The contemporary literary works of Leslie Marmon Silko and Eduardo Galeano
both rely upon traditional Native American oral storytelling traditions as an integral part
of text. The implications of these authors' incorporation of oral stories and the idea of
orality into published literary texts are vast. To what degree are these writers able to
present the complex notion of orality in a static text? How do these texts change in
comparison to traditional Western literature genres, such as the novel or the historical
document, as a result of the presence of a transposed representation of oral stories? This
paper explores both the technical and semantic methods employed by Silko and Galeano
in an attempt to "write" orality.
The issue of how writers and scholars in general portray ethnicized groups in
creative and scholarly texts has been much debated by theorists, and in particular by the
theorists representing Postcolonial criticism and the Subaltern Studies Group. This paper
will additionally analyze Galeano and Silko's representations of oral cultures in relation
to the controversial question, "Can the Subaltern speak?" attributed to Postcolonial
theorist Gayatri Spivak. An analysis of the two texts, Silko's Ceremony and Galeano's
Memory of Fire: Genesis, in the context of this postcolonial argument reveals the
multiple issues at stake in relation to the representation of orality and oral cultures in
textual works, including authorship, authenticity, appropriation, inadvertent "othering,"
and the preservation versus dynamism of heterogeneous cultures.