- Literature to 1800
i Native America
A notable number of this year’s monographs venture syntheses of various sorts. Building on her Writing Indians: Literacy, Christianity, and Native Community in Early America (2000), Hilary Wyss presents a new history of missionary education from the 1740s to the Cherokee Removal. English Letters and Indian Literacies: Reading, Writing, and New England Missionary Schools, 1750–1830 (Penn.) takes as its focus “boarding schools grounded in an explicit written theoretical or pedagogical set of principles” and the range of responses from “the various participants of such schools.” Wyss’s first chapter, for instance, considers the Stockbridge Boarding School and Eleazar Wheelock’s charity school and explores the tension between a fantasy of a passive “Readerly Indian,” devoid of cultural expression, and the signs of the “Writerly Indian,” contesting the cultural sovereignty of the colonizer. Her next chapter focuses on Mohegan Joseph Johnson’s educational community after his time in Wheelock’s school and through his efforts to create the Brothertown community, and two later chapters consider New England–inflected educational programs among the Cherokees in the early 19th century. A conclusion foregrounds the tensions and silences in the exchanges between missionaries and their writerly students.
Drew Lopenzina’s Red Ink: Native Americans Picking Up the Pen in the Colonial Period (SUNY) attempts to sketch a broader literary history of Native Americans writing through the colonial period. While many figures have been considered in isolation—out of broader [End Page 197] traditions and out of community contexts—Lopenzina attempts to consider prominent authors “in a continuum of influence and tradition that values their contribution to the persistence of Native lifeways in colonial times.” To counter the “unwitnessing” of colonial narratives he focuses on “continuance” elements in Native American writing as well as what James C. Scott calls a “hidden transcript.” His first chapter, for example, considers Native American voices in a series of early contact texts: Christopher Columbus’s journals, Bernal Díaz’s history of Mexico, Roger Williams’s Key, and the Jesuit Relations. In each instance, the colonizing text works to subjugate, but “residing behind the offered one-dimensional representations were politically engaged figures who inscribed their own presence in the historical moment.” Chapter 2 focuses on the first colonial printing press in New England, a press that produced many pages of Algonquian text, by upending the settler tradition glorifying John Eliot: where the “praying town” tradition is attributed to Eliot and the colonist project, Lopenzina reflects on the possibility that the Massachusett Waban understood praying towns as a Native space. Chapter 3 focuses on Wampanoag textual practices in the era of King Philip’s War, contrasting the involvement of Philip and Massasoit in deeds and treaties with John Eliot’s construction of a fictional Philip. Chapter 4 similarly offers a contextually rich revision of Samson Occom, focusing particularly on “A Short Narrative of My Life” and other early texts that evidence “both a public and a hidden transcript.” The final chapter looks at Stockbridge and Brothertown as Mohican and English communities, here with a focus on Occom’s son-in-law Joseph Johnson. In a similar vein, Eric Gary Anderson’s “Red Crosscurrents: Performative Spaces and Indian Cultural Authority in the Florida Atlantic Captivity Narrative of Jonathan Dickinson” (MissQ 65: 17–32) examines the “performative critical space” and “red crosscurrents” identifiable in the description of cultural encounter in Dickinson’s 1699 God’s Protecting Providence.
Arnold Krupat likewise proffers a literary-historical synthesis with what is the “first broad treatment of Native American elegiac expression over a range of time and across the space of the contiguous United States and Alaska.” In “That the People Might Live”: Loss and Renewal in Native American Elegy (Cornell) he contrasts the western elegy, which describes unique individuated loss and mourning, with the work of Native American elegists, who have conventionally described recurrent losses “very much like the losses the People have suffered.” Krupat’s texts include the [End Page 198] Condolence Rites of the Iroquois and the koo.’eex of the Tlingit (Chapter 1) as well as the famous speech attributed to Logan by Thomas Jefferson and others (Chapter 2).
Three studies propose...