Friday, 28 May 2010

reading the past


the answer, my friend, is Blu-Tack on the wall

I was getting Katie's packed lunch together the other morning (potato cake with cheese in it. She hated it) while she nibbled the middle bits out of her toast.

"'Woman' has got 'man' in it", she observed, between nibbles of chocolate spread and peanut butter.

I agreed, and mentioned the introduction of the alternative spelling 'womyn', to get around this unpalatable fact. I threw in the notion of 'herstory' as a way to point out that history is selected, interpreted and written by the dominant culture, and to look at other histories. She wondered if it made linguistic sense. I said that there are other reasons for tinkering with language than linguistic sense, if it helps to question the way we look at things.

Which reminded me of this Larry Gonick picture, from his Cartoon History of the Universe.

Coincidentally, that same evening I went to hear Ronald Hutton lecture on The History Of Prehistory. He made a similar point about the way that we interpret the earthworks and stones left by the people who lived here a long time ago, about whom we really know very little; 'the distant past is a blank screen upon which we project our own values', as I clumsily paraphrase . It was a very good lecture, but you'll have to take my word for it if you weren't there. Or read his book, of course.