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Literature > American Literature > Native American Literature

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Strangers at Home Cover

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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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Tribal Theory in Native American Literature

Dakota and Haudenosaunee Writing and Indigenous Worldviews

Penelope Myrtle Kelsey

Scholars and readers continue to wrestle with how best to understand and appreciate the wealth of oral and written literatures created by the Native communities of North America. Are critical frameworks developed by non-Natives applicable across cultures, or do they reinforce colonialist power and perspectives? Is it appropriate and useful to downplay tribal differences and instead generalize about Native writing and storytelling as a whole?
 
Focusing on Dakota writers and storytellers, Seneca critic Penelope Myrtle Kelsey offers a penetrating assessment of theory and interpretation in indigenous literary criticism in the twenty-first century. Tribal Theory in Native American Literature delineates a method for formulating a Native-centered theory or, more specifically, a use of tribal languages and their concomitant knowledges to derive a worldview or an equivalent to Western theory that is emic to indigenous worldviews. These theoretical frameworks can then be deployed to create insightful readings of Native American texts. Kelsey demonstrates this approach with a fresh look at early Dakota writers, including Marie McLaughlin, Charles Eastman, and Zitkala-Ša and later storytellers such as Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, Ella Deloria, and Philip Red Eagle.
 
This book raises the provocative issue of how Native languages and knowledges were historically excluded from the study of Native American literature and how their encoding in early Native American texts destabilized colonial processes. Cogently argued and well researched, Tribal Theory in Native American Literature sets an agenda for indigenous literary criticism and invites scholars to confront the worlds behind the literatures that they analyze.

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Trickster and Hero

Two Characters in the Oral and Written Traditions of the World

Harold Scheub

Troubling Tricksters Cover

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Troubling Tricksters

Revisioning Critical Conversations

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 criticÂ’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 nationalistsÂ’ call for cultural and historical specificity.

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Voices of Fire

Reweaving the Literary Lei of Pele and Hi’iaka

ku’ualoha ho’omanawanui

Stories of the volcano goddess Pele and her youngest sister Hi‘iaka, patron of hula, are most familiar as a form of literary colonialism—first translated by missionary descendants and others, then co-opted by Hollywood and the tourist industry. But far from quaint tales for amusement, the Pele and Hi‘iaka literature published between the 1860s and 1930 carried coded political meaning for the Hawaiian people at a time of great upheaval. Voices of Fire recovers the lost and often-suppressed significance of this literature, restoring it to its primary place in Hawaiian culture.

Ku‘ualoha ho‘omanawanui takes up mo‘olelo (histories, stories, narratives), mele (poetry, songs), oli (chants), and hula (dances) as they were conveyed by dozens of authors over a tumultuous sixty-eight-year period characterized by population collapse, land alienation, economic exploitation, and military occupation. Her examination shows how the Pele and Hi‘iaka legends acted as a framework for a Native sense of community. Freeing the mo‘olelo and mele from colonial stereotypes and misappropriations, Voices of Fire establishes a literary mo‘okū‘auhau, or genealogy, that provides a view of the ancestral literature in its indigenous contexts.

The first book-length analysis of Pele and Hi‘iaka literature written by a Native Hawaiian scholar, Voices of Fire compellingly lays the groundwork for a larger conversation of Native American literary nationalism.

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Writing Indian, Native Conversations

John Lloyd Purdy

Since N. Scott Momaday’s 1969 Pulitzer Prize for House Made of Dawn brought Native American fiction squarely into mainstream culture, the genre has expanded in different ways and in new directions. The result is a Native American–written literature that requires a variety of critical approaches, including a discussion of how this canon differs from the familiar, established canons of American literature. Drawing on personal experience as well as literary scholarship, John Lloyd Purdy brings the traditions of Native American fiction into conversation with ideas about the past, present, and future of Native literatures.
 
By revisiting some of the classics of the genre and offering critical readings of their distinctive qualities and shades of meaning, Purdy celebrates their dynamic literary qualities. Interwoven with this personal reflection on the last thirty years of work in the genre are interviews with prominent Native American scholars and writers (including Paula Gunn Allen, Simon Ortiz, Gerald Vizenor, Sherman Alexie, and Louis Owens), who offer their own insights about Native literatures and the future of the genre. In this book their voices provide the original, central conversation that leads to readings of specific novels. At once a journey of discovery for readers new to the canon and an intimate, fresh reunion with important novels for those well versed in Native studies, Writing Indian, Native Conversations invites all comers to participate in a communal conversation.

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