Geronimo Inutiq ARCTICNOISE, exhibition view, grunt gallery, Vancouver, 2015.
Photo : Henri Robideau, courtesy of grunt gallery, Vancouver, Vtape, Toronto and Isuma Productions

Reading Contrapuntally: Geronimo Inutiq’s ARCTICNOISE

Sydney Hart
Focusing on the spaces in literature obscured by colonialism, literary theorist Edward Said uses what he calls “contrapuntal readings” to uncover and challenge the colonial ramifications of canonical literary works and their appreciation. “As we look back at the cultural archive,” Said writes in Culture and Imperialism, “we begin to reread it not univocally but contrapuntally, with a simultaneous awareness both of the metropolitan history that is narrated and of those other histories against which (and together with which) the dominating discourse acts.”1 1 - Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (New York: Random House, 1994), 51 (emphasis in original).

Through this process, Said unravels the narrative, geographical, and formal consistency of canonical works, contrasting this consistency with divergent contemporary histories and focusing particularly on the resistance to the imperialism that undergirds conventional narrative structures of the nineteenth-century European novel. In these contrapuntal readings, Said questions the formal economy of the novel and spatializes the economy through which its characters thrive, to encompass the geopolitical coordinates of colonial power. The term “contrapuntal” is more widely used in music, however, to refer to a composition in which two or more independent melodic parts play simultaneously. Evoking these musical origins and their metaphoric potential, Said claims that his “global, contrapuntal analysis should be modelled not (as earlier notions of comparative literature were) on a symphony but rather on an atonal ensemble.” This model also tellingly reflects a shift from synthesis and linear narrative to rhizomatic spatializations, as Said calls upon it to include “all sorts of spatial or geographical and rhetorical practices — inflections, limits, constraints, intrusions, inclusions, prohibitions — all of them tending to elucidate a complex and uneven topography.”2 2 -  Ibid., 318.

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This article also appears in the issue 86 – Geopolitics - Géopolitique

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