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.


  1. And the insects ignored the plants too, no doubt. Not that you need to go back to prehistory to find people discovering lands that are already well populated.

    Btw, I have quite a R Hutton collection, if you want borrow any tomorrow.

  2. Awomen to all that. I enjoyed 'The Descent of Woman' by Elaine Morgan. Nice to look at things from another point of view.

  3. At a slight tangent, but it always amuses me that anything that can't be explained any other way is given the explanation "it must have been a ritual object/building/pathway/drawing/etc.etc."
    It's best to remember that the ancients were exactly the same as us, they just lived in a different time. Yeah.

  4. Thanks, Dru and Anji for adding Hutton and Morgan to my must-read-soon list.