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Text & Talk

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Language, Discourse & Communication Studies

Ed. by Sarangi, Srikant

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Volume 29, Issue 3 (May 2009)


The place of narrative in human affairs: the implications of Hymes's Amerindian work for understanding text and talk

James Collins
  • Corresponding author
  • Professor in the Departments of Anthropology and Reading and the Program of Linguistics and Cognitive Science at the University at Albany/SUNY.
Published Online: 2009-05-13 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/TEXT.2009.017


Throughout his long career, Dell Hymes studied and wrote about American Indian languages and cultures, and this work has enduring significance for how we think about relations between text and talk. In providing an account of that significance, the article focuses on Hymes's writing about American Indians and narrative, exploring the close interrelations among the two, then discussing his specific contributions to ethnopoetic theory, illustrating these with reference to a Tolowa (Athabaskan) narrative. Because he trenchantly critiqued received assumptions about the relation between speaking and writing, Hymes's ethnopoetic work has implications for ongoing debates about literacy and society, which is discussed at length. I conclude that his narrative scholarship raises but ultimately leaves unsettled fundamental questions about the relation between text and context.

Keywords:: narrative analysis; context; critical literacy studies; American Indians; Tolowa

About the article

Department of Anthropology, University at Albany/SUNY, Albany, NY 12222, USA 〈

Published Online: 2009-05-13

Published in Print: 2009-05-01

Citation Information: Text & Talk, ISSN (Online) 1860-7349, ISSN (Print) 1860-7330, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/TEXT.2009.017. Export Citation

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