The Journey of York by Frank X Walker Alicia Ostriker explains in

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The Journey of York by Frank X Walker
Alicia Ostriker explains in "The Thieves of Language” about the process
of revisionist mythmaking: “Whenever a poet employs a figure or story previously accepted and defined
by a culture, the poet is using myth, and the potential is always present that the use will be revisionist:
that is, the figure or tale will be appropriated for altered ends, the old vessel filled with new wine, initially
satisfying the thirst of the individual poet but ultimately making cultural change possible . . . old stories are
changed” (127) Before you read, take a few minutes to watch this video about Affrilachian visual art at
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZecLuwKaMSE. Also, to learn about Walker, explore the Frank X Walker
website at http://www.shepherd.edu/ahwirweb/walker/; be sure you look at the interview with Walker which will
give you insights about York. As you read, determine how Frank X Walker’s Buffalo Dance, The
Journey of York is “revisionist mythmaking” in the sense that Ostriker explains?
Walker first learned about York’s story and his part in the 1803 Lewis and Clark
Expedition at a Chautauqua presentation by Hasan Davis, which in turn directed him to In Search of
York, a book by Robert Betts. Explore this Lewis and Clark link about the expedition; PBS made a
documentary film several years ago on the event. Walker says that he was captivated by the story but
wanted to know more about this historical event from the point of view of York, Clark’s slave who was part
of the adventure. Walker was also puzzled as to why the many historical accounts had omitted York’s
part in the event that changed the course, as well as the size, of the country. As he researched the story
in order to find the voice of York, who, along with Sacagawea, became a significant and voting member of
the expedition (the first African American and Native American votes in America), Walker found a story
that allowed him to portray York as a “dynamic character” who evolved during the course of the
adventure. How does York change as the expedition continues? How does he adjust when he
returns to Virginia and once again must serve as Clark’s manservant? How do the Native
Americans who encounter York along the journey react to a Black man? As York and Sacagawea
become friends, he feels a “kinship” with her, specifically as he watches her interact with her French
husband. Describe the nature of that kinship. York discoveres that the Native American and the White
European are, in every way, different, particularly in how they think and process the physical world
around them. Explain that cultural difference as portrayed in Walker’s book.
Several years after publishing The Journey of York Walker wrote a companion volume called When
Winter Come, The Ascension of York. While The Journey of York presents a retelling and re-visioning of
the iconic adventure, revealing a kind of “coming to consciousness” to York, The Ascension of York
serves as a more refined “awakening” in terms of the classic mono-mythic journey of the hero (see
Joseph Campbell’s’ The Hero with a Thousand Faces). If you want to learn more about York, read this
book as well.
Work Cited
Ostriker, Alicia. “The Thieves of Language: Women Poets and Revisionist Myth-making.” The New Feminist
Criticism. Ed. Elaine Showalter. London: Virago Press, 1986. 125-143.
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