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Literature > American Literature > Native American Literature

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Plain of Jars and Other Stories Cover

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Plain of Jars and Other Stories

Geary Hobson

In the opening story of Geary Hobson’s riveting new collection, Plain of Jars, a young private confides to his friend that he’s trying to leave the Marine Corps. “I am not doing this just because I find the Marine Corps too tough,” Warren Needham says, but because violence is contradictory to his faith. The story’s surprising climax, however, reveals a different side of Needham’s contradictory nature. It’s this acute understanding of conflict that characterizes Plain of Jars, a book populated by bullies, men in combat, abusive spouses, and Native Americans seeking a sense of personal identity in an environment where conformity is law. The U.S. Marine Corps sets the stage for a number of these stories, whose protagonists combat racism, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and the looming reality of the Vietnam War. With pitch perfect dialogue and a sense of the unexpected, Plain of Jars tests the depths of complex lives.

The Poetry and Poetics of Gerald Vizenor Cover

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The Poetry and Poetics of Gerald Vizenor

Deborah L. Madsen

The first book devoted exclusively to the poetry and literary aesthetics of one of Native America’s most accomplished writers, this collection of essays brings together detailed critical analyses of single texts and individual poetry collections from diverse theoretical perspectives, along with comparative discussions of Vizenor’s related works. Contributors discuss Vizenor’s philosophy of poetic expression, his innovations in diverse poetic genres, and the dynamic interrelationships between Vizenor’s poetry and his prose writings.

Throughout his poetic career Vizenor has returned to common tropes, themes, and structures. Indeed, it is difficult to distinguish clearly his work in poetry from his prose, fiction, and drama. The essays gathered in this collection offer powerful evidence of the continuing influence of Anishinaabe dream songs and the haiku form in Vizenor’s novels, stories, and theoretical essays; this influence is most obvious at the level of grammatical structure and imagistic composition but can also be discerned in terms of themes and issues to which Vizenor continues to return.

Positive Pollutions and Cultural Toxins Cover

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Positive Pollutions and Cultural Toxins

Waste and Contamination in Contemporary U.S. Ethnic Literatures

John Blair Gamber

In this innovative study, Positive Pollutions and Cultural Toxins, John Blair Gamber examines urbanity and the results of urban living—traffic, garbage, sewage, waste, and pollution—arguing for a new recognition of all forms of human detritus as part of the natural world and thus for a broadening of our understanding of environmental literature.
 
 
While much of the discourse surrounding the United States’ idealistic and nostalgic views of itself privileges “clean” living (primarily in rural, small-town, and suburban settings), representations of rurality and urbanity by Chicanas/Chicanos, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans, on the other hand, complicate such generalization. Gamber widens our understanding of current ecocritical debates by examining texts by such authors as Octavia Butler, Louise Erdrich, Alejandro Morales, Gerald Vizenor, and Karen Tei Yamashita that draw on the physical signs of human corporeality to refigure cities and urbanity as natural. He demonstrates how ethnic American literature reclaims waste objects and waste spaces—likening pollution to miscegenation—as a method to revalue cast-off and marginalized individuals and communities. Positive Pollutions and Cultural Toxins explores the conjunction of, and the frictions between, twentieth-century U.S. postcolonial studies, race studies, urban studies, and ecocriticism, and works to refigure this portrayal of urban spaces.

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"That the People Might Live"

Loss and Renewal in Native American Elegy

by Arnold Krupat

The word "elegy" comes from the Ancient Greek elogos, meaning a mournful poem or song, in particular, a song of grief in response to loss. Because mourning and memorialization are so deeply embedded in the human condition, all human societies have developed means for lamenting the dead, and, in "That the People Might Live" Arnold Krupat surveys the traditions of Native American elegiac expression over several centuries.

Krupat covers a variety of oral performances of loss and renewal, including the Condolence Rites of the Iroquois and the memorial ceremony of the Tlingit people known as koo'eex, examining as well a number of Ghost Dance songs, which have been reinterpreted in culturally specific ways by many different tribal nations. Krupat treats elegiac "farewell" speeches of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in considerable detail, and comments on retrospective autobiographies by Black Hawk and Black Elk.

Among contemporary Native writers, he looks at elegiac work by Linda Hogan, N. Scott Momaday, Gerald Vizenor, Sherman Alexie, Maurice Kenny, and Ralph Salisbury, among others. Despite differences of language and culture, he finds that death and loss are consistently felt by Native peoples both personally and socially: someone who had contributed to the People's well-being was now gone. Native American elegiac expression offered mourners consolation so that they might overcome their grief and renew their will to sustain communal life.

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The Red Land to the South

American Indian Writers and Indigenous Mexico

James H. Cox

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.

Shadowing the White Man’s Burden Cover

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Shadowing the White Man’s Burden

U.S. Imperialism and the Problem of the Color Line

Gretchen Murphy, 0, 0

A Short History of Indians in Canada Cover

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A Short History of Indians in Canada

Stories

Thomas King

 Winner of the McNally Robinson Aboriginal Book of the Year and the Aboriginal Fiction Book of the Year—a collection of twenty short stories told in Thomas King's classic, wry, irreverent, and allegorical voice.

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Strangers at Home

American Ethnic Modernism between the World Wars

Rita Keresztesi

Strangers at Home reframes the way we conceive of the modernist literature that appeared in the period between the two world wars. This provocative work shows that a body of texts written by ethnic writers during this period poses a challenge to conventional notions of America and American modernism. By engaging with modernist literary studies from the perspectives of minority discourse, postcolonial studies, and postmodern theory, Rita Keresztesi questions the validity of modernism's claim to the neutrality of culture. She argues that literary modernism grew out of a prejudiced, racially biased, and often xenophobic historical context that necessitated a politically conservative and narrow definition of modernism in America. With the changing racial, ethnic, and cultural makeup of the nation during the interwar era, literary modernism also changed its form and content.
 
Contesting traditional notions of literary modernism, Keresztesi examines American modernism from an ethnic perspective in the works of Harlem Renaissance, immigrant, and Native American writers. She discusses such authors as Countee Cullen, Nella Larsen, Zora Neale Hurston, Anzia Yezierska, Henry Roth, Josephina Niggli, Mourning Dove, D’Arcy McNickle, and John Joseph Mathews, among others. Strangers at Home makes a persuasive argument for expanding our understanding of the writers themselves as well as the concept of modernism as it is currently defined.

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Studies in American Indian Literatures

Vol. 16 (2004) through current issue

Studies in American Indian Literatures (SAIL) is the only journal in the United States that focuses exclusively on American Indian literatures. With a wide scope of scholars and creative contributors, the journal is on the cutting edge of activity in the field. SAIL invites the submission of scholarly, critical pedagogical, and theoretical manuscripts focused on any aspect of American Indian literatures as well as the submission of poetry and short fiction, bibliographical essays, review essays, and interviews. SAIL defines "literatures" broadly to include all written, spoken, and visual texts created by Native peoples.

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Transatlantic Voices

Interpretations of Native North American Literatures

Elvira Pulitano

Transatlantic Voices is the first collection of critical essays by European scholars on contemporary Native North American literatures. Devoted to the primary genres of Native  literature—fiction, nonfiction, drama, poetry—the essays chart the course of recent theories of Native literature, delineate the crosscurrents in the history of Native literature studies, and probe specific themes of trauma and memory as well as changing mythologies. These essays also incorporate incipient transnational and transcultural methodologies in their approach to Native North American writing.
 
Blending western critical approaches—from cultural studies to postcolonialism and trauma theory—with indigenous epistemological perspectives, the contributors to Transatlantic Voices advocate “the inescapable hybridity and intermixture of ideas” proposed by Paul Gilroy in his study of black diasporic identity. Native North American writers forcefully suggest that the study of American ethnicities in the twenty-first century can no longer be confined to the borders of the United States. Given the increasing transnational aspect of American studies, a collection such as Transatlantic Voices, presenting scholars from countries as diverse as Germany, France, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Finland, offers a timely contribution to such border crossing in scholarship and writing. 

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