The Turn to the Native: Studies in Criticism and Culture

The Turn to the Native: Studies in Criticism and Culture

The Turn to the Native: Studies in Criticism and Culture

The Turn to the Native: Studies in Criticism and Culture

Synopsis

The Turn to the Native is a long-awaited assessment of Native American studies by one of its leading practitioners. Learned and passionate, the book is a timely account of Native American literature and the critical writings that have grown up around it. It is also a polemical intervention by a critic with abiding loyalties to Native American culture and to the Western intellectual heritage that has often been seen as hostile to Native culture and society.

Excerpt

Each of the five chapters of this book in one way or another engages questions of identity as they shape the criticism of contemporary Native American literature. This is so in spite of the fact that, as I try to explain below, I am very wary of identitarian emphases in cultural criticism as in politics.

But for all my wariness, it is impossible to ignore the fact that we live today in a world in which boundaries and parameters are shifting to a degree unparalleled since the end of World War II. Western Europe lumbers toward "unification" while its great nation-states internally fragment along racial and religious lines. The Eastern European states, by some accounts newly "free," do not so much appear to have joined the heady world of the "post-"—postcolonial, postmodern, posthistorical—as, instead, to have begun to constitute a sorry series of "formers": the former Yugoslavia, the former Czechoslovakia, the former Soviet Union, and so on.

Here in the United States—I write in the fall of 1995—the "culture wars" that were so "hot" only a short time ago have settled into naked class warfare. Recent headlines announce the continuation of affirmative action programs for corporate America, with Congress voting the Armed Services even more money than they dared request; the navy, as a favor to the military contractors, will receive ships it does not want, the air force, planes it admits it does not need. Total federal subsidies to corporations are currently . . .

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