Glenda Norquay

“The Tale of Tweedie’s Dog: Narrative Homecomings and Nomadic Reiterations”

‘Old stories’, suggests anthropologist Edward Bruner, ‘are like data entries in a computer spreadsheet. Each new entry changes the other totals in the spreadsheet, instantaneously […] We can recover the words of the story but never the same context or the prior interpretation, if only because the world has changed and we are different. There are no authentic originals, only a process of authentication.’ [1]

Stories emerge from specific places and people but are also always on the move, in transition, changing as they pass between us. They bring us together, they reveal difference, they fluctuate and migrate across space and time, renewing, reviving, looping back and pointing forward.  This lecture thinks about stories in motion, their changes in meaning and practice, as they migrate across cultures and transnational contexts. In particular it connects structures of narrative repetitions with the motif of return. Beginning with Robert Louis Stevenson, pausing on interwar fiction, then concluding with discussion of twenty-first century fiction from Leila Aboulela and Irvine Welsh, it examines writing which both performs homecoming and unsettles notions of belonging. Our need for stories to be told over and over again illuminates competing desires and demands in the migrant identities of modernity. The lecture asks how affect operates in relation to the local and the global and considers the ways in which ideas of authentication shape national and transnational literatures.

[1] Edward M. Bruner ‘Creative Persona and the Problem of Authenticity’ in Creativity/Anthropology, eds.  Smadar Lavie, Kirin Narayan and Renato Rosaldo (Cornell UP,  1993, 2018), p. 331.