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3 5 2 W e s t e r n A m e r i c a n L i t e r a t u r e F a l l 2 0 0 6 Toward a Native American Critical Theory. By Elvira Pulitano. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003. 233 pages, $50.00. Reviewed by Gregory Wright University of Nevada, Las Vegas The dust jacket for Toward a Native American Critical Theory claims that Elvira Pulitano’s study is “controversial and persuasive” as it “defines the parameters of a unique Native American critical discourse.” Indeed, this analysis of Native American critical theory has generated much discussion, including a panel refuting the work at the 2005 Native American Literature Symposium as well as six largely negative reviews of the book in the Winter/Spring 2005 issue of American Indian Quarterly. Pulitano states that she initially wanted to answer the question of “whether there is such a thing as Native American critical theory” and to discuss “what fundamental assumptions characterize it” (187). In examining the critical approaches of Paula Gunn Allen (Laguna Pueblo/Sioux), Robert Allen Warrior (Osage), Craig Womack (Creek/Cherokee), Greg Sarris (Pomo), Louis Owens (Choctaw/Cherokee), and Gerald Vizenor (Anishinaabe), she finds herself adding to the tension that exists between Native and non-Native critics in the field of American Indian literature. Pulitano delivers a strong study of theoretical approaches and trends in Native American critical theory and aptly demonstrates how poststructuralist and postcolonialist theories may inform the reading of Native texts, yet in its arguments and assertions, the work exemplifies the presumptions that many non-Native critics make in working with tribal literatures. In the introduction, Pulitano rhetorically asks, “As a non-Native critic, am I entitled to define [Native American critical theory]? Does my ‘speaking about’ necessarily mean ‘speaking for’? Would my attempt be a further heavy-handed appropriation of the Other since, for more than two millennia, theory has been, as many would argue, the product of Western thinking?” (1). Any non-Native critic taking up the study of American Indian literatures should address such questions, and Pulitano’s answers reveal her inquietude as a “cultural outsider.” Nevertheless, she claims a position as “a mediator and interpreter of cultures” and disregards her own concern of “speaking for” Native peoples (191). As a non-Native critic, trained in a European academic system and armed with Western critical traditions and approaches, Pulitano argues that the only valuable Native American critical theory incorporates the philosophy and theories already developed by prominent poststructural theorists (e.g., Baudrillard and Derrida) and postcolonial critics (e.g., Bhabha and Spivak). Pulitano posits that Native American critics should learn from Henry Louis Gates Jr., bell hooks, and other African American critics, who have appropri­ ated such Western theoretical strategies to explicate their literature. In advo­ cating that Native critics adopt established, European theoretical approaches and follow the path taken by other non-European theorists, Pulitano dismisses BOOK REVIEWS 3 5 3 the racial and cultural dynamics of Native American experience. Where Allen, Warrior, and Womack affirm the primacy of tribal identity in the reading and understanding of American Indian literatures, Pulitano disputes their “tribalcentric” approach, suggesting that any Native critical theory predicated upon a tribal or indigenous position is “hopeless,” “separatist,” and “culturally totalitarian.” Conversely, the works of Sarris, Owens, and Vizenor invite the application of non-Native perspectives. The “strategies of hybridization and cultural syncretism,” according to Pulitano, are occurring in Native American literature (190). Native authors, especially Vizenor, recognize and embrace this poststructural and postcolonial process, allowing for the bridging of cultures and crosscultural reading and writing of texts. On reading its title, Toward a Native American Critical Theory, one expects to learn where or what these critical trends are moving toward. Instead of providing a discussion on the possibilities and directions of a Native-generated critical theory, Pulitano instead prescribes its parameters. The Bootlegger's Other Daughter. By Mary Cimarolli. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2003. 168 pages, $15.95. Reviewed by Angie Kritenbrink Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Seattle, Washington Homemade berry shortcake with fresh cream. Socializing and testifying under a crowded revival tent. Closing school for the summer...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 352-353
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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