Writing Worlds: The Art of Seeing In Antrhopology, Fiction, and Autobiography

Winter 1998

According to the cultural philosopher Yogi Berra, a person can “observe a lot by watching.” If this is so, what do we see when we observe? Can we see who or what is really there? Or, do we only see through the constraints of our own particular life context–our own national, racial, age, gender identities at that particular historical moment? Can our “self” see an “other”? Or do we, in a sense, always invent what we see instead of representing what is there? These questions haunt and invigorate the contemporary discussion of the politics of cultural differences and writing forms.

The Center for the Study of Childhood and the Family at Oklahoma City University invites you to read works on these intriguing questions in a five-part series. At each session, a Humanities scholar will make a 30-40 minute presentation on the readings. Small-group discussion will follow. At the end, everyone comes together for a brief wrap-up. Anyone interested in participating is encouraged to preregister and borrow the reading selections by calling Harbour Winn at 521-5472. A brochure describing the series theme is also available.

The series will be held in Walker Center, Room 151 on the OCU campus from 7:30 to 9:30 pm on Tuesdays, beginning January 13 and continuing on alternate Tuesdays through March 10. The discussion series is made available by a grant from the “Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma” project of the Oklahoma Library Association with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.


January 13, 1998 Into the Heart: One Man’s Pursuit of Love and Knowledge Among the Yanomama by Kenneth Good

Called the most vivid account of a rain forest people by a Westerner, Good travels deep into the heart of the Amazon to study one of the last Stone Age tribes on earth. Challenging the conflict at the heart of contemporary anthropology, he “goes native” and becomes a participant within the culture he is supposed to observe in a detached manner.

January 27, 1998 The Storyteller by Mario Vargas Llosa

This mysterious novel by the acclaimed Peruvian writer provides a perfect companion piece for Kenneth Good’s book. Saul Zuratas, a marginal individual in Lima’s intellectual society, journeys into the world of an Amazonian culture. Can a novelist who weaves together myth and history capture the essence of reality?

February 10, 1998 Everything that Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor

In these unforgettable stories, O’Connor–one of America’s greatest 20th Century writers–captures the folklore, texture, and soul of the South as few writers in any form ever have. With the eye of an anthropologist, she renders her region as an “indigenous” observer.

February 24, 1998 A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler

Winner of the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Butler renders the world of Louisiana, the Vietnamese refugee’s perspective of it, and the world left behind in Southeast Asia. In these poignant, humorous, and serious stories, we are challenged to consider whether or not an individual can transcend his own culture to show the world through the eyes of refugees.

March 10, 1998 An American Childhood by Annie Dillard

In this autobiography of her childhood and adolescence, Dillard creates a hybrid between the fieldwork techniques of an anthropologist and the poetic prose of a lyrical novelist. She not only renders the world of Pittsburgh in the 1950’s but also describes her “other”–the child that she was–and how that child grew up like an anthropologist, trying to figure out the implicit assumptions about what life is and how it is to be lived.