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All Our Stories Are Here

Critical Perspectives on Montana Literature

Brady Harrison

Publication Year: 2009

This wide-ranging collection of essays addresses a diverse and expanded vision of Montana literature, offering new readings of both canonical and overlooked texts. Although a handful of Montana writers such as Richard Hugo, A. B. Guthrie Jr., D’Arcy McNickle, and James Welch have received considerable critical attention, sizable gaps remain in the analysis of the state’s ever-growing and ever-evolving canon. The twelve essays in All Our Stories Are Here not only build on the exemplary, foundational work of other writers but also open further interpretative and critical conversations.
Expanding on the critical paradigms of the past and bringing to bear some of the latest developments in literary and cultural studies, the contributors engage issues such as queer ambivalence in Montana writing, representations of the state in popular romances, and the importance of the University of Montana’s creative writing program in fostering the state’s literary corpus. The contributors also explore the work of writers who have not yet received their critical due, take new looks at old friends, and offer some of the first explorations of recent works by well-established artists. All Our Stories Are Here conveys a sense of continuity in the field of Western literary criticism, while at the same time challenging conventional approaches to regional literature.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii

First and foremost, I would like to thank all of the contributors to All Our Stories Are Here: Critical Perspectives on Montana Literature for their diligence, hard work, and faith in this project. In particular, this book would not exist without...

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Introduction: Toward a Postpopulist Criticism

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pp. ix-xxiii

As even a casual scholar of Montana writing will note, the production of fine writing far outstrips the critical inquiry into the state’s extraordinary literary corpus. If a handful of Montana writers such as Richard Hugo, A. B. Guthrie Jr., D’Arcy McNickle, Wallace Stegner, and especially James Welch have received...

PART I: Does Place Matter?

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1. Burning Montana: Richard Ford’s Wildlife and Regional Crisis

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pp. 3-20

Richard Ford’s position on regionalism is well known to his scholars. In an interview with Gregory L. Morris, Ford denies region an essentialist impact on character and community; instead, he prefers to articulate human behavior in spite of geographic determinants:...

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2. All My Stories Are Here: Four Montana Poets

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pp. 21-36

Considering the written work of four Montana poets, Mark Gibbons, Vic Charlo, Ed Lahey, and David Thomas, it is apparent that that hackneyed, overused phrase, “a sense of place,” still does have power and reality here in Montana. For these four poets, all of whom have been here for at least three generations...

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3. West of Éire: Butte’s Irish Ethos

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pp. 37-51

In 1891 a front-page article in the Denver Sun declared Butte, Montana, the liveliest town in the United States. By 1900 26 percent of Butte’s “lively” and cosmopolitan residents were Irish. Most were miners drawn to the city by the promise of steady work and good pay in the mines of the Anaconda Company...

PART II: Women Writing Montana

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4. Home on the Range: Romances and Geographies of Hope

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pp. 55-77

Go to any gathering of scholars in western American studies and watch what happens when someone begins a quotation that goes like this: “In the American West we are struggling to revise our dominant mythology, and to find a new story to inhabit. Laws control our lives, and they are designed to preserve a model...

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5. Feminism and Postmodernism in the New West: Mary Blew and Montana Women’s Writing since 1990

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pp. 78-97

Montana literature since 1990 has been distinguished by women writing about women, including work by Dee McNamer, Annick Smith, and Teresa Jordan, a new biography of Mildred Walker by Ripley Hugo, and two recent award-winning books...

PART III: Gay and Lesbian Literature Under a Big Sky

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6. West of Desire: Queer Ambivalence in Montana Literature

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pp. 101-116

A dam is built in Montana. Its construction is the central event in two Montana novels, set on opposite sides of the Continental Divide and in juxtaposed ethnic communities. In D’Arcy McNickle’s Wind from an Enemy Sky the dam cuts off the water supply of the Little Elk tribe, a culture that is itself being...

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7. “Just Regular Guys”: Homophobia, the Code of the West, and Constructions of Male Identity in Thomas Savage and Annie Proulx

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pp. 117-138

In her 1992 essay, “Engendering the West,” Katherine G. Morrissey reminds us that “in popular culture as well as scholarship the American West is most often associated with masculine images. . . . Imbued with these masculine images, the ideology of the West celebrates a particular, and gendered, form...

PART IV: Native Revisions/The Problems of History

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8. “He Never Wanted to Forget It”: Contesting the Idea of History in D’Arcy McNickle’s The Surrounded

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pp. 141-159

Early in The Surrounded, D’Arcy McNickle’s first novel, Archilde Leon pauses to reflect on his home on the Flathead Reservation in Montana: “Nowhere in the world, he imagined, was there a sky of such depth and freshness. He wanted never to forget it, wherever he might be in times to come. Yes, wherever he might...

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9. A Haunted Nation: Cultural Narratives and the Persistence of the Indigenous Subject in James Welch’s The Heartsong of Charging Elk

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pp. 160-179

In 1889 Marseille, France, one of the Oglala Lakota performing in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West awakens in the hospital after falling from his horse, left behind by the show that has traveled on to Italy. Abandoned in a foreign country where no one speaks his language, James Welch’s protagonist in...

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10. “I Have Had Some Satisfactory Times”: The Yellowstone Kelly Novels of Peter Bowen

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pp. 180-196

Over the past several decades, history in general—and western American history in particular—has grown ever more difficult to write. What might be called a crisis in historiography has problematized the ways in which historians conceive of and describe the past. Questions of apprehension, questions about the nature...

PART V: Hugo-Land

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11. Richard Hugo’s Montana Poems: Blue Collars, Indians, and Tough Style

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pp. 199-216

It is fi tting that The Triggering Town, Richard Hugo’s collection of essays on the practice and teaching of creative writing, ends with the story of a squatter dispossessed of the land he and his wife had lived on for fi ve years, a narrow strip of Boeing property between the company fence and the Duwamish River...

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12. Semicolonial Moments: The History and Influence of the University of Montana Creative Writing Program

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pp. 217-239

“Why Does Montana Have So Many Good Writers?” asked a 2002 Internet review of Judy Blunt’s memoir Breaking Clean. The reviewer, not surprisingly, didn’t answer this frequently asked question. While there may be no good answer,1 several possibilities converge to sketch a picture of the University of Montana...


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pp. 241-251


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pp. 253-254


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pp. 255-271

E-ISBN-13: 9780803222779
E-ISBN-10: 0803222777

Publication Year: 2009