Thursday, January 12, 2012

African Trickster Tales at Gustavus Adolphus College

Today I went to Gustavus Adolphus College to give a talk on The Trickster. Professor Paschal Kyoore is teaching a course on African Tricksters, and he invited me to visit the class, especially since they have been reading my Matengo Folktales.

I liked the fact that this was a two-hour class, plenty of time to raise and discuss some key issues. I dwelt mostly on conceptual issues and problems around the topic of trickster, starting with the Eurocentric orientation that drives our scholarly discourses. I stated that terms such as folktale, trickster, myth, and legend are themselves problematical.

There is something special about being in a small town in central Minnesota and discussing African traditions. I have experienced this before. I have given talks on Matengo Folktales at the College of St. Benedict, as I mentioned on my Swahili blog, at St. Olaf College, where I teach, at the School of Environmental Studies, and other venues.

Engaging students in reflecting upon human creativity in different cultures is surely one of the great joys of teaching, and I have always embraced that opportunity. Today, therefore, was another wonderful day in my life as a teacher.

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