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Disturbing Indians

The Archaeology of Southern Fiction

Written by Annette Trefzer

Publication Year: 2007

How Faulkner, Welty, Lytle, and Gordon reimagined and reconstructed the Native American past in their work.

In this book, Annette Trefzer argues that not only have Native Americans played an active role in the construction of the South’s cultural landscape—despite a history of colonization, dispossession, and removal aimed at rendering them invisible—but that their under-examined presence in southern literature provides a crucial avenue for a post-regional understanding of the American south. William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Andrew Lytle, and Caroline Gordon created works about the Spanish conquest of the New World, the Cherokee frontier during the Revolution, the expansion into the Mississippi Territory, and the slaveholding societies of the American southeast. They wrote 100 years after the forceful removal of Native Americans from the southeast but consistently returned to the idea of an —Indian frontier,— each articulating a different vision and discourse about Native Americans—wholesome and pure in the vision of some, symptomatic of hybridity and universality for others.

Trefzer contends that these writers engage in a double discourse about the region and nation: fabricating regional identity by invoking the South’s "native" heritage and pointing to issues of national guilt, colonization, westward expansion, and imperialism in a period that saw the U.S. sphere of influence widen dramatically. In both cases, the —Indian— signifies regional and national self-definitions and contributes to the shaping of cultural, racial, and national "others." Trefzer employs the idea of archeology in two senses: quite literally the excavation of artifacts in the South during the New Deal administration of the 1930s (a surfacing of material culture to which each writer responded) and archeology as a method for exploring texts she addresses (literary digs into the textual strata of America’s literature and its cultural history).

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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p. vii

List of Maps

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p. ix

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pp. xi-xii

I never could have written this book without my time in Oklahoma. I want to thank my colleagues at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant and the Nation Representatives of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and the Chickasaw Nation for giving their energy, time, and support to the creation of a Native American Symposium that afforded me valuable insights into Native American life and cultural politics. ...

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pp. 1-5

The year 1930 marked the centenary of the Indian Removal Act, which had given the federal government the power to force Native Americans living east of the Mississippi River to move to a designated Indian territory in the West. The passage of the act and its traumatic and far-reaching consequences for the Native Americans who were thus dispossessed of their lands and belongings is a familiar if discomforting chapter in American history. ...

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1. Excavating the Sites - Indians in Southern Texts and Contexts

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pp. 6-30

Considering the long-standing critical tradition in American studies that scrutinizes literary and cultural representations of Native Americans for their ideological and creative functions, it is surprising that no such enterprise exists yet in southern studies. Although scholars are beginning to gesture toward the Native American presence in southern literature, this inquiry remains in its initial stages. ...

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2. Colonialism and Cannibalism - Andrew Lytle’s Conquest Narratives

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pp. 31-64

The history of first contact between Native Americans and European explorers was an event of public interest in 1939 when the four hundredth anniversary of Hernando de Soto’s march through the American Southeast was celebrated. Confronted with national celebrations of the “discovery” of the American South, Andrew Lytle and his contemporaries must have thought about the politics of such commemorative events...

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3. Gendering the Nation - Caroline Gordon’s Cherokee Frontier

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pp. 65-108

From Andrew Lytle, Caroline Gordon picks up the European colonial trace leading into the American South during the Revolutionary period.1 Like Lytle, Gordon was inspired by New Deal archaeology in the South of the 1930s, which brought to the fore the rich archaeological and historical sediments of her home state, Kentucky. Gordon’s literary excursions to Kentucky’s prehistoric sites were prompted by WPA excavations in progress at the time of her writing and also by archaeological books that brought to the surface the deep strata of history. ...

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4. Native Americans and Nationalism - Eudora Welty’s Natchez Trace Fiction

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pp. 109-144

From her location in Natchez, Mississippi, Eudora Welty participates in the literary construction of the nation’s Native American heritage. Like her southern contemporaries Andrew Lytle, Caroline Gordon, and William Faulkner, Welty uses the Native American signi¤er in her ¤ction in order to imagine the South as a region whose history has an impact on the discourse of American nationalism. ...

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5. Mimesis and Mimicry - William Faulkner’s Postcolonial Yoknapatawpha

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pp. 145-179

From his earliest Indian story, “Red Leaves” (1930), to Requiem for a Nun (1950), William Faulkner returned repeatedly to the Indian origins of his imaginary landscape, Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. A complex and ideologically charged place, Yoknapatawpha provides a site for Faulkner’s imaginary excavations of a cultural past that contributes to a knowledge of the region and the people who inhabit it. ...

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pp. 180-182

Written during the period between the two world wars, Faulkner’s Indian narratives seem to justify American national history even as they question it. Taken together, these narratives form a showcase for the way in which American systems of cultural description are deeply informed by national strategies of power. What Said says about scholars is also true about writers: “there is in each scholar some awareness, partly conscious and partly non-conscious, of national tradition, if not national ideology” (Orientalism 263).1 ...


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pp. 183-199


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pp. 201-217


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pp. 219-223

E-ISBN-13: 9780817381530
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817315429

Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 209239263
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Disturbing Indians

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Subject Headings

  • American fiction -- Southern States -- History and criticism.
  • Welty, Eudora, -- 1909-2001 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Gordon, Caroline, 1895-1981 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Lytle, Andrew Nelson, 1902- -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • American fiction -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Indians in literature.
  • Faulkner, William, -- 1897-1962 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Southern States -- In literature.
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