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Waterlily – Cultural code

Waterlily – Cultural code

Choose two or three themes you want to write on for your short essay. For example, you might pick one belief and one rule, find evidence for these in your notes, and then write on these. What is the belief, what is the rule, and how, if at all, do these reinforce each other?

Then, step back from your notes, observations, and initial writings, and ask yourself what your observations say about a cultural code of communication in Waterlily. Write a brief ethnographic commentary,
Gerry Philipsen, Speaking Culturally: Explorations in Social Communication (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992).
ISBN: 0791411648

Ella Cara Deloria, Waterlily (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1988).
ISBN: 0803265794

You have now learned the vocabulary and theory of this course and you have learned how to use that body of vocabulary and theory as a resource for analyzing communication from a cultural standpoint.

Now you will embark on a difficult but exciting journey in the application of that vocabulary and theory to a case. The case, as it were, is a novel, Waterlily by Ella Cara Deloria. Deloria was a Sioux woman and a distinguished fieldworker, linguist, and ethnographer of her people. Her last great statement about the Dakota Sioux culture, as it might have existed around the last part of the nineteenth century, was published in the form of a novel. In that novel, Waterlily, Deloria presents a concrete portrait of Dakota culture and Dakota life.

None of the previous lessons in this course or in your text, Speaking Culturally, have touched on this particular culture. I’m asking you to do your own original field work. Through your own observation, analysis, and inference about the communication the novel portrays, you will make an answer to the question: What is the code of communication expressed inWaterlily?

Your first task in this lesson is to read Waterlily. Think of this as an experience in fieldwork. Think of yourself as spending several years observing Dakota life, even though this will take you only several hours of armchair observation. Nonetheless, by reading the novel you will be exposed to a code of life that is different from the others you have studied in this course.

Questions to Ask

As you read Waterlily, occasionally stop to ask yourself about how communication worked among the Dakota people Deloria portrays in her book. How did they communicate with each other? About what? In what languages and manners of speaking? According to what rules of communicative conduct?

It will also help you to think about what the Dakota understood a human being to be. What was their view of the essential nature of a person? Was their view like the Teamsterville view or the Nacirema view? How did the Dakota think about personal relationships, about how human beings can and should be linked together in bonds of association and commitment? Was their view of social relations like the view of the Teamstervillers, or like the Nacirema? And what attitudes did the Dakota express or reveal toward speech and other forms of communication? How are attitudes similar to or different from those of the Teamstervillers and the Nacirema?

Keys to Look For

Here are some of the things you should look for as you read the novel:
• descriptions of communication, such as terms or phrases that describe how or why someone spoke to someone else on a particular occasion;

• expressions of attitudes or beliefs pertaining to communication, such as statements of what people can or cannot be expected to accomplish through the use of speech or other means of communication;
• statements of expectations or rules of communication, such as rules of politeness or appropriateness with regard to speech;
• special forms of speaking that reveal something distinctive about the way of life or the cultural code;
• attitudes expressed toward the individual versus the group, such as ways in which the individual is allowed to speak out or expected to remain silent;

• expectations that are stated about how certain kinds of people should communicate with other kinds of persons; and
• beliefs that are expressed about the power of language or of speech to accomplish good or evil in the world.

Use this list as an aid to help you notice and write down some of your observations about communication in the world of Waterlily. Then consider what communicative behavior might comprise a rule, a key word, a social drama, or a cultural story.

Last Updated on February 11, 2019

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