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Literature > American Literature > Native American Literature

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Deep Waters Cover

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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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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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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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Home Words

Discourses of Children’s Literature in Canada

The essays in Home Words explore the complexity of the idea of home through various theoretical lenses and groupings of texts. One focus of this collection is the relation between the discourses of nation, which often represent the nation as home, and the discourses of home in children’s literature, which variously picture home as a dwelling, family, town or region, psychological comfort, and a place to start from and return to. These essays consider the myriad ways in which discourses of home underwrite both children’s and national literatures.

Home Words reconfigures the field of Canadian children’s literature as it is usually represented by setting the study of English- and French-language texts side by side, and by paying sustained attention to the diversity of work by Canadian writers for children, including both Aboriginal peoples and racialized Canadians. It builds on the literary histories, bibliographical essays, and biographical criticism that have dominated the scholarship to date and sets out to determine and establish new directions for the study of Canadian children’s literature.

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Howling for Justice

New Perspectives on Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead

Edited by Rebecca Tillett

More than twenty years after its publication in 1991, Leslie Marmon Silko’s monumental novel Almanac of the Dead continues to disconcert, move, provoke, and outrage readers. In a work that is overtly and often uncomfortably political, Silko’s overflowing cast of characters includes representatives from a range of cultures and communities who are united by common experiences of dispossession, disenfranchisement, exploitation, and poverty. Clearly, Silko’s depiction of a social uprising that draws together the indigenous People’s Army of the Americas and the American Army of the Homeless triggered—and was designed to trigger—a range of reactions among readers and critics alike.
 
Howling for Justice actively engages with both the literary achievements and the politics of Silko’s text. It brings together essays by international scholars reacting to the novel while keeping in mind its larger concern with issues of social justice, both local and transnational. Aiming both to refocus critical attention and open the book to a broader array of readers, this collection offers fresh perspectives on its transnational vision, on its sociocultural, historical, and political ambitions, and on its continued relevance in the twenty-first century. The essays examine and explain some of the key points that readers and critics have identified as confusing, problematic, and divisive. Together, they offer new ways to approach and appreciate the text.
 
The book concludes with a new, never-before-published interview in which Silko reflects on the twenty years since the novel’s publication and relates the concerns of Almanac to her current work.

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Indigenous North American Drama

Traces the historical dimensions of Native North American drama using a critical perspective.

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Listening to the Land

Native American Literary Responses to the Landscape

Lee Schweninger

For better or worse, representations abound of Native Americans as a people with an innate and special connection to the earth. This study looks at the challenges faced by Native American writers who confront stereotypical representations as they assert their own ethical relationship with the earth. Lee Schweninger considers a range of genres (memoirs, novels, stories, essays) by Native writers from various parts of the United States. Contextualizing these works within the origins, evolution, and perpetuation of the “green” labels imposed on American Indians, Schweninger shows how writers often find themselves denying some land ethic stereotypes while seeming to embrace others.

Taken together, the time periods covered in Listening to the Land span more than a hundred years, from Luther Standing Bear's description of his late-nineteenth-century life on the prairie to Linda Hogan's account of a 1999 Makah hunt of a gray whale. Two-thirds of the writers Schweninger considers, however, are well-known voices from the second half of the twentieth century, including N. Scott Momaday, Louise Erdrich, Vine Deloria Jr., Gerald Vizenor, and Louis Owens.

Few ecocritical studies have focused on indigenous environmental attitudes, in comparison to related work done by historians and anthropologists. Listening to the Land will narrow this gap in the scholarship; moreover, it will add individual Native American perspectives to an understanding of what, to these writers, is a genuine Native American philosophy regarding the land.

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