Prosodies of Meaning: Literary Form in Native America


54 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 0-921098-17-0
DDC C987




Reviewed by Beverly Rasporich

Beverly Rasporich is a professor in the Faculty of Communication and
Culture at the University of Calgary. She is the author of Dance of the
Sexes: Art and Gender in the Fiction of Alice Munro and Magic Off Main:
The Art of Esther Warkov.


This 55-page monograph is a revised, longer version of a lecture given
by Robert Bringhurst at the University of Manitoba on March 1, 2002. The
writer’s objective is an exploration of meaning and form in Native
American oral narrative as well as “the larger context in which they
might be seen.” The result is a philosophic and linguistic analysis
that invokes the works of great linguists such as Franz Boas, Edward
Sapir, Melville Jackobs, Roman Jakobson, and Kenneth Hale. The author
also revisits the translations of the first Europeans to collect Native
North American literature, Schoolcraft and Rand, as well as the theories
of scholars and translators, from St. Jerome to the Renaissance Jew
Azariah to the Russian linguist Vladimir Propp, an early predictor of
structuralism. At the heart of the study is a consideration of structure
and pattern in storytelling. This is a lecture for those schooled in the
language of linguistics, and therefore familiar with terms like
“morphology,” “prosody,” and “phonological.”


Bringhurst, Robert., “Prosodies of Meaning: Literary Form in Native America,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 22, 2024,