”If you thought this story sour, sweeten it with your own telling” – Cross-cultural intertextuality and a feminist poetics of rewriting in Susan Price’s Ghost dance
The attempts to challenge conventional gendered discourses in children’s fantasy have often resulted in feminist rewritings of earlier stories. Ghost dance (1994) by the English author Susan Price is a novel that refl ects a specifi c feminist poetics of rewriting: metafi ctional passages highlight the constructedness of the narrative and at the end readers are invited to tell their own versions of the story. Moreover, the rewriting freely combines and recontextualises elements from different source texts and reformulates them to create a narrative that challenges conventional discourses of gender. While this poetics has an appeal from a feminist perspective, the play with cross-cultural intertexts and gender becomes more complex when the novel is examined in a postcolonialist framework in relation to ethnicity and the issue of cultural appropriation. Ghost dance is situated in a setting that has a real-world equivalent (Russia), involves characters that are identifi ed with names of realworld ethnic groups (Lapps (Sámi), Russian), and mixes elements from Russian wonder tales, Nordic mythology and an Ojibwe legend. The novel does not aim at historical accuracy in its representations nor is it a direct retelling of any of the pre-texts but combines motifs, themes, names, characters and settings freely from each source. In this textual melting pot, the protagonist Shingebiss is, on one level, a revision of the witch Baba Yaga, but also described as a Lappish shaman with an Ojibwe name. To rewrite gendered discourses, certain elements from the pretexts are chosen and others left out – the question is, then, what effects does this recontextualisation have on the representation of ethnicity? Or, are the feminist rewriting strategies actually a form of cultural appropriation?
Keywords: children’s fantasy; gender; ethnicity; cross-cultural intertextuality; Susan Price
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