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Gerald Vizenor

Texts and Contexts

Edited by Deborah L. Madsen and A. Robert Lee

Publication Year: 2010

This essay collection offers an overview of Vizenor scholarship through close reading of his texts and exploration of the intellectual contexts in which they are situated. Vizenor’s achievements cannot be easily summarized; rather, this book gives due evidence of the complexity of his work and the diverse critical responses to it.

Published by: University of New Mexico Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii

Commissioning and editing this essay collection have involved not a little contact with Gerald Vizenor himself. We thank him greatly for his willingness to field questions and for his friendship. Further thanks ...

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pp. 1-9

Gerald Vizenor has long established himself at the very forefront of Native writing: novelist, autobiographer, poet, dramatist, and an essayist and cultural critic of rare and radical boldness. His challenges to received thinking—along with signature terms such as postindian, survivance, storier, double-other, and terminal creed—have repositioned the interpretation ...


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1. Storier: Gerald Vizenor’s Father Meme

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pp. 12-29

Confessions of a Justified Sinner. Crime and Punishment. Witness for the Prosecution. Each of these title phrasings gives a bearing.1 However modest in length, Father Meme as Gerald Vizenor’s most recent fiction hardly lacks for a subject of largest implication.2 What more so than pedophilia and in particular the sexual abuse of Native altar boys in a Minnesota ...

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2. Pacifists, Tricksters, Writers,and Victims in Hiroshima Bugi

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pp. 30-45

The devastation caused by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima is mind boggling: out of a population of 255,000 total, 66,000 died, and 69,000 were wounded, many of whom eventually died of their injuries.1 How Americans, Japanese, and others view this devastation is of course largely a matter of their politics. Many Americans see the bombing in the context ...

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3. Gerald’s Game: Postindian Subjectivity in Vizenor’s Interior Landscapes

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pp. 46-67

Gerald Vizenor’s autobiographical text Interior Landscapes is undervalued both in Native American literary studies and in autobiography studies. Although Vizenor’s earlier novels such as Bearheart and The Trickster of Liberty have been the subject of copious academic discourse, Interior Landscapes is relatively neglected. This lack of familiarity and critical attention is unjustified, for the book includes some of Vizenor’s most vibrant, ...

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4. Wild Word Hunters: Tricky Language and Literary Allusion in Harold of Orange

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pp. 67-86

In the line “We are wild word hunters, tricksters on the run” from his 1984 screenplay Harold of Orange,1 Gerald Vizenor illustrates his text’s constant and overt pursuit of linguistic multiplicity, slippage, allusion, and irony. Vizenor hunts these wild words in order to flush out language’s hidden meanings and to illustrate both its taming and its feral implications and ...

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5. Satirical Ambivalence and Vizenor’s Bearheart

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pp. 86-105

Like other major writers of satirical fiction from Herman Melville and Mark Twain through Kurt Vonnegut and Philip Roth, Gerald Vizenor is less esteemed for his satire than for other qualities of his work: his humor, his postmodern play with language and ideas, his outspoken advocacy for the socially underprivileged, and his innovative use of Native American ...

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6. Moon Vines Among the Ruins: Vizenor’s Poetics of Native Presence

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pp. 106-128

When Gerald Vizenor writes that “Shadow words and haiku thought are intuitive,” he echoes many discourses.1 In such a sentence, there crisscross his critical theories in structural and post-structural linguistics; American historiography; Anishinaabe identity, community, sovereignty, and cosmology; Jungian psychology; and Japanese poetics. In each word ...

PART TWO: Contents

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7. Writing in the Fourth Person: A Lacanian Reading of Vizenor’s Pronouns

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pp. 130-151

Linda Lizut Helstern broke new ground with her 1999 essay “‘Bad Breath’: Gerald Vizenor’s Lacanian Fable,” published in Studies in Short Fiction. In that essay, she uses Lacan’s concept of the “chain of signification,” the endless deferral of meaning in language, to illuminate aspects of Vizenor’s narrative technique, especially the creation of a trickster space of ...

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8. “He Made a Teasing Whistle on the Wind”: Situating the Literary Activism of Gerald Vizenor

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pp. 152-165

Readers familiar with the work of mixedblood Anishinaabe writer Gerald Vizenor recognize that teasing whistle, even if they cannot quite place it precisely. The whistler is Naanabozho, “that anishinaabe trickster and curative weather conniver,”1 and his tease in the traditional story from which the quotation in the chapter title comes turns the tables on the ...

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9. Scenes of Picturing: Gerald Vizenor’s Phototext

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pp. 166-185

Gerald Vizenor is a photographer as well as a writer and also a serial maker of image-text combinations, yet when we think of him as a maker of books we nevertheless think of him as a worker in words rather than in images. I do not mean that we think of him primarily as a writer of documentaries, essays, fiction, and autobiography, but that we think of ...

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10. Postindian Survivance: Gerald Vizenor and Kimberly Blaeser

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pp. 186-207

White Earth Anishinaabe scholar Gerald Vizenor has invented numerous new terms and theories. In this essay, I examine his concepts of “survivance” and “postindian” for the ways in which they defy racialization and political oppression and at the same time work to formulate new identities reflective of Anishinaabe values and traditions. I also explore how the ...

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11. Shadow Casting: William Apess, Survivance, and the Problem of Historical Recovery

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pp. 208-230

America’s early literature is haunted by the presence of poets and pundits who hover about the graves of Indians, striking a pose that would have them eloquently musing over the “ancient” traces of a vanished race. In his well-known, often anthologized poem “The Indian Burying Ground,” the late eighteenth-century poet Philip Freneau adopts just such a pose. ...

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12. Museum Survivance: Vizenor Before and After Repatriation

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pp. 231-248

On the eve of the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in September 2004, founding director W. Richard West described its mission for NBC Nightly News: the museum, the last that would be built on the Washington Mall, would stand as a tribute to tribal survivance. West’s use of the term survivance, unfamiliar to the vast ...

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13. The Trick of Grieving Well and the Grief of Tricking Well: The Unspeakable Gerald Vizenor

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pp. 249-266

In Father Meme, Vizenor reveals the trick of grieving well and the grief of tricking well. This narrative evokes the gap between ambivalence and cold, hard, murderous corruption in a human heart, which widens when the storier begins his tale and yet would shrink by a mile if no original, living language expression happens or can happen. Gerald Vizenor ...

PART THREE: Vizenor Texts

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14. Praise the Ravens: A Literary Interview

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pp. 268-281

A. Robert Lee (ARL): Let’s step back to your earlier writing for a moment. What were the first pieces you saw into print? Gerald Vizenor (GV): My first publication, Born in the Wind, twelve pages of saddle-stitched poems, celebrated the birth of my son, Robert Thomas Vizenor, on 26 March 1960. I was a graduate student at the ...

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15. Constitution of the White Earth Nation

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pp. 282-289

The White Earth Reservation is located in three counties, Becker, Clearwater, and Mahnomen, in northwestern Minnesota. The legal boundaries of the reservation were established by federal treaty on 19 March 1867. The reservation was first governed by federal agents and with the unbidden counsel of Native elders and representatives of the community ...

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16. The Constitution of the White Earth Nation

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pp. 290-306

The Anishinaabeg of the White Earth Nation are the successors of a great tradition of continental liberty, a native constitution of families, totemic associations. The Anishinaabeg create stories of natural reason, of courage, loyalty, humor, spiritual inspiration, survivance, reciprocal altruism, and native cultural sovereignty ...

Notes on Contributors

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pp. 307-310


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pp. 311-316

E-ISBN-13: 9780826349170
E-ISBN-10: 082634917X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826349156
Print-ISBN-10: 0826349153

Page Count: 322
Illustrations: 4 halftones
Publication Year: 2010