". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Captain John Smith Is the First Virginian

Professor Lemay says so, right in his book on Smith.  He includes Smith in the mythic American categories of heroes:
"Indian fighters, frontiersmen and gunfighters."
Recall, you all, that 'gunfighter' is something literally created by the movies -- it was nothing out of real life.  It's significant too, that Lemay agrees that Walter Scott's medieval protagonists are in this line, they too were created post the early American mythic prototypes, who were real, like Smith, Raleigh, Drake, Hawkins, all revered in Virginia.

From his book about Smith and the significance of his life and deeds:

"The major mythic hero of the Middle Ages and Renaissance -- and later, as numerous chapbooks, ballads, and Sir Walter Scott's novels testify -- was the chivalric kights, whose heroic battles sometimes occurred in great arenas, with the gentry and aristocracy looking on.  America's indigenous heroes have been Indian fighters, frontiersmen, and gunfighters, such as John Mason, Thomas Church, Daniel Gookin, John Lovewell, Thomas Cresap, and Robert Rogers in the colonial period, and Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Kit Carson, Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, and Buffalo Bill Cody from the Revolution to the end of the nineteenth century.  Their confrontations usually occurred in isolated wilderness areas or small towns.  Captain John Smith fulfilled the heroic roles of both the European Renaissance and the American frontiersman.  His life documents and illustrates the changing nature of heroic action. ...."
It is of further significance that the images we hold of these heroes from the Revolution to the end of the century, are for the most part, fictional creations, rather than historical.

In this context re-reading Twain's "Essay on Chivalry" is even more illuminating.

Both of us are feeling poorly still.  El V's gums are all inflamed from the surgery, his sinuses ache, and he's suffering from allergies.  I'm, well, I'm hurtin' like you know what.  It's going to be a quiet holiday weekend here.  Monday, we'll be with friends, but mostly it's going to be reading, writing = working.  It could be worse.

1 comment:

Foxessa said...

By the way people who have only read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and what Twain had to say about Scott in relationship to Mardi Gras imagery and the South in general in Life on the Mississippi, but have not read his "Essay on Chivalry," will be surprised at the essay's content, perhaps.

One might thinnk Twain had to have been in a very dark place in his life when he wrote Connecticut Yankee. It's a fairly mean book, certainly not cheery. Yet, the terrible events of his life -- the bankruptcy, the death of his daughter -- all that was ahead of him still.

The book is quite a satire on his present-day nation and its behaviors and beliefs, and its past too, as you can tell just from the narrator's pleasure at being called 'the Boss,' and describing slave auctions. What a blinkered fellow the narrator/protag is, who believes he's so much smarter than everyone around him while missing just about everything.

Love, C.