Dictionary of Native American Literature

Dictionary of Native American Literature

Dictionary of Native American Literature

Dictionary of Native American Literature

Synopsis

TheDictionary of Native American Literatureis a unique, comprehensive, and authoritative guide to the oral and written literatures of Native Americans. It lays the perfect foundation for understanding the works of Native. The book features reports on the oral traditions of various tribes and topics such as the relation of the Bible, dreams, oratory, humor, autobiography, and federal land policies to Native American literature. Eight additional essays cover teaching Native American literature, new fiction, new theater, and other important topics, and there are bio-critical essays on more than 40 writers ranging from William Apes (who in the early 19th century denounced white society's treatment of his people) to contemporary poet Ray Young Bear. Packed with information that was once scattered and scarce, theDictionary of Native American Literature-a valuable one-volume resource-is sure to appeal to everyone interested in Native American history, culture, and literature.

Excerpt

Following the award of the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction to N. Scott Momaday's House Made of Dawn (1968), readers in all quarters began to give serious attention to “Native American Literature.” Precisely what that term denominated was heatedly argued by those who produced, taught, and read it. Many sought to embrace within the bounds of this term the vast corpus of Native American folklore generated by American anthropology. Some of them argued pragmatically that Momaday and writers of his stature could not be effectively understood without reference to the oral traditions which served as their artistic resource. Others, influenced by the redefinition of ethnography and folklore that was overtaking the ways in which those disciplines had been practiced in America, argued for a more expansive definition that would comprehend “oral literature.” Strangely, literature departments founded on the study of Homer and Chaucer foundered on the notion of “oral literature” when applied to Native American materials. Complicating this situation further was the fact that much of the most vigorous publishing activity was happening at small presses.

Some years later, these debates do not seem so strange. Today we understand how and accept that questions of evaluation are linked to models of interpretation. In ways that were not at the time so obvious in the case of African-American literature or even Chicano or Asian literature, Native American literature opened the difficult questions of tradition and influence, of the relationship between speech and writing, precisely at that moment in the evolution of literary criticism in the West when those topics were coming under the closest scrutiny. The argument over what was worth reading was clearly a transformation of the argument over how to read. While it was clear that contemporary Native American writers

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