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Telling and Being Told
Storytelling and Cultural Control in Contemporary Yucatec Maya Literatures
By Paul M. Worley
216 pp. / 6.00 x 9.00 / 2013
Cloth (978-0-8165-3026-7) [s]
Related Interest
  - Indigenous and Native American Studies
  - Latin American Studies
  - Anthropology

Through performance and the spoken word, Yucatec Maya storytellers have maintained the vitality of their literary traditions for more than five hundred years.Telling and Being Told presents the
An interesting and valuable work on the contemporary relevance of indigenous languages in the face of the persistent ideologies that cast indigenous literatures as being either irrelevant or simply ancestral to homogenizing national identities.

—American Anthropologist

Paul Worley has crafted a useful treatise on the respectful handling of storytelling traditions.

—Journal of Folklore Research

This is the first broad look at oral stories in the context of literature written by and about Yucatec Maya people.

—Allen F. Burns, author of An Epoch of Miracles: Oral Literature of the Yucatec Maya

This book will do for Yukateko literature what Arturo Arias' Taking Their Word has done for indigenous literature in Guatemala. Worley traces the important antecedents to this book specifically in the Yucatán region.

—Nathan Henne, translator of Time of Commences in Xibalbá

figure of the storyteller as a symbol of indigenous cultural control in contemporary Yucatec Maya literatures. Analyzing the storyteller as the embodiment of indigenous knowledge in written and oral texts, this book highlights how Yucatec Maya literatures play a vital role in imaginings of Maya culture and its relationships with Mexican and global cultures.

Through performance, storytellers place the past in dynamic relationship with the present, each continually evolving as it is reevaluated and reinterpreted. Yet non-indigenous actors often manipulate the storyteller in their firsthand accounts of the indigenous world. Moreover, by limiting the field of literary study to written texts, Worley argues, critics frequently ignore an important component of Latin America's history of conquest and colonization: the fact that Europeans consciously set out to destroy indigenous writing systems, making orality a key means of indigenous resistance and cultural continuity.

Given these historical factors, outsiders must approach Yucatec Maya and other indigenous literatures on their own terms rather than applying Western models. Although oral literature has been excluded from many literary studies, Worley persuasively demonstrates that it must be included in contemporary analyses of indigenous literatures as oral texts form a key component of contemporary indigenous literatures, and storytellers and storytelling remain vibrant cultural forces in both Yucatec communities and contemporary Yucatec writing.

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