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AMERICAN DREAMTIME

A Cultural Analysis of Popular Movies,

and Their Implications for a

Science of Humanity

Lee Drummond

Center for Peripheral Studies

Palm Springs, CA

www.peripheralstudies.org

Bradenton, Florida 1951. Joe Steinmetz

This work is dedicated to the memory of my stepfather, Walter Lenore (Lee) Corbett, a true Master of Machines, who taught me that words are not everything — or even most of it.

This work is also dedicated in memoriam to Baby Fae and Barney Clark, recipients respectively of the first baboon heart transplant and the first artificial heart transplant, pioneers and martyrs who have pointed the way to . . . Something Else.

The [Australian aborigine’s] outlook on the universe and man is shaped by a remarkable conception, which Spencer and Gillen immortalized as the “dream time” or alcheringa of the Arunta or Aranda tribe. Some anthropologists have called it the “Eternal Dream Time.” I prefer to call it what the blacks call it in English –– “The Dreaming,” or just “Dreaming.” A central meaning of The Dreaming is that of a sacred, heroic time long, long ago when man and nature came to be as they are; but neither “time” nor “history” as we understand them is involved in this meaning. I have never been able to discover any aboriginal word for time as an abstract concept. And the sense of “history” is wholly alien here . . . Although . . . The Dreaming conjures up the notion of a sacred, heroic time of the indefinitely remote past, such a time is also, in a sense, still part of the present. One cannot “fix” The Dreaming in time: it was, and is, everywhen . . . Clearly, The Dreaming is many things in one. Among them, a kind of narrative of things that once happened; a kind of charter of things that still happen; and a kind of logos or principle of order transcending everything significant for aboriginal man . . . The tales are a kind of commentary, or statement, on what is thought to be permanent and ordained at the very basis of the world and life. They are a way of stating the principle which animates things. I would call them a poetic key to Reality . . . The active philosophy of aboriginal life transforms this “key,” which is expressed in the idiom of poetry, drama, and symbolism, into a principle that The Dreaming determines not only what life is but also what it can be. Life, so to speak, is a one-possibility thing, and what this is, is the “meaning” of The Dreaming. –– W. E. H. Stanner, The Dreaming

Contents

Preface vi
Acknowledgments ix

Chapter
1. Introduction 1
Beginning at the Beginning 1An Anthropologist Goes to the Movies 2 Cultural Anthropology and the Movies 7
Which Movies? 12
An Anthropologist Goes to the Movies, Take 2 19

2. The Primacy of Myth 25
What Is Myth? 25
The Nature of Myth 30
The Foundations of a Cultural Analysis of Myth 32 A Semiotic Approach to Modern Culture:
Myth Today, Totemism Today 39
Myth and Language 48

3. A Theory of Culture as Semiospace 55
Before and Beyond Language: Cultural Anthropology, Quantum Mechanics, and Cosmology 55
Metaphor, Quality Space, and Semiospace 60
Dimensionality in Nature and Culture 64
Processual Analysis and Cultural Dimensionality:
Liminality, Social Drama, and Social Field 78 Intersystem and Continuum 83...
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