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Troubling Tricksters

Revisioning Critical Conversations

DeannaReder, Linda M.Morra

Publication Year: 2010

Troubling Tricksters is a collection of theoretical essays, creative pieces, and critical ruminations that provides a re-visioning of trickster criticism in light of recent backlash against it. The complaints of some Indigenous writers, the critique from Indigenous nationalist critics, and the changing of academic fashion have resulted in few new studies on the trickster. For example, The Cambridge Companion to Native American Literature (2005), includes only a brief mention of the trickster, with skeptical commentary. And, in 2007, Anishinaabe scholar Niigonwedom Sinclair (a contributor to this volume) called for a moratorium on studies of the trickster irrelevant to the specific experiences and interests of Indigenous nations.

One of the objectives of this anthology is, then, to encourage scholarship that is mindful of the critic’s responsibility to communities, and to focus discussions on incarnations of tricksters in their particular national contexts. The contribution of Troubling Tricksters, therefore, is twofold: to offer a timely counterbalance to this growing critical lacuna, and to propose new approaches to trickster studies, approaches that have been clearly influenced by the nationalists’ call for cultural and historical specificity.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Series: Indigenous Studies


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-ix

While it is commonly quipped that the "Indian is a European invention," 1 that no Indigenous person in North America called themselves "Indian" before the arrival of Columbus, in much the same way no Indigenous community had "tricksters"—the term is the invention of a nineteenth- century anthropologist.2 Instead, the Anishinaabeg told stories about ...

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pp. xi-xii

I was attending a conference recently when another academic politely asked about the nature of our book—the collection of essays, creative pieces, and interviews that Deanna Reder and I gathered and selected for Troubling Tricksters. When I characterized the anthology and gave a general description of its contents, he responded, "I hope someone is working on Sheila ...


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What's the Trouble with the Trickster?: An Introduction

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pp. 3-20

I must admit that, when first asked to contribute to this collection of essays on the trickster, I was apprehensive. My first encounter with trickster figures had been in the late 1990s when I was writing my dissertation on humour in Indigenous literature in Canada. At that time, the trickster was a particularly trendy topic among critics and it seemed, as Craig Womack recently put ...

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Trickster Reflections: Part I

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pp. 21-58

My earliest remembrances were at home, when I was around nine, in stories my dad would read and tell before I went to bed. Virtually every night, when we weren't too tired, my sisters and I would gather on the couch and my Dad would bring out a copy of The Adventures of Nanabush: Ojibway Indian Stories (collected from a group of Rama Ojibway elders, Toronto: Doubleday ...

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The Trickster Moment, Cultural Appropriation, and the Liberal Imagination in Canada

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pp. 59-76

Writing about the trickster or about a specific incarnation, such as Nanabush, the Ojibwa trickster, can be dangerous. As Drew Hayden Taylor points out in "Academia Mania," literary critics tend to overinterpret. About a critic who was sure that a crow in one of his plays represented Nanabush, Taylor writes: "If he thinks a crow is Nanabush, let him. There's ...

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The Anti-Trickster in the Work of Sheila Watson, Mordecai Richler, and Gail Anderson-Dargatz

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pp. 77-92

In this chapter, I wish to consider three works by non-Native writers, specifically those by Sheila Watson, Mordecai Richler, and Gail Anderson-Dargatz, who have shown themselves to be fascinated by specific incarnations of Indigenous tricksters. In so doing, I would like to examine some of the secondary criticism that has proliferated around their respective literary ...


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Why Ravens Smile to Little Old Ladies as They Walk By ...

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pp. 95-98

I wanted to record an erotic story I heard from the Dogrib Nation. I heard it one summer when I was working with kids on a fishing island in the middle of Great Slave Lake, north of Yellowknife, NWT. This was before I met my wife, Pam, and before the death of our daughter, Isabell. The story is about how Raven acquired such a beautiful, flaming red tongue. When a Raven ...

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Gasps, Snickers, Narrative Tricks, and Deceptive Dominant Ideologies: The Transformative Energies of Richard Van Camp's "Why Ravens Smile to Little Old Ladies as They Walk By ..." and/in the Classroom ...

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pp. 99-124

Richard Van Camp's "Why Ravens Smile to Little Old Ladies as They Walk By ..." is such an unforgettable piece of writing. It is so multi-layered, produces so many ripples (and gasps and snickers), and leads to so many critical trajectories that I scarcely know where to begin discussing it. At once funny, bawdy, and seriously thought-provoking, the story plays with a ...

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A Conversation with Christopher Kientz

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pp. 125-134

Christopher Kientz traces his Native ancestry back to the Eastern Cherokee nation of Tennessee and the Dawes Rolls. For the past ten years, Kientz has worked as an independent producer and animator, developing multimedia projects for commercial clients in both Canada and the United States. He has scripted, produced, and directed award-winning video, ...

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Personal Totems

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pp. 135-154

The absurdity of that comic statement, from Steve Martin's stand-up routine, is realized by the fact that he wasn't actually born a poor, black child. Obvious, I know. Then again, you may not who Steve Martin is; however, his racial identity did become a central plot point behind his 1979 movie, The Jerk. In the movie, Martin was raised by a poor, black family in the ...


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Dances with Rigoureau

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pp. 157-168

When I first read the above sentence in a story called "The Republic of Tricksterism" by Paul Seeseequasis (470), I hesitated at that word—rigoureau. Just a little hitch of recognition and disquiet. I had nearly forgotten it, and perhaps I would have forgotten it altogether if I hadn't encountered it again there, in that uncanny context. Uncanny because it reminded me ...

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Naapi in My World

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pp. 169-176

Naapi always lived just beyond my perception. He was like the whistling I heard whenever the wind blew across the pile of pop bottles my father had collected by the road. I was too young to have known him, so all I heard were the stories about him. My imagination created a skinny old man with long grey hair who wore buckskin clothing and tied a band around his forehead. ...

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Sacred Stories in Comic Book Form: A Cree Reading of Darkness Calls

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pp. 177-194

On the cover of Steve Sanderson's Darkness Calls stands a young man slouching, holding his backpack, seemingly unaware that behind him and slightly to the left is a monster with formidable abdominal muscles whose gigantic claw-like hands are about to close around him. The young man also seems oblivious to the other fierce-looking being, grim-faced and stern, who ...


"Coyote Sees the Prime Minister" and "Coyote Goes to Toronto"

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pp. 195-196

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Excerpt from Indigenous Storywork: Educating the Heart, Mind, Body, and Spirit

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pp. 197-198

First Nations/Indigenous stories about Coyote the Trickster often place her/him in a journeying mode, learning lessons the "hard" way. Trickster gets into trouble when she/he becomes disconnected from cultural traditional teachings. The Trickster stories remind us about the good power of interconnections within family, community, nation, culture, and lands. If we ...

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(Re)Nationalizing Naanabozho: Anishinaabe Sacred Stories, Nationalist Literary Criticism, and Scholarly Responsibility

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pp. 199-220

The present essay is a humble attempt to survey some of the stories about what we most familiarly know as Northern Woodland tricksters. Not trickster stories—but stories about tricksters, that is, theorizing as a mode of storytelling. These theory-stories will not exactly be about "tricksters," although many of the authors we will explore employ the word. In keeping with the ...

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Quincentennial Trickster Poetics: Lenore Keeshig-Tobias's "Trickster Beyond 1992: Our Relationship" (1992) and Annharte Baker's "Coyote Columbus Café" (1994)

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pp. 221-238

As the essays in this collection indicate, trickster figures are ubiquitous in Indigenous literatures. From Raven on the West Coast to Glooscap in the East, First Nations trickster figures pop up in orature, literature, criticism, and theory. Most First Nations Canadian writers have at least one text that includes a trickster figure: Thomas ...

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Trickster Reflections: Part II

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pp. 239-260

Every morning, every day, every moment of my life you have been there. Even when I could not see you. I now know that you were around watching, listening, stalking, tricking me. Like a shadow. Like a reflection I can't walk away from. Today you are lying right there, beside me, snoring—so loud in fact I've woken up with a headache. I stand up and you do. I scratch myself and you ...


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Processual Encounters of the Transformative Kind: Spiderwoman Theatre, Trickster, and the First Act of "Survivance"

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pp. 263-288

As the house begins to fill with stylish, groomed bodies, there is a delightful buzz of rustling clothing, bodies settling into seats, and hushed murmurs bearing shared secrets, which is punctuated by the occasional burst of laughter or joyous cry of recognition. In 1976, the members of this largely female audience possess the political and economic clout to decide how they will spend a Saturday night, to purchase ...

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Diasporic Violences, Uneasy Friendships, and The Kappa Child

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pp. 289-306

In a landmark essay, "Against the Lures of Diaspora," Rey Chow demands self-reflexivity from critics working on Chinese cultural material and asks that diasporic critics make clear their self-interested positioning vis-à-vis China. The essay concludes with a warning that: ...

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"How I Spent My Summer Vacation": History, Story, and the Cant of Authenticity

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pp. 307-315

According to the 1991 Neiman Marcus Christmas catalogue, you can buy a custom carved totem pole or a painting by Rosie the Elephant. These two advertisements did not sit on opposing pages, although they should, for they form a wonderful cultural diptych; the poles are carved by an authentic Native carver, and the paintings are rendered by an authentic elephant. ...


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pp. 316-318

APPENDIX I: The Magazine to Re-establish the Trickster, Front Page

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pp. 316

APPENDIX II: Let’s Be Our Own Tricksters, Eh

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pp. 317-318


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pp. 319-320


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pp. 321-324


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pp. 325-335

E-ISBN-13: 9781554582051
E-ISBN-10: 1554582903
Print-ISBN-13: 9781554581818
Print-ISBN-10: 1554581818

Page Count: 348
Publication Year: 2010

Series Title: Indigenous Studies