colonial', and translation theories, as well as from contemporary Indian scholarship. I develop my own provisional model of what I term "Narcissistic Drift", providing a means of charting the intertextual dynamics driving colonial representations of otherness to converge progressively with stereotypical norms. Where previous Seattle studies have tended to concern themselves with issues of textual 'authenticity', I build on such work to consider how an indigenous speech 'uprooted' from its Native American contexts by the written word, has become vulnerable to fetishistic uses by colonial producers, as well as to growing universalist idealization in written and visual media. I resist such trends by re-positioning H.A. Smith's Seattle speech version of 1887, relative to traces of the 1854 oration's political and cultural contexts and codes of interpretation. I find that in Smith's speech version- despite its aestheticizing frame - there is a sense of agency and sophistication in the Salishan elder's rhetorical manouevrings. I argue that Seattle's dynamic position in judgement of the colonizers, located in-between absolute denial and unqualified acceptance of 'Red'/'White' brotherhood, becomes erased by subsequent, increasingly assimilationist portrayals. I locate these idealizations of Seattle and his speech at a disempowering site placed across the West's most profound 'excluded middle'- between 'Nature' and 'Culture'.

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