chapter  14
10 Pages

Traveling stories: Knowledge, activism, and the humanities: Linda Hutcheon

Neuroscientists may have declared that much of our knowledge is stored in the

form of narrative, but that is not quite what Native writer Thomas King meant

when he centered his 2003 Massey Lectures around an idea he repeatedly

articulated in this way: ‘‘The truth about stories is that that’s all we are.’’2 While

that may sound like a limiting statement (‘‘that’s all we are’’), it is certainly not

meant that way. Stories are not only the core of our human identity for King,

but also the source of our ability to intervene in the world. In his words, ‘‘We

live stories that either give our lives meaning or negate it with meaninglessness.

If we change the stories we live by, quite possibly we change our lives.’’3 If he is

correct, then, by extension, not only the telling but also the study of those stories

becomes one of the most important things a culture can undertake. It may also

be one of the best sources of potential activism – in King’s terms, of ‘‘changing

our lives.’’ Is this an interventionist justification for (maybe even a defense of) the

humanities that has not been sufficiently explored and exploited? Though I

deliberately put this point in a simple or even simplistic way, I am wagering that

stories were a large part of the appeal of the humanities as a source of knowl-

edge for many who study or profess them. But are they also a major part of the

humanities’ potential influence and impact outside the academy?