We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Toward a Native American Critical Theory

Elvira Pulitano

Publication Year: 2003

Toward a Native American Critical Theory articulates the foundations and boundaries of a distinctive Native American critical theory in this postcolonial era. In the first book-length study devoted to this subject, Elvira Pulitano offers a survey of the theoretical underpinnings of works by noted Native writers Paula Gunn Allen, Robert Warrior, Craig Womack, Greg Sarris, Louis Owens, and Gerald Vizenor. In her analysis Pulitano confronts key issues and questions: Is a distinctive way of reading and interpreting Native texts possible or needed? What is the relation between a Native American critical discourse and a more general postcolonial critical theory? Will Native critical theory be subsumed within postcolonial theory and homogenized as a colonial Other, or will it test postcolonial ideas against Native American problems and predicaments? And how can Native critical theory redefine Western styles of theory?
Unlike Western interpretations of Native American literatures and cultures in which external critical methodologies are imposed on Native texts, ultimately silencing the primary voices of the texts themselves, Pulitano's work examines critical material generated from within the Native contexts and epistemologies to propose a different approach to Native literature. Pulitano argues that the distinctiveness of Native American critical theory can be found in its aggressive blending and reimagining of oral tradition and Native epistemologies on the written page—a powerful, complex mediation that can stand on its own yet effectively subsume and transform non-Native critical theoretical strategies.
Controversial and persuasive, Toward a Native American Critical Theory defines the parameters of a unique Native American critical discourse and reveals its potential for writers and critics alike.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (57.2 KB)

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (55.4 KB)
pp. ix-xii

I would like to thank Paula Gunn Allen, Robert Warrior, Craig Womack, Greg Sarris, Louis Owens, and Gerald Vizenor, whose works allowed me to shape ideas for this book. I have gained enormously from Louis Owens’s scholarship on Native American literature...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (118.3 KB)
pp. 1-18

One of the assumptions most frequently made about critical theory is that it is the elite language of the socially and culturally privileged. Attacks against such a monolithic, hegemonic form of discourse...

read more

1. Back to a Woman-Centered Universe: The Gynosophical Perspective of Paula Gunn Allen’s Critical Narratives

pdf iconDownload PDF (210.5 KB)
pp. 19-58

In the past few decades, writings by many women of color have been marked by a desire to resist and resignify dominant modes of theorizing, arguing for the necessity of creating teorías relevant to the lives of women of color rather than passively accepting the theories...

read more

2. Intellectual Sovereignty and Red Stick Theory: The Nativist Approach of Robert Allen Warrior and Craig S. Womack

pdf iconDownload PDF (221.4 KB)
pp. 59-100

At the “Translating Native Cultures” conference, held at Yale University in February 1998, the Santee Sioux writer and critic Elizabeth Cook-Lynn delivered a passionate keynote address significantly drawing a line between those whom she described as being on the right...

read more

3. Crossreading Texts, Bridging Cultures: The Dialogic Approach of Greg Sarris and Louis Owens

pdf iconDownload PDF (228.6 KB)
pp. 101-144

In his pivotal work on the poetics of Native American oral traditions, Dell Hymes reinterprets a Chinook story that he first analyzed in 1968. In this story, a girl is trying to tell her mother unsettling but crucial news that will affect them both, but, intent on maintaining...

read more

4. Liberative Stories and Strategies of Survivance: Gerald Vizenor’s Trickster Hermeneutics

pdf iconDownload PDF (224.7 KB)
pp. 145-186

In Vizenor’s secular version of the Anishinaabe creation story, Wenebojo, the earthdiver (and trickster figure), brings up five grains of sand from the water to form the earth, which is made on the back...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (69.3 KB)
pp. 187-192

In Louis Owens’s The Sharpest Sight, Uncle Luther warns the protagonist about the risks, for an individual, of forgetting his stories: “You see, a man’s got to know the stories of his people...


pdf iconDownload PDF (129.7 KB)
pp. 193-212


pdf iconDownload PDF (114.5 KB)
pp. 213-228


pdf iconDownload PDF (69.5 KB)
pp. 229-234

E-ISBN-13: 9780803203877
E-ISBN-10: 080320387X

Publication Year: 2003