The Humming Tree: A Study in the History of Mentalities

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9780252018640: The Humming Tree: A Study in the History of Mentalities
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The history of mentalities is at once a history of imaginable and unimaginable things in the world, of the speakable and unspeakable in culture, and of the conceivable and inconceivable in human experience. Beginning with an exploration of how we can understand a nonliterate Yaqui Indian myth called "The Humming Tree," Norman Simms scrutinizes a variety of documents and events to test and demonstrate the theory and methodology of a history of mentalities. He discusses American Indian myths, English novels, and Hebrew prayers and examines topics such as how storytellers perform their craft, what happened in Jonestown, Guyana, and who took part in the conquest of America.
At the same time, Simms provides a critical appreciation of incisive thinkers including Lucien Goldmann, Norbert Elias, Meir Sternberg, and Vladimir Propp, finding their writings more concrete and historically dynamic than those of the deconstructionists and poststructuralists.
By combining the interpretive techniques of literary and cultural criticism with the more analytic methods of the social sciences, Simms attempts to come to grips with all aspects of the meaningful in human society, which he terms the "text," especially what is meaningful but not recognizable as such. His primary goal is to identify the meaningful material the text cannot recognize: what it cannot imagine, articulate, or grasp in thought. Simms identifies this "black hole" of consciousness, the "nontext," as what causes a mentality to change its fundamental character, rather than to grow or develop.

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Simms, Norman
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