An unlikely source
The importance of the work of Leslie Marmon Silko can be found, in part, in her experimentswith different forms, genres,and modalities in each of her narratives. It is mycontention that in each of her works, Silko experiments with acertain form, exhausting its potentialities, coming up against its limits, and then abandoning it foranother possibility in hernext work. This energy and innovation, I believe, is part of her significance as a writer. In fact, Iwill call it her particularbrand of genius.
In order to bring into focus possiblereasons for Silko's shift, I turn to what may at first appear an unlikely source, PaulCarter's 1987 The Road to Botany Bay: An Essay in Spatial History. When I readthis text, Silko's work resurfaced in mymind in surprising and stimulating ways. In brief, Carter's subject is the European explorationand settlement of Australiaand his intention in the book is to re-examine the writing of history as positivist, imperialistchronology and offer "spatialhistory" as an alternative; his subtitle thus declares his approach.
A methodological or summary prefaceremains absent from Carter's text. Rather, his hermeneutic method leadsreaders to discover spatial history. First we explore its byways, as Captain James Cook exploredthe Australian coast,discovering as we go. Moving geographically over space rather than chronologically throughtime, always shifting our pointof view, we journey to spatial history. In his introduction, Carter informs us that spatial history isnot imperial history, bywhich he means history as chronological two-dimensional reporting from an invented point ofview, history where the pasthas been settled even more than the country, history upon a stage, history as "playwright" (xiv),history as a succession ofevents which assumes a chronological chain of cause and effect, history "that pays attention toevents unfolding in timealone" (xvi), history with "possession" and colonization in mind. Carter claims that it is "thespecificity of historicalexperience that is enemy of positivist history: it is the active charge of historical time and spacethat undermines thecause-and-effect patterning of lives, events and facts into something significant" (4). Theimperial history he seeks toundermine is writing that was under the influence of Nineteenth-century scientific world view,the proper relations arethose governed by cause and effect and of a singular, fixed perspective. He foregrounds, then,that the "specificity ofhistorical experience" is exactly the terrain he'll investigate; it is in the particular that we'llrediscover"history." Early on inhis argument, Carter provides us with:


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