The Tree of Meaning: Language, Mind and Ecology

Front Cover
Counterpoint Press, 2009 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 329 pages
?Poems, where I come from,” writes Robert Bringhurst, ?are spoken to be written and written to be spoken. The Tree of Meaning is a book of critical prose composed in the same way.” Together, these thirteen lectures present a superbly grounded approach to the study of language, focusing on storytelling, mythology, comparative literature, humanity, and the breadth of oral culture. Bringhurst's commitment to what he calls ?ecological linguistics” emerges in his studies of Native American art and storytelling, his understanding of poetry, and his championing of a more truly universal conception of what constitutes literature.

This collection features a sustained focus on Haida culture, the process of translation, and the relationship between beings and language. Compiling ten years of work, this book is remarkable not only for the cohesion of its author's own ideas, but for the synthesis of such wide-ranging perspectives and examples of cultures both human and nonhuman. Applying his trademark enthusiasm and ecologically conscious, humanitarian approach, Bringhurst produces a highly personalized and active study of Native American art and literature, world languages, philosophy, and natural history.
 

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Contents

Foreword by Jim Harrison
1
Prologue
9
The Polyhistorical Mind
15
The Persistence of Poetry and the Destruction of the World
40
The Vocation of Being the Text of the Whole
46
Native American Oral Literatures and the Unity of the Humanities
64
The Audible Light in the Eyes
81
The Voice in the Mirror
109
The Tree of Meaning and the Work of Ecological Linguistics
159
The Place of the Individual in the Making of Oral Culture
177
Literary Form in Native North America
206
Wild Language
257
The Legacy of Bill Reid
277
The Silence That Is Not Poetry and the Silence That
299
Index
323
Acknowledgements
329

Poetry and Thinking
139

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About the author (2009)

Robert Bringhurst was born October 16, 1946, in the ghetto of South Central Los Angeles and raised in the mountain and desert country of Alberta, Montana, Utah, Wyoming and British Columbia. He spent ten years as an undergraduate, studying physics, architecture and linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, philosophy and oriental languages at the University of Utah, and comparative literature at Indiana University, which gave him a Bachelor of Arts in 1973. He had published two books of poems before entering the writing program at the University of British Columbia, which awarded him an MFA in 1975. From 1977 to 1980 he taught writing and English literature at UBC, and after that, made his living as a typographer. He has also been poet-in-residence and writer-in-residence at several universities in North America and Europe. His book, The Elements of Typographic Style is considered a standard text in its field, and Black Canoe is one of the classics in the field of Native American art history. He received the Macmillan Prize for Poetry in 1975.

James Thomas Harrison was born on December 11, 1937 in Grayling, Michigan. After receiving a B.A. in comparative literature from Michigan State University in 1960 and a M.A. in comparative literature from the same school in 1964, he briefly taught English at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. During his lifetime, he wrote 14 collections of poetry, 21 volumes of fiction, two books of essays, a memoir, and a children's book. His collections of poetry included Plain Song, The Theory and Practice of Rivers, Songs of Unreason, and Dead Man's Float. He received a Guggenheim fellowship for his poetry in 1969. His essays on food, much of which first appeared in Esquire, was collected in the 2001 book, The Raw and the Cooked. His memoir, Off to the Side, was published in 2002. His first novel, Wolf, was published in 1971. His other works of fiction included A Good Day to Die, Farmer, The Road Home, Julip, and The Ancient Minstrel. His novel, Legends of the Fall, was adapted into a feature film starring Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pitt. Harrison wrote the screenplay for the movie. His novel, Dalva, was adapted as a made-for-television movie starring Rod Steiger and Farrah Fawcett. He died on March 26, 2016 at the age of 78.

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