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Companion to James Welch's The Heartsong of Charging Elk

Arnold Krupat

James Welch was one of the central figures in twentieth-century American Indian literature, and The Heartsong of Charging Elk is of particular importance as the culminating novel in his canon. A historical novel, Heartsong follows a Lakota (Sioux) man at the end of the nineteenth century as he travels with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show; is left behind in Marseille, France; and then struggles to overcome many hardships, including a charge for murder. In this novel Welch conveys some of the lifeways and language of a traditional Sioux.
 
Here for the first time is a literary companion to James Welch’s Heartsong that includes an unpublished chapter of the first draft of the novel; selections from interviews with the author; a memoir by the author’s widow, Lois Welch; and essays by leading scholars in the field on a wide range of topics. The rich resources presented here make this volume an essential addition to the study of James Welch and twentieth-century Native American literature.

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Cultural Sites of Critical Insight

Philosophy, Aesthetics, and African American and Native American Women's Writings

Bringing together criticism on both African American and Native American women writers, this book offers fresh perspectives on art and beauty, truth, justice, community, and the making of a good and happy life. The essays draw on interdisciplinary, feminist, and comparative methods in the works of writers such as Toni Morrison, Leslie Silko, Alice Walker, Linda Hogan, Paula Gunn Allen, Luci Tapahonso, Phillis Wheatley, and Sherley Anne Williams, making them more accessible for critical consideration in the fields of aesthetics, philosophy, and critical theory. The contributors formulate unique frameworks for interpreting the multiple levels of complex, cultural play between Native American and African American women writers in America, and pave the way for innovative hermeneutic possibilities for reassessing writers of both traditions.

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Deep Waters

The Textual Continuum in American Indian Literature

Christopher B. Teuton

Weaving connections between indigenous modes of oral storytelling, visual depiction, and contemporary American Indian literature, Deep Waters demonstrates the continuing relationship between traditional and contemporary Native American systems of creative representation and signification. Christopher B. Teuton begins with a study of Mesoamerican writings, Diné sand paintings, and Haudenosaunee wampum belts. He proposes a theory of how and why indigenous oral and graphic means of recording thought are interdependent, their functions and purposes determined by social, political, and cultural contexts. The center of this book examines four key works of contemporary American Indian literature by N. Scott Momaday, Gerald Vizenor, Ray A. Young Bear, and Robert J. Conley. Through a textually grounded exploration of what Teuton calls the oral impulse, the graphic impulse, and the critical impulse, we see how and why various types of contemporary Native literary production are interrelated and draw upon long-standing indigenous methods of creative representation. Teuton breaks down the disabling binary of orality and literacy, offering readers a cogent, historically informed theory of indigenous textuality that allows for deeper readings of Native American cultural and literary expression.

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Disturbing Indians

The Archaeology of Southern Fiction

Written by Annette Trefzer

How Faulkner, Welty, Lytle, and Gordon reimagined and reconstructed the Native American past in their work.

In this book, Annette Trefzer argues that not only have Native Americans played an active role in the construction of the South’s cultural landscape—despite a history of colonization, dispossession, and removal aimed at rendering them invisible—but that their under-examined presence in southern literature provides a crucial avenue for a post-regional understanding of the American south. William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Andrew Lytle, and Caroline Gordon created works about the Spanish conquest of the New World, the Cherokee frontier during the Revolution, the expansion into the Mississippi Territory, and the slaveholding societies of the American southeast. They wrote 100 years after the forceful removal of Native Americans from the southeast but consistently returned to the idea of an —Indian frontier,— each articulating a different vision and discourse about Native Americans—wholesome and pure in the vision of some, symptomatic of hybridity and universality for others.

Trefzer contends that these writers engage in a double discourse about the region and nation: fabricating regional identity by invoking the South’s "native" heritage and pointing to issues of national guilt, colonization, westward expansion, and imperialism in a period that saw the U.S. sphere of influence widen dramatically. In both cases, the —Indian— signifies regional and national self-definitions and contributes to the shaping of cultural, racial, and national "others." Trefzer employs the idea of archeology in two senses: quite literally the excavation of artifacts in the South during the New Deal administration of the 1930s (a surfacing of material culture to which each writer responded) and archeology as a method for exploring texts she addresses (literary digs into the textual strata of America’s literature and its cultural history).

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Dreams of Fiery Stars

The Transformations of Native American Fiction

By Catherine Rainwater

Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Book for 1999

Since the 1968 publication of N. Scott Momaday's House Made of Dawn, a new generation of Native American storytellers has chosen writing over oral traditions. While their works have found an audience by observing many of the conventions of the mainstream novel, Native American written narrative has emerged as something distinct from the postmodern novel with which it is often compared.

In Dreams of Fiery Stars, Catherine Rainwater examines the novels of writers such as Momaday, Linda Hogan, Leslie Marmon Silko, Gerald Vizenor, and Louise Erdrich and contends that the very act of writing narrative imposes constraints upon these authors that are foreign to Native American tradition. Their works amount to a break with—and a transformation of—American Indian storytelling.

The book focuses on the agenda of social and cultural regeneration encoded in contemporary Native American narrative, and addresses key questions about how these works achieve their overtly stated political and revisionary aims. Rainwater explores the ways in which the writers "create" readers who understand the connection between storytelling and personal and social transformation; considers how contemporary Native American narrative rewrites Western notions of space and time; examines the existence of intertextual connections between Native American works; and looks at the vital role of Native American literature in mainstream society today.

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Ethnology and Empire

Languages, Literature, and the Making of the North American Borderlands

Robert Lawrence Gunn

Ethnology and Empire tells stories about words and ideas, and ideas about words that developed in concert with shifting conceptions about Native peoples and western spaces in the nineteenth-century United States. Contextualizing the emergence of Native American linguistics as both a professionalized research discipline and as popular literary concern of American culture prior to the U.S.-Mexico War, Robert Lawrence Gunn reveals the manner in which relays between the developing research practices of ethnology, works of fiction, autobiography, travel narratives, Native oratory, and sign languages gave imaginative shape to imperial activity in the western borderlands.

In literary and performative settings that range from the U.S./Mexico borderlands to the Great Lakes region of Tecumseh’s Pan-Indian Confederacy and the hallowed halls of learned societies in New York and Philadelphia, Ethnology and Empire models an interdisciplinary approach to networks of peoples, spaces, and communication practices that transformed the boundaries of U.S. empire through a transnational and scientific archive. Emphasizing the culturally transformative impacts western expansionism and Indian Removal, Ethnology and Empire reimagines U.S. literary and cultural production for future conceptions of hemispheric American literatures.

 

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Explorations in Navajo Poetry and Poetics

Anthony K. Webster

In this study Webster investigates the devices found in Navajo written and oral poetic traditions. He then explores aspects of language such as code-mixing, punning, and ideophony (sound symbolism), often considered marginal in linguistics literature, revealing how they are central to the study of ethnopoetics and a discourse-centered approach to language and culture.

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From the Iron House

Imprisonment in First Nations Writing

In From the Iron House: Imprisonment in First Nations Writing, Deena Rymhs identifies continuities between the residential school and the prison, offering ways of reading “the carceral”—that is, the different ways that incarceration is constituted and articulated in contemporary Aboriginal literature. Addressing the work of writers like Tomson Highway and Basil Johnston along with that of lesser-known authors writing in prison serials and underground publications, this book emphasizes the literary and political strategies these authors use to resist the containment of their institutions.

The first part of the book considers a diverse sample of writing from prison serials, prisoners’ anthologies, and individual autobiographies, including Stolen Life by Rudy Wiebe and Yvonne Johnson, to show how these works serve as second hearings for their authors—an opportunity to respond to the law’s authority over their personal and public identities while making a plea to a wider audience. The second part looks at residential school narratives and shows how the authors construct identities for themselves in ways that defy the institution’s control. The interactions between these two bodies of writing—residential school accounts and prison narratives—invite recognition of the ways that guilt is colonially constructed and how these authors use their writing to distance themselves from that guilt.

Offering new ways of reading Native writing, From the Iron House is a pioneering study of prison literature in Canada and situates its readings within international criticism of prison writing. Contributing to genre studies and theoretical understandings of life writing, and covering a variety of social topics, this work will be relevant to readers interested in indigenous studies, Canadian cultural studies, postcolonial studies, auto/biography studies, law, and public policy.

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George Sword's Warrior Narratives

Compositional Processes in Lakota Oral Tradition

Delphine Red Shirt

The general focus in Lakota oral literary research has been in the study of content rather than process in oral traditions. In a new disclosure of the characteristics of Lakota oral style, Delphine Red Shirt shows how its composition and structure are reflected in the work of George Sword, who composed 245 pages of text in the Lakota language using the English alphabet. What emerges in Sword’s Lakota narratives are the formulaic patterns inherent in the Lakota language that are used to tell the narratives, as well as recurring themes and story patterns. Red Shirt’s primary conclusion is that this cadence originates from a distinctly Lakota oral tradition.

Red Shirt analyzes historic documents and original texts in Lakota to answer the question: How is Lakota literature defined? Her groundbreaking discernment of the process of composition of Native literature uncovers the epistemological basis of this literature, which provides the object for literary studies, anthropological linguistics, translation studies, and linguistics. Her analysis of Sword’s texts can be used to determine whether the origin of any given narrative in Lakota tradition is oral and opens avenues for further research.

 

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Gerald Vizenor

Texts and Contexts

Edited by Deborah L. Madsen and A. Robert Lee

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.

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