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The Red Land to the South

American Indian Writers and Indigenous Mexico

James H. Cox

Publication Year: 2012

The forty years of American Indian literature taken up by James H. Cox—the decades between 1920 and 1960—have been called politically and intellectually moribund. On the contrary, Cox identifies a group of American Indian writers who share an interest in the revolutionary potential of the indigenous peoples of Mexico—and whose work demonstrates a surprisingly assertive literary politics in the era.

By contextualizing this group of American Indian authors in the work of their contemporaries, Cox reveals how the literary history of this period is far more rich and nuanced than is generally acknowledged. The writers he focuses on—Todd Downing (Choctaw), Lynn Riggs (Cherokee), and D’Arcy McNickle (Confederated Salish and Kootenai)—are shown to be on par with writers of the preceding Progressive and the succeeding Red Power and Native American literary renaissance eras.

Arguing that American Indian literary history of this period actually coheres in exciting ways with the literature of the Native American literary renaissance, Cox repudiates the intellectual and political border that has emerged between the two eras.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Series: Indigenous Americas

Title Page, Other Works in the Series, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

My most sincere gratitude belongs to Robert Warrior and Jace Weaver for their support of this book. I owe Jace Weaver additional thanks, as well as José Limón and Chadwick Allen, for writing grant letters on my behalf. Many thanks as well to Jason Weidemann, a patient, flexible, and generous editor, ...

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Introduction: American Indian Literature and Indigenous Mexico

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pp. 1-26

The publication of Choctaw author Todd Downing’s The Mexican Earth in late March 1940 inaugurated an exciting few weeks in American Indian literary history. Fans of Downing’s detective novels set in Mexico could read Philip Ainsworth Means’s lavish praise of his first book-length work of nonfiction in the New York Times ...

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1. Dreadful Armies: Indigenistas and Other Criminals in Todd Downing’s Detective Novels

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pp. 27-64

Todd Downing, one of the most prolific and most neglected American Indian writers of the twentieth century, began his career as an author of detective fiction after working as a tour guide in Mexico during the summer months of the late 1920s and early 1930s. ...

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2. ¡Indian Territory! Lynn Riggs’s Indigenous Geographies

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pp. 65-106

In the mid- to late 1930s, as Todd Downing was establishing himself in New York as a professional author of detective fiction, Cherokee dramatist Rollie Lynn Riggs was enjoying a celebrated career, earning mention as a contender for Pulitzer Prizes, working on screenplays in Hollywood, and writing two plays set in Mexico, ...

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3. “Mexico Is an Indian Country”: American Indian Diplomacy in Native Nonfiction and Todd Downing’s The Mexican Earth

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pp. 107-150

The period from the 1920s to the 1960s was an era of diplomacy in American Indian literature and politics, and the work of this era’s diplomats, in literary and political circles, prepared the ground for a more politically assertive generation of writers and activists. ...

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4. The Red Land of the South: Indigenous Kinship in D’Arcy McNickle’s Runner in the Sun

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pp. 151-172

D’Arcy McNickle was a tireless advocate for American Indian self-determination as an employee of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and a founding member of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) in the early 1940s. In the early 1950s, he also raised funds for and founded American Indian Development Inc. (AID), ...

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5. The Return to Mexico: Gerald Vizenor and Leslie Marmon Silko at the Quincentennial

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pp. 173-196

Greater Indian Territory, an indigenous American homeland that subsumes the settler-colonial nations of the United States and Mexico, makes a dramatic return to American Indian literature in 1991 and expands into Canada, the Caribbean, and Central and South America ...

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Conclusion: Revolutions before the Renaissance

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pp. 197-204

While prominent scholars such as Robert Warrior, Jace Weaver, and Craig Womack have challenged the exceptionalism of the post-1968 era within the long history of American Indian writing, the renaissance continues to stand as a formidable creative and intellectual border between 1968 and the mid-twentieth century. ...


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pp. 205-246


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pp. 247-262


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pp. 263-276

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About the Author

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p. 288-288

James H. Cox is associate professor of English and associate director of Native American and Indigenous studies at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of Muting White Noise: Native American and European American Novel Traditions ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780816682706
E-ISBN-10: 0816682704
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816675975

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Indigenous Americas